It had been a hard, week long hunt in Ohio. The deer movement had been non-existent and the weather had battered them at every turn. They had endured endless, 12 hour hunting sessions in the blind, day in and day out. Their only excitement was watching the moisture in the blind slowly freeze against the walls. As the cold wind blew on the last evening of the hunt and the ever nearing thought of the flight out of town that had to be caught the next morning grew closer, spirits seem to dampen.
As the light began to fade deer movement just out of range got the hunters attention and seem to instantly warm the blind. As hearts started to pound and all of the off season preparation began to unconsciously take over every action, the big buck coming toward them started to take shape. It looked to be a monster 8 eight pointer and it was headed perfectly toward their shooting lane. With every step the buck took the symptoms of buck fever grew; the racing heart, sweaty palms, uncontrolled breathing and of course the uncontrolled shaking of the bow. With sheer grace and determination all nervous reactions are controlled as the arrow is released and punches through the monster buck with laser like precision. The cold air is now only a distant memory as the hunter picks up the majestic 8 point rack.
This accomplishment would be a tremendous feat for any bowhunter, but it is even more amazing when you find out the other accomplishments this bowhunter has accumulated. Theresa Vail is the current reigning Miss. Kansas 2013, and is also a Sergeant in the Kansas Army National Guard (having just reenlisted for another six years). And, as if that was not enough, she is also a diehard bowhunter who spends her extra time trying to get women and young girls involved in the outdoors. Recently, I got to spend some time with Theresa and learn more about this dynamic bowhunter.
Q: Tell me about yourself.
A: I am a senior at Kansas State University majoring in Chemistry and Chinese. I have been a member of the Kansas National Guard for six years and I just reenlisted two weeks ago for another six years. I come from a very large family; nine kids with five brothers; none of which hunt. I tell people that I was the son that my Dad always wanted. I started hunting at around seven years old, but didn’t start bow hunting until about two years ago. It was something that my father and I started together.
Although she’s only been bowhunting for a short period of time, Theresa already has already harvested several deer with archery tackle.
Q: What caused you and your Dad to start bow hunting together?
A: He bought his bow first and I had little interest at first. I had a friend that lived in West Virginia. I had gone for a visit and stopped by a very small bow shop; the owner was a professional shooter for Mathews. He suggested, given my running for Miss Kansas and my passion for the outdoors, that I give bowhunting a try. He said it would be a match made in heaven. As it turns out, he gave me an awesome deal on a wonderful bow and I started to practice and became obsessed with everything about my bow.
Q: Once you got started bowhunting, what did you enjoy most about it?
A: It was the challenge of being so close in order to shoot something. I call rifle hunting cheating now. With a bow, you have to be stealthy. It makes me feel like a bad ass.
Q: Tell me about your service in the National Guard and why you feel it’s important.
A: I joined at 17 to help pay for college. My Dad had just retired after 33 years of service. Growing up, we moved every three to four years. The mantra in our family is “others before self”. I know I’m helping people and I know I am making a difference. I can’t imagine my life without it.
Q: Can you tell me about your website, Miss Outdoor Girl.
A: I started that back in December, I wanted it to be just a pro-woman site; a place where people can come and read about what I am doing and my journey of bringing more women into the outdoor world. I also sell t-shirts and all of the proceeds going to Children’s Miracle Network.
Q: If you could change one thing about the hunting mentality, what would it be?
A: From the men that I meet, they have to get the biggest buck they can find. They pass up on little bucks or does because they are waiting on that monster buck. To me, it takes the nobility out of hunting and turns it into a killing sport. Hunting was started to gather meat for your family, and now it’s turned into such a game. I think that’s why hunters get such a bad rap. I see a lot of this in my generation and it’s going to turn into a vicious cycle.
Q: How has being Miss Kansas changed your life?
A: It’s allowed me to be a role model that I always knew that I was. I get e-mails and phone calls on a daily basis from people that I don’t even know, telling me that finally there is a woman out there who can be a positive role model. I’m a real girl that just happens to be holding the position of Miss Kansas. I’m also an outdoorsman and I am in the Army; but I have flaws just like everyone else.
Q: What advice do you have for fathers that want to get their daughters involved in the outdoors?
A: I would say not to push them at too early of an age, and not to force the activities on them because that’s when you can really deter them from it. Seven years old is the age that I started liking the outdoors. When they do something outdoorsy, you need to congratulate and applaud them to really start to apply the positive reinforcement that is needed to build confidence in their abilities in the outdoors . Kids love positive reinforcement, and that will help them start to build the love for the outdoors that we all share.
The reigning Miss Kansas 2013, Theresa Vail, is as serious about archery and bowhunting as she is about competing in beauty pageants and serving in the Kansas National Guard.
Q: What goals do you have as far as using your position to benefit bow hunting and the outdoors?
A: I just partnered with Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. They have hired me for the year to attend events and teach girl scouts how to shoot. Through my position with them, I am able to talk to a different group of people. Through my example, I hope to get girls interested in the outdoors.
Q: If readers want to know more about you, where should they go?
A: My blog www.missoutdoorgirl.com, The Miss Kansas organization and also on Facebook.
Editor’s Note: Theresa has been the subject of several national media articles recently, not surrouding her passion for bowhunting but for being one of the first women openly competing in national pageants with tattoos. Below are several of those articles.
Photo courtesty FoxNews.com/Reuters