Goodbye flip-flops, hello muck boots!

When you’re a senior in college, everyone always asks you “what are you going to do after you graduate?” My answer was always the same: “I don’t know, but something with the outdoors.” Most of my fellow classmates had dreams of being in a corporate position or moving to a big city, but I just wanted a job where wildlife and nature meant as much to my coworkers as it does to me. I also wanted to follow my mom’s advice, who said that if you have to go to work everyday, you might as well do something you love. I love wildlife, so when I was offered a position with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, it was a no-brainer. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me take you to the beginning.

Growing up in California, I could always be seen in a tank-top and a pair of flip-flops. The daily weather forecast was always the same­ ­– sunny – and I liked it that way. After all, rain wasn’t conducive to cute hair-do’s and snow meant having to cover up my hard-earned tan.
Fishing with Grandpa.

When I was younger, my grandpa would take my brother and me fishing at Big Bear Lake in the mountains west of Los Angeles. The two-hour drive up the mountain gave me plenty of time to work in a nap and fuel up on a box of Fruity Pebbles. Upon arrival, we would unload our poles and get to work. Rainbow trout was our favorite catch, although it was usually grandpa doing the catching. I vividly remember the first time I saw him de-scale a trout with an old Swiss army knife he always carried. What a sight! I remember how much it grossed me out as a little girl, but these days I cherish that memory.

When my grandpa died, so did my passion for the outdoors, or so I thought. It just wasn’t the same without him. As I entered my teenage years, those memories were filed away, left to collect dust and make room for newer and “cooler” memories.

When I reached 14, my life flipped upside down. My mom remarried to a man from Kansas and it was just a matter of time before she visited his home state. I thought nothing of it at the time, but that trip was a turning point in all of our lives. When she came back to California, there was no changing her mind – we were moving to Kansas. I was devastated. Beaches, fields, beaches, fields – in my mind, there was no contest. How could anyone want to trade sand and surf for cows and hay? Unable to change my mom’s mind, I unwillingly packed my belongings and said my goodbyes. At 14 you don’t have much say in those matters, but looking back, perhaps that’s a good thing.

Two years went by in my new home state and before I knew it, I was a sophomore in high school. The transition was still rough, but I eventually made new friends and became more involved with school. The following year, I had my first boyfriend. I remember the first time he took me fishing on his family pond. It wasn’t a walk on the beach at sunset, but I decided to give it a whirl. It took me a while to tie on that first hook, but a few casts later, the skills Grandpa had taught me slowly came back. “This place isn’t so bad, after all,” I thought to myself. I finally found something that made Kansas feel like home. It took 12 years and 1,500 miles, but my childhood memories of fishing with Grandpa became timeless, and nothing would ever replace them again.
Fishing at a farm pond.

In time, that relationship ended, but my love for the outdoors continued to grow. At 18, I moved again, but this time by choice. It was my freshman year of college and Pittsburg State University was at the top of my list. On the weekends, my new-found friends and I would grab our fishing poles and drive to Bone Creek Lake. I loved fishing, but I wanted a new type of adventure. It wasn’t until my current boyfriend took me to the Neosho Wildlife Area that the hunting bug got the best of me. From mysterious tracks on the ground to rabbits hastily jumping through bushes, I couldn’t think of a more exciting place to be.

From that point on, I tagged along on any hunting trip I could. Deer, duck, turkey ­– it didn’t matter, I enjoyed it all. Before I knew it, it was out with flip-flops and in with Muck boots – and these days I like it that way.

When I lived in California, I thought there was no better place to live, but now that I’m in Kansas, I can’t imagine ever leaving. Whether I’m climbing into an ice-covered tree stand at 5 a.m., or admiring the stealthy movements of a coyote as it searches for food, I feel more at home in Kansas than I ever have before. It’s funny how things work out sometimes. Don’t get me wrong ­– I still enjoy my tank-tops and I refuse to refer to soda as “pop,” but a lot of things have changed, mostly for the better. Staying true to my city-girl roots though, I prefer hunting and fishing equipment that has the color pink on it somewhere (preferably in a prominent location).

Looking back, I realize that the days of fishing with grandpa were just the beginning of my outdoor adventures, most of which I’m glad to say are ahead of me. Although somewhat inexperienced, I’m not a stranger to the outdoors. I’ve had some great first hunts for doves, turkey, deer, pheasants and ducks, and I’ve caught some nice catfish and bass, too. In fact, I even snagged my first spoonbill last year! Regardless, there are still so many experiences that I’ve yet to enjoy. That’s why I’m making it my mission to explore all the wildlife and outdoor fun that Kansas has to offer, and I want to take reader’s on that journey with me.
This column is about learning to embrace the outdoors, whatever your zip code might be. It’s about poking fun at the silly things we do as beginner hunters, but most importantly, this column is about getting more women and girls to believe that they can turn “I wish I could” into “I just did.”

I may not have been raised a hunter, but don’t underestimate an Accidental Huntress.



  1. Kendra Gibson2/12/2013

    You're amazing lady! :)

  2. Answered my questions of how the heck did this Cali girl turn Accidental Huntress. I love it!

  3. Very inspiring- you never know the next chapter of what life brings you.

  4. Anonymous2/19/2013

    Being from LA might (in itself) add an element of diffaculty to leading Kansas woman into the outdoors! We like to wear our carhartts, jeans and boots to watch the sun rise over the deer feeding in the snow laden fields before piling on more layers to face the ice and extreme windchills!

  5. Anonymous, I can definitely see your point. I actually grew up in the desert, not in Los Angeles. I referenced Los Angeles to give readers an idea of where Big Bear Lake is in relation to a more well-known city, incase readers aren't familiar with southern California. I appreciate your feedback and thoughtful post and look forward to more comments in the future! -Accidental Huntress