Growing Up Hunting: Shaping Who I am Today

By Dani Grate
When you are born into a family of hunters, I guess you really don’t have any idea that not everyone hunts, especially girls. I was born in a rural town in northern Nevada.As I grew up I spent a large majority of my time hunting with my dad. As soon as I was able to walk, I was out in the hills following my dad and mom around looking for deer, antelope, or some type of bird.My parents taught me and my brother gun safety from the time we could talk and walk.We were also taught respect, not just for the weapons, but for the animals that we were hunting.Our house was filled with animals mounted on the walls, which I thought was completely normal, until I grew up and realized not everyone thought it was normal.

I began hunting pheasant when I was about eight years old with my very own .410 shotgun.Walking through the fields with my dad, brother, and our dog waiting for a bird to fly up was always exciting!When I was nine, my dad gave me my first bow and arrow for my birthday. This was another new adventure that helped shape who I am and what I do today.At the time, bows only came in camouflage, so my dad had my bow painted “California Camouflage” (blue, pink, purple) so that I would like it more.I may have loved being outside, hunting, fishing, hiking, and playing in the dirt, but I was still a little girl and camo was not my favorite color.

After receiving my bow, I got into shooting archery competitions throughout our state.It was always a fun experience to go to a new place and spend the weekend with my dad, brother, and friends shooting 3D targets.It was a way to practice and improve, but honestly you don’t think like that when you are a kid. I always just saw it as a fun weekend outside.Occasionally one of my female cousins would be with us, but most of the time I was the only girl in our group and quite honestly one of only a few females at the entire competition.I know this would intimidate a lot of people, but I thought it was cool to be one of the only girls out there doing the same things as all of the guys.Doing something out of the norm at this age can really be difficult, but the comments only pushed me to work harder and become better.Despite the odds, I made incredible friends that I still have and learned many things that have helped shape who I am today.

In Nevada you have to be twelve years old to hunt big game (deer, antelope, etc.).After taking the mandatory Hunter’s Safety Course, I finally drew my first deer tag at fourteen years old.I clearly remember the early, freezing mornings out hiking with my gun.It wasn’t an easy hunt to say the least. I spent day after day in freezing cold weather, walking farther than I could ever imagine in rugged terrain for two weeks. I was exhausted beyond belief, dirty, and smelly, and I wanted to give up. But after shooting that first deer, my dad handed me the knife and said, “You shoot it, you clean it!”I know that doesn’t sound appealing, but after the rush of shooting a deer for the first time, I was excited to take care of everything myself.That day I proved to myself and my dad how strong I really was.

I hunted with my dad and brother for years and then met my now husband of over thirteen years.We rifle hunted together for a couple of years and then he began archery hunting big game while I stayed home for a few years during college and then after having kids.As soon as my kids were old enough, I took up archery hunting as well.

Today my husband and I spend multiple months a year archery hunting manydifferent types of animals.We also bird hunt during the various seasons.Our oldest son, who is now nine,loves anything to do with hunting.It amazes me to see his passion for archery and rifle hunting.He can’t wait to turn twelve and be able to hunt big game.

Each day is a new adventure. Teaching our two boys about hunting, just as I was taught, is an amazing experience.Having them with us while we are out hiking and stalking an animal gives us so many opportunities to teach them about the great outdoors and the amazing Creation that we are lucky enough to experience together as a family. They have yet to realize that most moms aren’t out hunting right alongside their husbands, but when they do, I pray they’ll realize how I have pushed to keep up and that our time in the hills together is priceless.

Today, as I look back on my experiences, I wouldn’t change a thing.I was given an amazing opportunity to learn to hunt and provide for myself and my family while I was growing up.I learned how to be strong in the face of adversity and persevere when things are difficult.The family aspect of hunting was always important while I was growing up, and today with my two boys, it is even more important to me. Hunting has shaped who I am today and gives me the opportunity to pass on this hunting legacy to my children.

Dani Grate is a wife, a homeschool mom and a Physician Assistant who loves God.She currently resides in Nevada with her husband, two boys, and their hunting dog.Dani enjoys camping, hunting, fishing, doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and reading.

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