News: Yes, I Shoot Like a Girl
In case you haven’t noticed, women are heavily involved in all aspects of archery and bowhunting nowadays. We thought it would be insightful to chat with several top lady archers to discuss their motivations, recommendations and general thoughts on hunting and shooting.
1. Who introduced you to the sport?
Laurie Watson-LeRoy: Growing up in Texas, I was around gun hunting my entire life. I had no interest in it and was never invited to hunt. Girls didn’t hunt. In 1991, a friend from Southwest Airlines, Roger James, talked about bowhunting, and it sounded interesting. I bought a bow at a pawn shop for $50. It was two inches too long, but I didn’t know any different.
After a couple of weeks of practice, I went hunting for javelina in southern Texas. I shot at my javelina three times to get the yardage right: one over, one under, and then I knew which pin to use.
Connie Calloway: My husband introduced me to hunting, but a lady at my work had killed a deer with her bow, and I thought that was way cool. I was already gun-hunting but never archery hunted, so I went home and asked my husband if we could get some bows.
Janice Maxfield: My now husband, Joel, was my introduction to archery and bowhunting. We started dating in high school, and he had already been hunting and shooting archery for many years. He got me set up and shooting to see if I would like it. I did and soon realized if I was going to see him more, I would have to shoot more. He is my continuing coach, hunting partner, inspiration and support system for 3-D shooting and in the woods.
Ginger Morehead: My dad took me hunting when I was very young and taught me to shoot a bow. Jesse Morehead and Susan Thompson Davis introduced me to 3-D and target archery.
Rhonda Calhoun: My husband introduced me to the sport in 1998 at age 42, which proves you are never too old to learn this sport. I am now a 57-year-old grandmother of four and look forward to every hunting season.
Kandi Kisky: My husband, Don, introduced me to hunting.
2. What was your initial motive for hunting and shooting?
Laurie Watson-LeRoy: I have a blast shooting, and I love the challenge of hitting the target every time. I love being in the woods. Hearing all the different sounds animals make and their different smells. You have to be close to shoot with a bow. When a big one walks out, the adrenalin rush is so bad, and you have to take deep breaths to calm yourself down.
The crossover for me was going to a pro shop in Houston and joining an all-woman target league. They helped me with my equipment and taught me so many things about shooting. I was introduced to 3-D archery by my brother, Kelly Cupp, in 1992. That’s when I knew I had found my sport.
Connie Calloway: The reason I wanted to get into hunting was so I wouldn’t have to stay home when my husband went hunting. I really liked it. My first deer was with my bow. Archery taught me so much about hunting. I really enjoy hunting and shooting my bow outside of hunting. That’s another thing I found when I started shooting my bow: competition archery. After I won my first trophy, I was really hooked. That was 32 years ago.
Janice Maxfield: I had always enjoyed the outdoors. When my husband, Joel, introduced me to the sport of archery, the transition to hunting came naturally that fall. We spent a lot of time in the field that summer putting up stands and scouting. When we headed out the first day to our tree stands, Joel reminded, me as he had before, that it was OK if I wasn’t comfortable shooting anything. He let me decide for myself, so that was a little more reassuring. There was really no pressure. When I started seeing deer, I knew I was ready. Instinct took over, and within a few weeks, I had tagged my first doe. Joel’s encouragement and motivation through all those months of shooting really paid off.
Ginger Morehead: I loved hunting from as early as I can remember. I was sitting in tree stands by myself at a very young age and really enjoyed the responsibility. Of course, we ate everything we killed, so that helped.
My motive for shooting was probably the competition. I came from a competitive family, and after college, I needed something to push me.
Rhonda Calhoun: Initially, I was not interested at all in shooting a bow until my husband took me to a local tournament. The competitive end caught my attention, and that’s where it all began. In the beginning, my motive was to just learn the basic skills that were needed to shoot a bow. My goal was to just hit all the targets in the tournaments. For hunting, my goal was to be able to make the most ethical shot I could. I practiced on smaller animals at first, such as rabbits, raccoons and armadillos, and then graduated to a whitetail doe. I was very careful to wait for a broadside shot. If I didn’t think I could make the shot, I wouldn’t shoot.
Kandi Kisky: Spending time with Don, because he was so eaten up with hunting.
3. What is your motivation today, and has it changed during your career?
Laurie Watson-LeRoy: My motivation has changed a lot during the past 20 years. For years, it was practice, practice, practice — and practice. Then I would travel, shoot in tournaments and hunt. Now, my priorities are totally different. It’s my husband, Billy, and three children. I practice a little, travel to a few 3-D tournaments and hunt a little. For me now, it’s more important to pass on the love of archery. I help coach for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
Connie Calloway: My motivation today hasn’t changed. I still love the sport of hunting and shooting my bow, but the bows have changed. Back then, bows didn’t fit women, so we had to make them work the best way we could. Today’s bows fit all sizes — big, little, small — it doesn’t matter.
Janice Maxfield: Today, 28 3-D and hunting seasons later, I don’t think my motivation has changed. I still love to shoot archery of any type. The first 3-D event of the year is still exciting, and with all that practice all summer, I’m glad to trade my field points for broadheads on opening day. It’s still just as exciting to me. I might have higher expectations for myself and the animals I might harvest, but the motivation and drive that got me there is just as strong.
Ginger Morehead: When we were doing the TV show, Stayin’ Safe With Jesse and Ginger, hunting became a job. Now that we are no longer tied down to the show, we can go out by ourselves and totally enjoy the hunting experience again.
I originally wanted to come back to competitive archery in 2012 because I believed I had something to prove. After working very hard for the past year and a half, I have come to the realization that I was very blessed in my early years as a pro, and I took it for granted. Although my competitive nature still exists, I now realize that my role at this point of my career is not to win every tournament but to be a mentor and a positive influence on the people around me.
Rhonda Calhoun: My motivation today has definitely changed. My hunting experiences (14 years) have taught me so many things that I use in my daily life as well as hunting. It’s about the whole experience.
Kandi Kisky: My motivation now is showing my daughter the enjoyment of the outdoors. Yes, it has changed for me because of the cameras for our TV show (Whitetail Freaks).
4. What’s one piece of advice you could give a fellow female hunter?
Laurie Watson-LeRoy: Don’t be afraid to try something new. Don’t be intimidated to walk into an archery shop. Get the right equipment, and ask questions. The pro shop will help you set everything up the right way. It will save you a lot of time and frustration later down the road. Learn to operate your own equipment — move your sight pins, tighten screws, move your peep sight. Watch and learn. Then find a hunting or shooting partner.
Connie Calloway: Make good choices when hunting. Use the right equipment, keep safety first and have fun.
Janice Maxfield: I guess I would have to say confidence. When you’re set up with the proper equipment from your local pro shop, be sure to visit there and the archery range as much as possible. You need to practice and practice well. You need to have the utmost confidence in your bow setup and shooting form. This means working with a pro at an archery shop if possible. Also use the knowledge of your peers at the local range and 3-D shoots you might attend.
Ginger Morehead: When you finally get an opportunity to take a shot at an animal, you must be able to execute that shot perfectly. Anticipating or punching your release aid, better known as target panic, can ruin the perfect scenario in a second. My best advice is to go to an archery coach. He will get you started on the correct shot process and have you performing that shot subconsciously.
Rhonda Calhoun: Think safety first. Know the laws and rules of each hunt and each state. If you hunt by yourself, always make sure someone knows where you are going, and keep your phone with you. Second, be prepared. Practice the same way you will hunt. If you will be hunting in the cold, put all your gear on, and practice your shot that way. If you plan to hunt out of a ground blind, practice your shot sitting or on your knees. If hunting from a tree stand, practice sitting and making an elevated shot to the ground.
Kandi Kisky: If you’re starting to hunt for the first time, go turkey hunting so you have a warm, enjoyable experience in the spring woods.
5. What is one product female hunters can’t leave home without while on a hunt?
Laurie Watson-LeRoy: If you’re going on a hunting trip, you can get a lot of information from hunting magazines and videos. Watch and learn your prey through other people’s mistakes or conquests. You can learn about cover scents and how to set up a good blind for hunting. My best hunting tip for cover scent is to look around and use what’s available. Cedar trees are the best. You can also use sage brush or cow poop. Rub a cedar bush on your clothes and especially in your hair, as that holds the most scent. With cow poop, step in it and wipe it on your pants. For makeup, I use unscented lipstick, lotion and mascara. And don’t forget a range-finder. You can’t hit a target if you don’t know how far to shoot.
Connie Calloway: There are many things I can’t leave home without. I guess that’s why my backpack was always full. Take a cell phone, of course. Before cell phones, we carried radios to check on one another.
Janice Maxfield: I guess the one thing that panics me is if I don’t have my range-finder. I never used to need one, but after I started using one years ago, I now feel lost without it. My confidence goes up knowing I can range the animal so accurately.
Ginger Morehead: Hunter Safety System makes a safety harness just for women called the Lady Pro Series. It is comfortable and looks awesome. A safety harness used with the Lifeline is a must. No deer is worth your life.
Rhonda Calhoun: One item for any hunt is your range-finder. This will give you extra confidence in your shot. Something else is handwarmers. I’ve been so cold that I couldn’t pull my bow back. Handwarmers have been a huge help. In a tree stand, don’t forget your safety harness. Spot-and-stalk hunts require comfortable waterproof boots and clothing. And don’t forget lipstick and earrings for that special photo.
Kandi Kisky: Binoculars.
6. What is your most memorable hunting or shooting moment?
Laurie Watson-LeRoy: This is a toss-up between winning two world championships back to back and elk hunting in Arizona by myself, taking a big 6-by-6 bull. I had to call in help to load that in the truck!
Connie Calloway: My most memorable moments were my son’s first deer with his bow and my world championships with my bow. I have so many memorable moments, and most of them had to do with bows and hunting.
Janice Maxfield: I have been fortunate to experience some great hunts. But I would have to say my first deer is still so important. I learned so much that year. I came from never having done it eight months earlier to actually taking all that I learned and doing it all by myself. I will never forget the look on my husband’s (boyfriend at the time) face when we met after hunting, and I told him he would have to help me get the deer I just shot. It’s still one of my greatest achievements in hunting.
Ginger Morehead: In 2001, I had won shooter of the year and used my bonus money to buy my husband a hunt in Kansas. The first afternoon, I went to Dodge City to get groceries. When I drove up to the lodge at dark, Jesse and the others were gathered around the back of the truck. I saw a huge rack of antlers sticking up and realized Jesse had killed a giant. The buck scored 223⅞ inches P&Y. I hunted the next day on our anniversary and killed a 22-inch-wide 10-pointer that scored 145 inches. Our story, “Anniversary Bucks,” appeared in North American Whitetail.
I have been blessed with so many great experiences in target archery. When I started, Michelle Ragsdale, Becky Pearson and Susan Thompson Davis were my idols (and still are). At the NFAA Outdoor National Field Championship in Blue Springs, Mo., I found myself on the top target with those ladies. I am so appreciative of how they helped me and encouraged me along the way.
Rhonda Calhoun: In 2009, I harvested a 300-pound, 8-year-old 10-point whitetail in Kansas. In 2011, I hunted in Africa and harvested a cape buffalo. I used my 70-pound Mathews Monster with a 705-grain arrow.
Kandi Kisky: My most memorable hunt was when Don shot his 213-incher, his biggest nontypical buck. I was filming him, and it was Nov. 1 — a frosty, cold morning — and he rattled him in under the tree.
7. Tell us a bit about your bow setup.
Laurie Watson-LeRoy: My competition bow is a Mathews MR7 with a 27½-inch draw length and 44-pound draw weight. My hunting bow is a Mathews Creed with a 27½-inch draw weight and 45-pound draw weight.
Connie Calloway: My bow is a Mathews Prestige with a 25½-inch draw and 48-pound draw weight.
Janice Maxfield: My current bow setup is the Mathews Jewel with a 25-inch draw and 50-pound draw weight.
Ginger Morehead: My hunting bow is the Mathews Jewel set on 50 pounds with a 25-inch draw. I shoot lower poundage on my hunting bow so I can draw it in extreme conditions. I also shoot a half-inch shorter draw length because of the extra clothing that I wear. For competitive shooting, I use a Mathews Prestige set on 57 pounds with a 25½-inch draw.
Rhonda Calhoun: I currently hunt with a Mathews Monster with a 62-pound draw weight and 26-inch draw.
Kandi Kisky: I shoot a Mathews Jewel with a 24½-inch draw and 48-pound draw weight.