For Erin McGladdery, hunting isn’t just a pass time, it’s a lifestyle.
“You have to live it; there are good days and bad days, so you need to be out there for the right reasons and I think have the right ethics behind it,” she said.
“My family was always hunting, growing up it was just what we did—when it was hunting season, that’s what we were doing, even before I was old enough to actually be hunting, I was riding along with my dad and brother.”
Like most hunters, the 25-year-old started out shooting with a rifle, using common lead to take down her game, until she was 14 and got her first compound bow, which intrigued her enough to make it her weapon of choice.
McGladdery was so taken by the bow, in fact, that it brought her into the world of target archery where she’s been crowned the Canadian champion four times and is presently ranked number one in the country, all achieved in a span of just two years.
“Hunting kind of opened up that opportunity for me,” McGladdery said.
When it comes to using arrows over bullets there are a few challenges, one of which she said is the need for a closer range to the target.
If hunting big game, the animal is usually at least 50 yards or closer, meaning the hunter has to pay more attention to detail, because the proximity to the target gives it the advantage of heightened senses of the hunter.
But for someone as accurate as McGladdery, those advantages for the beast are still often moot.
“I shot a black bear with my bow in June—I’d spent a few days in the stand, hunting with a good buddy of mine, and we saw lots of bears, but mostly I was waiting on one bear in particular,” she said.
“My days were running out in terms of time to hunt, so this boar came in with a hot sow and I had a great shot opportunity, so I took it and I made a great shot and it was a good bear.”
For McGladdery, however, it’s not so much about the thrill of the kill as it is the opportunity to get outside and enjoy nature.
She said the things she loves most about hunting are simply being outdoors in the elements and the experience of just being out there.
In recounting her most memorable hunting moment, she explains the story of her first buck, which she took down on a frosty November evening with a Remington .308 at the age of 12, when she was out with her father.
“I was with my dad and we had seen this white tailed buck several times during the season, but hadn’t got an opportunity (to shoot),” she said, excitedly relaying the memory.
“My dad picked me up from school, I would have been in Grade 6 I think, and we had the evening to hunt and I just remember my dad saying to me, ‘If we see this deer, this is the one, you’re going to get to shoot this one,’ and I did and it was just the best day ever.”
This year, more than a decade later, McGladdery is hunting with an APA M34 compound bow, and although she considers deer her favourite game, she got her first ever moose tag and is hoping to take one down before the end of the season.
But the season has been slow for the young hunter, with her kill count still at zero, though that hasn’t seemed to mess much with her determination as she still carries a tone of cautious optimism.
“I’ve been after one buck in particular and he’s been not cooperating very well so far, but hopefully…”