I WAS BORN AND RAISED IN ALASKA, so hunting and fishing have always been a part of my life. I started shooting when I was 3 and would go out hunting with my dad. My mom died when I was 9. My dad raised my sister and me like boys but treated us like girls. My sister didn’t really take to hunting, at least not nearly as much as I did. It was a way for my dad and me to spend time together.
FIRST I HUNTED SMALL GAME, mainly rabbits and birds. I still like small-game hunting the best. I was 12 or 13 when I started going after bigger game. I went moose hunting, unsuccessfully, with my dad for about five years before I shot one, two years ago. It wasn’t that big, but it’s a trophy to me. Being able to be with my dad when I shot it is probably the best hunting memory that I’ll ever have.
WHEN I WAS ABOUT 14, I JOINED 4-H, and that’s when I started shooting sporting clays. The minute I shot my first round at a target, I fell in love with it. I guess you could say that I’m blessed with a competitive spirit. I couldn’t stand to lose a match against someone. I started getting serious about it, and at 19, I set the goal to qualify for the Olympics.
TRYING TO GET ON THE 2008 OLYMPIC TEAM WAS SORT OF UNREALISTIC. I’ve only been shooting internationally for two years, so I had really been gunning for the 2012 games in London. I mean, there are people with up to 20 years of shooting experience out there. I sort of even surprised myself by qualifying this year. Of course, my dad says he knew I could do it all along.
I’M BY FAR THE YOUNGEST on the team and the most inexperienced shooter. There are a lot of disadvantages to it, but my teammates have really helped me out. I try to learn through their experiences. I also think my inexperience has its advantages, and it’s something that I’m not insecure about. Some shooters are getting burned out, but since I’m only two years into it, I’m going strong.
ONE OF THE COOLEST THINGS about being on the team is the travel. We just got back from the Beijing World Cup. There are a lot of countries like China that have great shooting programs, but people there don’t hunt. For the most part, though, foreign shooters love hearing us talk about it. They ask if they came to the U.S., if we could take them hunting. Some members of the Barbados team were talking to me all about it, especially when I told them about Sportsman’s Warehouse.
EVERY CHANCE I GET, I HUNT. I’m still an Alaska resident, even though I’m an athlete in residence in Colorado Springs. So, I go home to hunt with my dad pretty much every fall. I have friends with property in Kansas that I hunt turkeys and deer on, and I hunt here around Colorado Springs for ducks and geese. It is not easy to get out with practice and training. It’s the hardest thing for me to turn down a day of hunting, but sometimes I just need to buckle down and practice.
MY FAVORITE THING TO HUNT IS DOVES. You can go out there and shoot a pile of them, 12 or 14 a day. It’s not like turkeys where it’s just one and done. They’re also the gamebird that is closest to trap shooting. The shots are similar, and there’s that instant gratification when you nail a bird and it folds up. It’s just like when I really crush a clay.
LAST YEAR, SOME FRIENDS TOOK ME ARCHERY HUNTING. My dad had a target in our yard for my sister and me to shoot, but I never thought about it as a way to hunt. But it didn’t take me long to get hooked. I don’t think I’ll try to make it a second Olympic sport, or anything. Right now, there’s nothing but personal enjoyment behind archery for me. There’s no competitive side to it like there is with shooting, and I like it that way.
I SEE SO MANY PEOPLE SHOOTING GUNS THAT DON’T FIT PROPERLY. If a gun fits you properly and you’re holding it properly, it’s easier to hit your target because the gun will go where your eyes go. When you’re shooting clays or birds, look at your target, not the sights. You don’t need to use those sights like you would with a rifle shot.
HUNTING HELPS YOU CONTROL YOUR NERVES DURING COMPETITION. Or at least it helps you learn how to shoot straight when you’re shaking. You get all excited when you draw up on a duck or dove or whatever, and it’s the same feeling you have when you’re competing. Knowing how you’re going to act in that situation gives you an advantage.
COMPETITIVE SHOOTING HELPS IN THE FIELD, TOO. You get confidence by training and shooting all the time’I shoot five or six days a week, hundreds of shots. So much of bird hunting is confidence, and I’ve gained so much through competing. Hopefully I can stay that confident in Beijing.