NRA Life member Haley Heath has been a hunter since she was a little girl, spending countless happy hours in the woods with her mother. Since then, she’s been fortunate enough to make her living in the field, serving on pro staffs of various outdoor companies, starring in hunting shows, even designing her own line of Buck Knives.
Once she had her own children, however, she began to wonder: Would they want to accompany her out in the field and woods in pursuit of game? Would they like to hunt as much as she does?
Born into a family of hunters, my love of hunting started at an early age. I took my first deer at the age of 6—a basket-rack seven pointer. Now I have traveled the globe, hunting all kinds of game.
Throughout my childhood, my mother would often go with me in the woods. Seeing her passion for the outdoors showed me it was OK for women to enjoy hunting, just as it was passed down to her. There is a special bond shared as you enjoy the outdoors and participate in a family tradition that has been passed down generation after generation.
As a mother of two, I have long dreamed of my children sharing the love of the outdoors and hunting just like I do. Since hunting is part of my career, I have never forced my children to hunt; instead, I decided to teach them all of the reasons why I love it, and all of the safety rules for the equipment I use. My son, Gunner, immediately loved being in the outdoors and wanted to learn to shoot. He took his first deer with a crossbow, and has never looked back.
Dakota, my youngest, is a complete girly girl. While she loves going out and climbing in the blind with me, she doesn’t care for camouflage, nor does she like being very quiet! Not long ago, she passed the Ten Commandments of Gun Safety test I have given both of my children. At this point, Dakota asked if she, too, could try for her first deer.
For the next 11 months, Dakota chose to spend much of her spare time at target practice. We looked for an appropriate rifle, selecting a Remington R-15—an AR-15 variant. She practiced right up until the week of Halloween 2012. After four days of hunting, Dakota’s moment finally came on Halloween night. She spotted a mature buck and waited until it was stopped broadside. With a well-placed shot, Dakota took her first deer!
Gunner has also grown extremely fond of the R-15. Over the course of one season, he took three great bucks with it in multiple states—a true accomplishment for any hunter! It was truly a great moment for me to see this tradition passed down to my children, but the excitement, emotion and passion that Dakota, a new young female hunter, showed after she got her buck was unbelievable!
For me, hunting isn’t all about taking the best trophy; it’s about the memories that come with each hunt and sharing those memories with others. There is something magical about being outdoors, and each trip is a unique experience. Whether my children grow into adulthood with a continued passion for hunting or not, I want them to understand what I do, and what has been a huge part of our family for generations.
Quite frankly, it’s more than a hobby or job to me—it’s a lifestyle.