VL- Breaking the Camo Ceiling: Female Hunters Challenge Norms and Nab Big Game in Warren County and Beyond

Published 9:28 pm Thursday, October 19, 2023

VL- Breaking the Camo Ceiling: Female Hunters Challenge Norms and Nab Big Game in Warren County and Beyond

Story by Anna Guizerix

Photos submitted

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While hunting is a pastime as old as mankind, what many people might not realize is that it is a genderless sport.

Women in Warren County and the surrounding area are taking the woods by storm in pursuit of local game and even crossing oceans to bag exotic game, and they all have one thing in common: They want more ladies to join them.

God’s Grocery Store

Jennifer Jackson has been hunting since she was 8 years old and enjoys shooting a compound bow. For Jackson, hunting is less about a trophy and more about putting meat on the table for her family.

“Hunting has helped me become more independent and tough, and not take for granted God’s beauty of the outdoors,” Jackson said. “I truly do not have a favorite animal to harvest, but at this point in my hunting career, I really enjoy (harvesting) the meat to enjoy the entire year to follow.”

Jackson first fell in love with hunting as a child, at her father’s side. Gill Haynes fostered his daughter’s love for the outdoors on their Mendenhall farm, teaching her how to live off the land and find peace in the early morning hours.

However, she said, some of her most memorable hunting experiences started in the River City.

“My adventures started on King’s Point Island, hunting in a makeshift camper that my daddy made from an old school bus that he converted into what, at that time, we thought was the greatest hunting lodge a family could ever hope for,” Jackson said. “Waking up to ice on the inside of the windows at predawn and trotting down to the outhouse in the freezing weather are now some of my most treasured memories. The rest is history after the harvesting of my first deer with my daddy on this island in Warren County.”

Weapon of Choice

Darlene Davidson, an Eagle Lake resident, primarily hunts in the South Delta area.

Over the years, Davidson and her husband, Jim, have spent hours in the woods and on Eagle Lake enjoying God’s creation and spending quality time with each other and their family. Her mother-in-law even hunted independently until she was 92 years old.

“My dad didn’t have any sons. He had three daughters, and we grew up hunting and fishing and it gave me a love for the outdoors,” Davidson said. “I raised my children, a boy and a girl, to love hunting and love the outdoors as well.

Growing up as a member of the now-defunct Lost Home Hunting Club, Davidson said she initially hunted just for the quality time it provided with her father and, of course, the thrill that comes with capturing a large whitetail deer or turkey. On occasion, she still climbs into a tree stand with her Marlin 444 rifle to chase a Delta monster buck.

The Davidsons eat everything they kill, she noted, adding that her favorite dish of choice is either deer burger or backstrap.

More often than not, however, Davidson’s weapon of choice is her Canon 5D Mark III camera and 500 mm lens.

“I’m self-taught. I didn’t go to school for it or take photography classes; it’s strictly been trial and error and Google,” Davidson said. “When my husband is bow hunting, I’ll sit in the stand with my camera, and then when it’s gun season, I’ll put the camera down and break out my 444.”

Over the years, she has captured an array of photos illustrating the biodiversity of the South Delta, from roseate spoonbills to alligators to deer, black bears and bald eagles.

A Different Kind of Date Night

For Megan Buckner, who owns Delta Outfitters on U.S. 61 North in Vicksburg with her husband Eddie, hunting is a way to engage in new pursuits and also spend time with loved ones.

“My husband Eddie inspired me, and I fell in love with (hunting),” Buckner said. “I love being in the outdoors and hunting because it’s a great experience to see the deer and other wildlife up close in their own environment. It’s so nice to sit where you can be quiet for hours and have some time to reflect on life.”

Buckner is an avid bow hunter, preferring to shoot her bow no matter the season. She enjoys deer hunting, turkey, dove and duck hunting. Additionally, she has also used her bow for a new hobby in the last couple of years: Bow fishing.

Big game, big adventures

Robyn Lea is a recognizable name across Vicksburg, primarily for her State Farm Insurance Agency and her work with children at Crawford Street United Methodist Church.

However, Lea and her husband, Mark Posey, spend a great portion of their time traveling to far-off lands in search of exotic game. From Indonesia to Africa and everywhere in between, the pair has found a love for the outdoors and each other through their hunting pursuits.

“I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Africa to hunt. We’ve been to Maine twice to bear hunt,” Lea said. “Next year, we are doing a bear hunt in Canada with an indigenous Canadian, Sara Sproule, who is also a trapper. She’s such an interesting person and we can’t wait to go hunting with her and her family. I’m very interested in her trapping and tanning business and would love to learn how to tan hides and maybe even do my own taxidermy.”

Lea’s office serves as her trophy room, but for her, hunting goes beyond the prize at the end. It’s a way to explore new places with her husband at her side. The couple’s passion for exotic game came from their first trip to Africa, she said, which will always hold a special place in her heart.

Two years after that first trip, the couple ended their hunt — for a soulmate, that is.

“Mark and I got married in a civil ceremony here in Vicksburg, performed by our hunting buddy, Jim Chaney, in 2018,” Lea said. “A few days later, we left for our ‘huntingmoon’ in South Africa. We had a wedding ceremony there after a day of hunting. The ceremony took place on the veranda overlooking the African bush, right at sunset.”

As for who initially inspired her to hunt, Lea said it wasn’t her husband or father but her best friend, Wanda Cook.

Cook has hunted with her husband and children for years, and invited Lea to join her in the sport. Judge Jim Chaney was also a supporter and Lea said he has become a lifelong friend.

“Women have a few unique challenges in the woods, but (Wanda) walked me right through those experiences,” she said. “Jim Chaney welcomed me right into a group of all-men hunters and never batted an eye at my lack of experience or gender. He really encourages me and we have a lot of fun.

“And, of course, my husband, my hunting buddy and my biggest cheerleader, Mark Posey,” she added. “For me, there’s a lot of camaraderie in our hunting groups.”

Motivation in Creation

Regardless of the reasons why they choose to hunt, all the women agree: The sport is for anyone who is willing to try it, and the benefits extend beyond firing the perfect shot.

For some, the joy comes from peace and solitude found in nature. For others, hunting means remembering one’s place in God’s green earth, and how small it is. Others still rely on hunting as a way to not only feed their families’ stomachs but also their minds and hearts.

“As the years have gone by and women hunters have become more and more prevalent, I realize how lucky I am to have so many memories with family and lifelong friends,” Jackson said. “From all across the USA to Canada to Africa, I’ve been fortunate to have made some of my most cherished memories. My only advice is to venture out into God’s vast creation, sit still, reflect and give thanks.”