Reprinted Courtesy of HuntingLife.com.
Erica Forsyth was born and raised in the small rocky mountain town of Elkford, British Columbia, Canada. Sporting activities, from figure skating to fishing were an everyday part of life. Some of her most cherished early memories are of hunting with her Dad in the valley.
Once she graduated high school she pursued a post-secondary education in Business Administration at the Lethbridge College. While living in Southern Alberta she met her future husband, who also has a strong passion for the outdoors. Thier common love for small town living and daily outdoor activities brought them back to Elkford. Now her time is spent enjoying the pristine beauty of the Elk Valley with her husband and two beautiful little girls.
1. Why do you hunt?
Although there are many reasons to support my decision to hunt (game management, food, etc), the biggest reason I hunt is because I truly enjoy it. The pursuit an animal stirs up a lot of different emotions, from fear, dismay and apprehension, to optimism, excitement and elation. I’ve spent a lot of time doing other outdoor activities, but hunting is the only thing that has impacted me so much with a deep range of feelings. I understand myself better because of these emotional experiences.
2. What has being a part of the Extreme Huntress Competition meant to you?
It has meant so much because it has given me the opportunity to reach and positively affect so many people. I want to promote and inspire people to try hunting so they can enjoy outdoor experiences the way that I do. Being a part of Extreme Huntress has given me such a fantastic opportunity to do this because of its recognition and popularity. With so many Huntresses working together to promote the sport, an amazing number of women, children and even men, are deciding to become outdoorsmen.
It has also been such a blessing because I have met so many fantastic people because of it. Fans of the show, people in the industry, and hunters in general are some of the friendliest people to talk to. The show producers, the field judges, the 777 Ranch staff, and especially the other Huntresses, have all been fantastic. I have learned so much from their company, and I have grown as a hunter, and as a person, because of them.
I am very flattered and a little bashful to have that sort of attention. The fact that somebody is positively influenced by what I am doing is very satisfying. I hope to inspire them to participate and enjoy conservation activities. Talking stories and sharing pictures is what helps bond hunters. It’s great to hear the excitement in their voices, and the see the excitement in their eyes.
4. How do you feel the media portrays women in the hunting and shooting industry? Do you feel there is a double standard?
As much as I would love to say that women and men are portrayed equally, unfortunately I don’t see it being the case. Because they are predominantly a “man’s pass time”, it is sometimes implied that women are not as good at them as men. Gender does not determine a person’s ability to shoot, hike or hunt. Time, effort and passion play the biggest role in a person’s abilities. I do have to say that professional media outlets have come a long way in portraying equality, it’s the smaller, more personal media outlets that still give that opinion.
I must also point out that women do have some advantages in media. Because there are less women (compared to men) in the industry, our reach tends to be larger. The average outdoors woman’s interviews, posts, tweets etc. seem to attract more attention and interaction than the average outdoorsman’s. This can be a good thing, as long as the message is positive and constructive.
5. Have you ever been attacked by anti-hunters, and how has that affected you?
Unfortunately a part of being in the public eye is that you will be open to anti-hunting attacks. It seems to be inevitable. Social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter can be fantastic tools for reaching a lot of people, but they are also magnets for anti-hunting attacks. The anonymity allows people to spew radical, emotionally filled hatred without fear of consequences. What is unacceptable in the real world seems to be accepted in the social media world.
I personally try to ignore all hateful comments, as responding to them just seems to fuel their attacks. People threatening violence and wishing ill fate are obviously not going to suddenly change their attitude, even with an educated, well thought out response. I also try to encourage other hunters to avoid lowering themselves to hateful responses. Some comments stir a lot of anger within us, but that anger can lead to petty comments and name calling, which makes us sound as uneducated as anti-hunters.
My only guess on where this hate comes from is misinformation and misguided emotion. Thinking that wild animals live a Disney movie life leads to a delusional idea of our role in conservation. Being a woman, the attacks seem to be worse, because women don’t fit the standard image of a hunter. I’ve had many comments that start by scolding me for being a barbaric woman that kills innocent animals, then finish with death threats to me, and even my children. It’s hard to restrain, but I know that responding will only encourage more attacks.
6. What is your most memorable hunt?
It’s hard to pick one hunt to be my most memorable, but spot and stalk mule deer hunts seem to always run through my mind. On one of my first ever archery mule deer hunts, I had a standout moment that played a big part in getting me so deeply passionate about hunting. We had watched a couple great velvet mule bucks sneak into a cattail slough to bed for the day. In the heat of the day, we snuck in to bow range to try and spot antler tips. I set up at a likely escape route, while my husband worked his way around the slough. Unfortunately, the bucks spotted him before he spotted them.
Luck was on our side, as the bucks snuck out of the cattails directly in front of me. I was already at full draw as the bucks came by me at a mere 8 yards! The biggest buck was so surprised (as was I) when he finally spotted me, he froze for a couple seconds, perfectly broadside, with a bewildered look on his face. His summer coat looked perfect as it glowed in the mid-day sun. The details of his face, from the gloss of his eyes, to his dusty black nose pad and flaring nostrils etched in my mind. I was so lost in the moment, that I never even released an arrow. As he bounced away, I was finally released from my trance. I let down my bow and replayed the rare close encounter over and over in my mind. I am still amazed to this day how that buck had total control of me.
7. What’s the hardest lesson you have learned while hunting?
The hardest lessons I have learned have to do with my abilities, and my limits. I like to hunt sheep, mule deer, elk and mountain goats in the high country, but there can be a lot of adverse conditions that go with mountain hunts. You have to be well prepared, and know your limits. I’ve had to learn the hard way how much cliff terrain I can tolerate in one trip. I’ve learned how scary and intense a high mountain storm can be as hard rain, hail and lightning strike down with unequalled fury. I’ve learned that hiking in the dark started to become easier and less scary, until the run in with a woofing bear. I’ve also felt the moment of helplessness as I was sure the gale force wind was going to blow me off the jagged spine of a rocky ridge.
Mountain hunting can be extremely challenging physically, but the psychological obstacles can be the hardest to overcome. Every scary situation has taught me valuable lessons, not only on how to be better prepared with gear and skills, but to be mentally prepared to handle the scary situations with a calm and level head.
8. What are three tried and true tips do you have to offer for archery (mule) deer season?
Use your Optics! Mule deer tend to inhabit open country, and quality optics give you a big advantage. Whether you are scanning the distance, picking out antler tips in a brush patch, or zooming in your spotter on a bedded deer, optics should be a big part of your mule deer strategy. Binoculars should not only be used to find deer, but also to see contour when planning a stalk route. Even at close range, your binoculars allow you to focus your concentration to spot the deer before it spots you. Covering ground is important when searching for deer, and a spotter allows you to pick apart details at extended ranges. Even if you think you use your optics enough, you should probably be using them more.
When planning a stalk, the three keys are wind, land marking, and unseen deer. Not only do you have to determine the predominant wind direction, but you also have to figure out what the wind may be doing where the deer is laying. Will sharp contours or thermals affect your approach? You can’t beat a deer’s nose, so never approach from up wind. Once you have the wind figured out, pick out several distinct landmarks that will be recognizable once you are on your stalk. Things always look different once you get closer to the deer, so make sure you have several land marks to reference. Finally, before you ever start you stalk, scan your stalk route thoroughly for animals that may ruin the stalk. This could also include coyotes, cows, etc.
Practice shooting in realistic situations. Stalking almost always results in unique shot opportunities. This can include drawing and shooting from your butt or while kneeling, shooting up or down hill, shooting in windy conditions, and having to shoot after a lot of physical exertion. I also recommend practicing with the clothes and gear you plan to hunt with. This includes your camo jackets, wearing your pack, and tuning your pins into your rangefinder. Spot and stalk mule deer results in very dynamic shooting situations, and the more prepared you are the better your odds will be.
9. What five pieces of gear do you carry with you on every hunt that you could not live without?
A camera is always in my SJK pack. Capturing memories of a hunt are very important to me. A quality set of binoculars are also always with me. My 10×42 Swarovskis are the perfect all-purpose binocular, and a lot of my strategy and success involves them. A change of socks, and a blister kit are critical. I’ve learned the hard way that it is paramount to take care of your feet. For me, hair ties, hair clips and lip balm are also a necessity. I’ve had days without, and missing any of them leads to discomfort and distraction. Water and water filtration/purification products round out the list. Hydration is critical, and you just never know how long you are going to be away from water sources, so I always try stay prepared.
10. What’s one rookie mistake you’ve made?
This story leads to the 6th piece of gear that I always have with me. My husband and I were bowhunting elk one afternoon when we started after a bull elk high up on a mountain. We stayed with him until it was dark, then started to head down the mountain. Soon we were both reaching into our packs, and both suddenly realized we didn’t have a flashlight or head lamp! It was a rough, nasty trek down the mountain tripping over deadfall, getting whipped by branches, and stumbling down the steep slope.
11. How can readers follow you on social media?
If you want to keep up with my adventures and see some cool photos, you can check out my Facebook page Erica Forsyth Elk Valley Huntress, you can follow me on Twitter @EricaForsyth , and on Instagram @ELKVALLEYHUNTRESS. Readers can also check out the Kryptek Outdoor Group web page, or their social media. As well, go to the Slumberjack web page, or their social media.
12. What advice would you give someone just getting into hunting?
Success isn’t measured in antlers, inches or the number of tags you fill. It’s a fantastic feeling to cut your tag on a big animal, but it is not the most important thing. With egos and bragging, as well as some of the marketing and sales, it can appear that a successful hunt only happens when the animal is on the ground. Enjoying the outdoors, learning new skills, creating new memories, participating in conservation, and sharing that positive experience with others should be your priority. Make sure you get into hunting for the right reasons. You will have a more enjoyable time, and be a hunter for life.