This Female Hunter Feature is for Jen Shears. Here we go!
Jen lives in Newfoundland, Canada and is a mom, wife, adventurer, business owner, blogger, traveller, and hunter – she is happiest when all of these things converge. Her background is in Environmental Biology, and she enjoys sharing her experiences in the hopes that others will be encouraged to live an outdoor lifestyle for the benefit of wildlife populations, conservation, the environment, and their own personal health and happiness. Jen grew up in a hunting family, surrounded by women who hunt, and she includes her 7-year-old daughter in outdoor pursuits whenever possible. She has hunted extensively in Canada, in New Zealand, and South Africa. Wild sheep hunting one of her passions, although legal-sized rams continue to elude her!
Why do you hunt and spend time outdoors?
So many reasons! I love spending time outdoors, and trying to outmaneuver animals that are way smarter, faster, stronger, and can smell and hear way better than me. I love the rollercoaster of emotions that is inevitable on hunts. I love knowing about my food – how it lived, how it died, how it was processed, where it came from. I love the deep connection with nature that comes from hunting and knowing that I’m sustaining my family while contributing to effective wildlife conservation/management and ecosystem protection.
When was your first hunting trip, and how old were you?
Hunting is a very popular activity in Newfoundland. We have a deeply-rooted hunting and homesteading heritage, but despite that, hunting ages here are very restrictive (when I was growing up you couldn’t hunt until you were 18 years old). On my first real hunting trip, I was around 10 years old, and it was for a black bear that my parents harvested for food. I remember the thrill of getting close, the work to process the meat, and the pride of telling my friends that we were having bear for supper (they were usually shocked, but ended up liking the meat)!
What do you like most about hunting?
It’s impossible for me to narrow down one aspect that I like most, but something that I truly value and appreciate is how empowering hunting is. It makes me self-reliant. If the island I live on had its supplies cut off due to extreme weather events (we get snow for about 8 months of the year) or global events like the current pandemic, I would be able to provide food and warm clothing for my family and community. This is a source of great pride for me, and is ultimately a major reason I hunt.
What’s your most memorable hunting experience?
I have two. The first is my 2019 caribou hunt. My daughter Aspen, then 6, was with me when I harvested it. She was part of the spotting, stalking, calling, shooting, tracking, and processing. Aspen was an absolute star and was so proud of her role. She tells everyone “she” got a caribou, and I love that. As she gets older, friends and celebrities will increasingly influence her, and I want her to have a strong foundation based on living sustainably off the land.
The second is my wild sheep chase of 2019. From mid-August to mid-October, I spent over 40 days and nights in the Yukon and Alberta backcountry on sheep hunts. The snow came on August 18 and it lasted almost the entirety of the hunts. I climbed mountain after mountain, rode hour upon hour of horseback, and I didn’t get to see a single legal-sized ram. It was the toughest mental and physical endurance test, and it was the most amazing, heartbreaking, exhilarating, excruciating, and enjoyable wild outdoor experience of my life. The fact that it’s one of my fondest hunting experiences despite not having harvested an animal underscores that hunting isn’t about the “kill”.
6. Do you have a favorite wild game OR fish recipe?
Yes, it’s a simple recipe for mountain lion (cougar) backstrap, which is one of my top 3 favorite meats. It tastes just like a fine cut of pork, but better!
When cooked according to this recipe, the meat goes well with rice and steamed/grilled vegetables. Mountain lion can also be substituted for pork in almost any recipe, keeping in mind that it’s leaner, so slight modifications may be required to ensure the meat doesn’t dry out.
Do you have a “dream” hunting excursion?
My dream hunt is one where I’m finally successful in harvesting a wild sheep. Another dream hunt would be helping Aspen harvest her first big game animal.
What would you say to other women who haven’t tried hunting or spending time outdoors yet?
Don’t let a fear of the unknown deter you. I know that sometimes it’s hard to start. You feel that you don’t know what you don’t know, and that’s normal. As long as you have a willingness to learn, and you give yourself the grace to make mistakes along the way, you will succeed. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Reach out to a friend or family member who engages in outdoor activities. Pick their brains about how to get started or tag along on some of their outdoor pursuits.
Get in touch with local rod and gun or archery club to inquire about women’s/beginner events. Seek out events like “Becoming an Outdoors Woman”, “Learn to fish/hunt/camp”, and see if you can get a friend (or a group of friends) to join you. If you don’t have a friend that can join you, don’t be afraid to go it alone. The very reason for these events is to introduce beginners in a safe and welcoming environment.
Also, research any questions you might have online – either in discussion/Facebook groups of reputable outdoor associations or by reaching out to people in the industry. There are several great female-oriented Facebook groups. I get a lot of DMs and emails from outdoors people who are trying to get their female relatives engaged in outdoor pursuits and they ask for advice. I also get messages from women themselves who are just beginning their outdoor journey and this makes me SO HAPPY. I love providing guidance and playing even a small role for them.
Again, don’t be afraid to reach out and don’t be afraid of failure – it’s how we learn, and it’s often how we gain a sense of humor around ourselves. Just GET OUT THERE! Your mind, body, spirit, and the environment will thank you.
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