When Union Sportsmens Alliance (USA) member McKenna Merkel bought her first bow at age 17, a male co- worker scoffed, “Good luck. You never kill anything with that.”
She tried to shake it off, and with advice from experienced bow hunters, McKenna dedicated countless hours practicing until she achieved consistently close groupings in the vitals. She thought she had the bow mastered and anticipated a smooth, successful hunting season.
McKenna soon learned the woods were a different world than the practice field. She ended her first bow season with two trees, a ground blind and only two arrows left out of a dozen. She couldn’t get those initial negative words out of her mind and was starting to believe she would never kill anything with her bow.
“It’s all I thought about when I hunted,” McKenna said. “I was so angry and disappointed”
Last summer, McKenna, now 21, started a blog called McKenna Outdoors to share her experiences and connect with other outdoor enthusiasts. She hopes to send a message of support and encouragement to aspiring bow hunters. In one of her blog posts, McKenna wrote about that first bow hunting season and the fire it lit within. She practiced archery almost every day, and although the next bow season wasn’t instantly successful, one rainy afternoon she ventured into the woods alone and dropped her first doe.
” I was standing in the tree stand, screaming with excitement McKenna said. “I still get chills thinking about it”
As the doe collapsed by McKenna’s hand, the power of that unnerving jab also died. She had, in fact, killed something with her bow. Armed with her experience and her words McKenna is resolute to make a positive impact on women in the outdoors. According to her readers, she is succeeding.
“You’re the poster child of what it takes to be successful and the kind of kid I want my kid to hang around,” one reader commented “(You) inspire my daughter every time she sees your posts!” wrote another.
Born and raised on her family farm in Bowie, Maryland , McKenna’s love of the outdoors began at an early age. She spent her free time with her dad at turkey shoots, deer hunting, fishing or helping around the farm. As she grew older, she took ownership of her outdoors interests, which evolved into a lifestyle
“Growing up on a farm not only taught me responsibility but more than that, it gave me this sense of freedom ” McKenna said.
She also developed a strong work ethic through the example set by her mother, Cathy Merkel, a union member and registrar for the United Association. “She is extremely dedicated to her job, cares a lot about her fellow union members and is such a hard worker” McKenna said of her mother.
Through her mother’s membership in the office and Professional Employees International Union, McKenna joined the USA as a family member.
” I chose to be a member because I wanted to be a part of helping wildlife conservation and connect with other outdoor enthusiasts I could learn from,” McKenna said. “There is so much to learn when it comes to the outdoors, and I’ve learned a lot through the USA”
McKenna has been an active member since 2013, attending on conservation dinners and sharing photos of her outdoors endeavors.
“Since I can remember, McKenna has loved the outdoors ” Cathy said. “The folks at the USA are awesome with people and have left a great impression on McKenna”
Through the ideals of hard work, respect, gratitude and perseverance, McKennas message rings true to those in the outdoor community. “A hunt is successful whether you harvest something or not” McKenna said. “It’s about being outdoors. I want to encourage present, practicing and future bow hunters to never give up. Determination brings success”