Kara Wattunen grew up in the outdoors her whole life. Starting with a Boundary Waters Canoe Trip, to now traveling the country on the grand slam quest, the outdoors is her life. She started hunting with her dad when she was in elementary school for whitetail in northern Minnesota, which has spiraled into a lifelong passion for hunting and fishing. That passion also led her to pursue tournament fishing! An important thing to her is to always utilize as much of a harvest as possible! She's learned how to tan hides and use the buckskin for mittens, hats, and other projects.
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Why do you hunt?
The outdoors is the one place in this world that truly keeps me centered. But it also challenges me every time, even though I may not know it. When you are hunting, even if it is a place you know well, each day brings different things to the table. From animal encounters to different types of weather, you truly never know. The only thing you do know is your love for being out there and the adventure of the unknown.
When was your first hunting memory, and how old were you?
It was rifle season for whitetail and I was sitting on a ladder stand with my dad. I was 10 years old. I will never forget the tap on my shoulder from my dad. I must have nodded off because I woke up to a buck cruising right at us. I couldn’t believe he didn’t know that my dad and I were in the tree! My dad made a great shot and started laughing at me, which I didn’t understand why until I tried to stand up. I was shaking so badly with excitement for him! He got to explain “buck fever” as my shakes subsided. From that moment on, I knew this was a lifelong adventure that had just started.
What do you love most about hunting?
I love the adventure of it all! You never know what’s going to happen but you know that you can overcome it for the end goal of catching a giant fish or harvesting your target animal!
What’s your most memorable hunting experience?
Seeing my fiancé harvest his first buck is the most memorable experience. Prior to us being together, he wasn’t a hunter. Being able to teach him how to hunt, how I grew up, and see him love it as much as I do, has been an amazing journey.
It was rifle season in 2018. As we walked the trail to our stands, the woods just felt different. We parted ways and headed to our respective locations. After a very short sit, I heard it. The crisp bark of a 30-06 742 Remington Woodsman. I knew it was him. The phone call came in that he had a deer down and I went right into the mode my dad always does when I have a harvest.
“Stay in your stand, I’ll come to you,” I told him and began a slow walk over. When I saw him, he had the buck fever shakes and I asked him to walk me to the deer. As I approached the deer, it was a beautiful, wide, typical 6-pointer with tall tines and symmetrical curves. Seeing his excitement and accomplishment was such an amazing moment. However, what made it even more perfect is that my dad was there, so the hunting journey had come full circle. From the one who taught me to me teaching my fiancé, then us all being together for his first harvest was a moment I will never forget
Do you have a favorite wild game recipe?
For appetizers, we call them GUN BOATS and they are a spin on a classic jalapeño popper. Take hollowed-out jalapeños and flash them in a pan. Once flashed, layer and fill with cream cheese and ground venison. Top them off with Asiago and put them into the broiler to brown and crisp the cheese.
Do you have a dream hunting excursion?
The New Zealand 3, as I have it saved on my dream board. Red Stag, Sika, and Fallow deer!
What would you say to other women who haven’t tried hunting yet?
Don’t let it intimidate you! One great thing about the outdoors is it’s a place for everyone and always accessible! If you are a little nervous, there are great programs in states for women, as well as many groups on social media that can help!