B: M. Ashley Evans
Historically, hunting was a male dominated sport. For decades, women hunters were marginalized in the Outdoorsman arena. The number of women hunters is growing rapidly – and is the top trend in hunting sports today. That is in part thanks to some amazing women who have won some of the top awards available in this sport. There are a number of awards that can be given to world-class hunters. The Weatherby Award is the world’s most coveted and prestigious hunting award because it is one of the most difficult to achieve. Not only is the quality of each animal harvested judged, the number and variety of species are considered, the more difficult-to-hunt species are a heavy consideration, and a requirement that game from every continent be included. Conservation is a majorly important factor. Not only has each nominee supported conservation by spending hundreds of thousands in purchasing the licenses/fees/taxes, etc. for each individual hunt – but there has to be large donations to specific conservation programs. These programs are focused on protection and propagation of endangered wildlife. Each nominee has to be highly involved in educating the next generation of hunters through school programs, 4-H, scouts etc.
The Weatherby Award nominees also have to show exemplary character and sportsmanship in the field - a life of integrity, commitment to fair chase, strong ethics and a solid reputation. Each year only 6 nominees are considered, and the highest point total in all categories is chosen for the recipient of this most elite of hunting awards. The Weatherby Foundation’s newsletter once printed “What’s It Take To Win The Weatherby Award: It is easy, climb a few million feet, walk a few thousand miles, spend years away from home, family and work, usually in a foreign land. Travel for days on icy, gravel mountain roads in old jeeps or SUV’s full of other people’s cigarette smoke. Endure hundreds of searches in airports, borders and military checkpoints. Get sick or hurt, lose luggage and suffer delays too numerous to mention. Sound like fun? It is. It is a passion and way of life for a few very fortunate people.”
These female pioneers have not only beat tremendous odds in learning and mastering their skills, but they have exhibited such a drive for conservation and for educating others that they without a doubt should be heroes, not just for women, but for everyone who has a passion for hunting.
1) Suzie Brewster
Suzie Brewster is a remarkable lady. She did not have the privilege of growing up in a family who hunted – but her husband did. As the years passed and their family grew, the Brewster’s developed Day-After-Christmas Hunting Tradition. Bill and the children hunted and Suzie enjoyed traveling with them. One year, flight schedules were rearranged, the children had to board a different plane home. Tragically, their plane crashed. Suzie realized that for her husband to heal and be able to love his beloved sport again – he would need a hunting companion. So, she jumped in with enthusiasm, determined to be her husband’s very best partner.
Suzie and Bill have traveled the world going on a total of 37 safaris. She has hunted on 6 continents, in 34 countries, and has harvested more than 220 species. She still loves to shoot turkey and quail near their home in Marietta or in the fields of Texas. Suzie became a pro in the field. She has won the Dallas Safari Club Outstanding Hunting Achievement Award – the highest award given by the organization. Suzie has also won the NRA’s Sybil Ludington Freedom Award, which honors achievements in education and promoting Second Amendment Rights at a national level as well as SCI’s Diana Award. Suzie is the only woman to have received all three of these awards. While on safari, Suzie and Bill participate in as many humanitarian activities as they can. While traveling from village to village, they love to bring clothing and toys to children. Educating the next generation of Outdoorsmen has been a primary goal for the couple. Bill served in Congress and on the NRA Board of Directors. Suzie helped found the Washington Women’s Shooting Club and co-chair of the NRA Women’s Leadership Forum since it began over 10 years ago.
2) Barbara Sackman
Barbara Sackman is another woman of great renown amongst hunters. She has 191 world records in the SCI Record Book. And she won the 2015 Weatherby Hunting and Conservation Award – one of only two women to ever have received it. She has also won the Diana Award, SCI Conservation Award, Magnum Villamanin Award, ORVIS 20 Award, Capra Super 20 Award, etc. Interestingly enough, her husband Alan has also won the coveted Weatherby Award – which marks the first time ever both a husband and wife have won the award.
Barbara and her husband, like many avid hunters, only harvest older specimens of each species – which is great stewardship and helps with conservation. Older males will dominate over the younger ones in their chance to mate. But in order to ensure a healthy new generation it is wise to use younger, more vital, males with healthier genes. Barbara is passionate about conservation – she was once interviewed and said, that she was “almost embarrassed to say how much (she) paid to harvest that sheep (in Nebraska), but every red cent goes to conservation and the welfare of the sheep herd. That means an awful lot. The hunter is a huge conservationist, more so than anyone else.” Big game hunts, like sheep in Nebraska, can cost well over $100,000, which is a wonderful contribution towards the health of that sheep species. Barbara is a skilled hunter and has harvested Kudu, Roosevelt Elk, Polar Bear, Nile Crocodile, African Lion, and Leopard.
3) Caroline Pruitt
At age 12, she went on an African Safari with her father and shot an Impala – and she was hooked. On that hunt, she was able to harvest 9 animals – most of which was taken with the first shot. Only four years later, Caroline Pruitt won the 2010 Youngest Hunter Award from SCI and Cabellas. Only two teenagers in the world are chosen for this award each year. At age 14, she had 18 entries in the SCI Record Book, and had harvested over 50 big game specimens including Leopard, Wildebeest, and American Bison. She hunted the American Bison with a .44 Magnum. Caroline has hunted with various other weapons including rifle, muzzleloader, crossbow, compound bow, and longbow. She is the only woman recorded to hunt a Gredos Ibex and a Muskox with a Longbow, which has become her hunting weapon of choice since 2011.
Caroline is passionate about hunting – and strives to be a great example to others. She has not let her busy schedule in traveling across five continents neglect her education – she maintained high grades. Caroline has a heart for helping others, whether it is training new hunters at Meadow Ridge Archery and Gun or donating the meat from her hunts locally and abroad. Hunters all over the world watch in eager expectation to see what the years have in store for this prodigy.
4) Renee Snider
One of the most accomplished hunters in history – who has received an astounding number of awards, is Renee. In 2006 she was the first female to win the Golden Malik Award for taking “free range and on-foot” all big game species found in the South Pacific. She won the 2012 Diana Award. 2013 was the year that Renee became the first woman to receive the OVIS Award. In 2014, the Weatherby Award had its 57th anniversary. That year Renee Snider became not only the first female recipient of the award – but she had the highest number of big game animals harvested of anyone who had ever won the Weatherby. That same year, she won the Ullman Magnum Award for collecting European big game species and she was the first woman to be inducted into the highly prestigious Mountain Hall of Fame from the Wild Sheep Foundation. In 2015, Renee won the SCI World Conservation and Hunting Award. In 2016, she was the first woman to earn the Pantheon Award from SCI and GSCO. 2017 was the year that she won the International Hunting Award from SCI, Super 40 Capra from GSCO, as well as the Super 39 Ovis from GSCO. That same year, Rene won the Conklin Award from SCI. This award is “for dedication of pursuing big game in the most rugged terrain under the most difficult and demanding conditions while maintaining the highest standard of ethics, adhering to the rules of fair chase, and showing a true conservation stewardship for the big game animals of the world.”
Renee has raised millions to aide disabled and disadvantaged children. She has been on the board of directors for the Help-A-Child Foundation, River Oak Center for Children, Conklin Foundation and the Weatherby Foundation International. She makes every effort to use each hunt as a venture in not only conservation but in humanitarian efforts. She loves to bring medical supplies and administers first aid – in many villages she has been the only source of medical aide they had ever seen. Renee is an amazing lady who goes above and beyond when it comes to trying to make a difference in the world.
5) Brenda Valentine
Last but certainly not least, is Brenda Valentine, the “First Lady of Hunting.” Brenda is down to earth and passionate about conservation and introducing women and children to the sport. She is from Tennessee, where hunting and being in the woods is a way of life. She is proficient with a large number of firearms and has won dozens of national and regional 1st place awards in archery competitions. She is an award winning speaker, author, photographer, and TV co-host. It truly seems like there is not anything that Brenda doesn’t excel at. She is the National Spokesperson for the National Wild turkey Federation’s Women in the Outdoors program, the only woman to receive the Knight Rifle Master Hunter Award, a member of Bass Pro Shops’ RedHead Professional Hunting Team, Paris/Henry Co. Sports Hall of Fame, Women in the Outdoors Leadership Award, AMVETS Silver Bayonet Award, etc. In 2012, she was the only woman chosen by the Department of Defense to take part in the Outdoor Legends Tour II. This was a great honor, as it is a wonderful opportunity to show appreciation to active troops in southwest Asia and in Afghanistan as well as those military members who were hospitalized in Germany.
Even with all these accomplishments, Brenda remains humble and eager to help others. She hosts hunts for the disabled, supports wounded veteran projects, and loves to teach women and children about hunting and the outdoors. Brenda has designated hundreds of acres of her land to be a part of a Mossy Oak Gamekeeping project. She stays very busy with public speaking and loves to speak on the importance of conservation, land preservation, wildlife management, and patriotism.
Anything Is Possible!
These are remarkable women who have excelled in their art. Not only have they become phenomenal outdoorswomen, proficient in marksmanship, and excellent at tracking and pursuit but they have excelled so far as to win many awards that historically only men have won. Several did so while raising a family and while making a difference in their communities – their success is amazing. These women should be held up as mentors – to show others that anything is possible, even succeeding in the most difficult of terrains and winning the most elite of hunting awards. All while using their talents to focus on the gravely important task of conservation and education.
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