Until she was 19 years old, Molly Deegan didn't know the first thing about how to shoot a gun or draw a bow. Her family, including her dad John, and her mom Kathy, did not participate in the deer hunting culture of Wisconsin, but all that changed when she met her boyfriend Brad. "He's really the one that got me into the sport," said Molly. "I knew if I was going to spend any time with him during hunting season, I would have to at least accept it."
And the first time she went out hunting with Brad, Molly found she did enjoy it. "I didn't have a gun or anything, I just went along, but I found I liked it," she said. "I liked being out in nature and seeing the wildlife. But it also got me hooked on it."
So last year, Molly enrolled in a hunter's safety course and bought herself a bow and a rifle. She also read all she could about the sport, perusing hunting magazines and listening to tips of other hunters she knew. This diligence paid off.
When Brad put her in a tree stand on his family's property, it wasn't long before Molly was posing in front of a camera with her own small, four-point buck.
As an avid animal lover, Molly thought she might have misgivings about shooting a deer, but the fact that she enjoys the meat and the destruction she saw on her own father's property from these creatures put her at ease about harvesting white tails. "I've seen the damage they can do when people hit them with their cars," she said. "And they can really destroy crops too, and besides that, I like the meat."
Molly's experience and enthusiasm as a hunter is a growing phenomenon in Wisconsin. According to Department of Natural Resource (DNR) data, women are finding success in this sport. "There's been some outreach programs geared toward women taking up hunting," said Jim Jung, a conservation warden with the Department of Natural Resources. "Also, women often times bring their young sons to hunter safety classes and I think they get an interest in the sport through those programs, too."
Statistics also prove women are becoming more interested in hunting. Through midnight of opening day for the 2012 gun hunting season, females represented 32 percent of the 25,703 first time hunter licenses that were purchased this year. In fact, females are the fastest growing segment of Wisconsin's hunting population and the DNR is predicting that the number of licensed women gun deer hunters in Wisconsin is projected to increase by from 50,000 to 75,000 in 20 years.
There's no doubt that this year Molly is very proud to be included in those numbers. Once again, in late October, she found herself in a ladder stand overlooking a field that was skirted by woods, her bow in hand. As she settled in, she took note of all the creatures going about their business with little knowledge of her being in their midst. Then she heard a rustling to her right. "I looked over and saw this massive buck stand up," she said. "I couldn't believe it. But then he laid back down."
As daylight dwindled, she feared the animal would remain hidden in the brush, but about the time a bright dusk settled in, it emerged from its bed, stretched and then started walking toward her. She was awestruck. "I just kept thinking this can't be happening," she said. "Then he just stopped and slightly turned and I had my shot."
Molly's aim was true. "Usually it takes all my muscles to pull back my bow, but that day I didn't even notice," she said with a laugh. She immediately called Brad on her cell phone, who was hunting nearby. "I had to dial the number four times because my hands were shaking so bad."
When the pair walked up to the animal they both couldn't believe how big he was. "Even Brad was impressed," she said. "It's bigger than any deer he has ever shot." Molly is planning to have her prize mounted so she can relive that hunt for years to come.
But now she is more enthused about the sport than ever before, and during this year's gun deer season, she is juggling getting into the woods with going to college at UW-Whitewater. She is a senior and plans to become an elementary school teacher after she graduates.
So what was the most exciting part about her experience with bagging such big buck? "I think what I liked the most was the looks I got when my dad and I went to register it," she said with a chuckle. "The guys there would start to congratulate him and then he would point at me. The expression on their faces was just priceless."
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