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”
A couple months ago I was interviewed for the 2016 summer sportsmen’s journal as the spotlight member! Friday I had the privilege of meeting Patch Duncan who is also being featured in the journal as the winner of the #Carhartt Bass tournament. Friday Patch won with the highest score (78/100) in his division. HUGE thank you to @unionsportsmen for all of their hard work, it was a blast!!!!
Union Sportsmen Posted:
@kennaoutdoors & Mark/Patch Duncan (@carhartt bass winner) will be featured in the summer issue of the Union Sportsmen’s Journal #UnionSportsmen #Beretta #Stoeger #Carhartt #PintailPoint #IBEW #UA #WhiteFlyer #SportingClays
Typically every female has heard at least once in their life that they take to many selfies and if you selfie while you hunt then you are just a wilderness wannabe …… Ehhh you’re pretty much wrong but i’ll admit I get selfie fever when its been slow in the stand. BUTTT I can explain! We have a reason, or at least a good excuse!
The latest trending photo collage for the majority of female outdoor enthusiasts on Instagram has been Social Vs. Stealth. Therefore we are probably doing it for that free month of May Sportsmans Box or those super cute 9mm earrings from Hot Brass & Co. You’d be crazy to sit still in a tree stand or a blind when you know a good giveaway is going on and the picture lighting couldn’t be better. Plus it’s the perfect time to post how hot you were on Friday night without your boyfriend getting mad at you for posting it cause you know you looked good. #SorryNotSorry
On a more serious note, for as many camera shutter snaps that have probably scared deer away I still think Social Vs. Stealth is a neat way for girls to show who they truly are. A majority of us (girls who hunt) connect through the same passion. It’s easy to forget that there is life outside of what we love. Even though its social media we still look at all these huntress’ lives everyday wishing we could hunt that, or hike there or shoot this ,etc… but what we don’t remember is how hard they might of worked to get to that point. Whether your social selfie is from work, school or the bar it shows what else you’re made of. You might not be climbing mountains if you keep socializing over captain and cokes but at least you probably met some of the nicest drunk girls in the bathroom who could go add one more like to your Social Vs. Stealth entry.
You’re right, I don’t know half of my followers on social media but I do know that the female hunting population has grown and continues to grow everyday. Being able to connect with other girls who hunt or fish is awesome, as we all support each other and learn from one another. We stick together and we don’t give up easily on the goals we have; instead we lead one another to the right source. We see and learn what more the world has to offer and we live vicariously through each other in hopes that one day we can take the same adventure. So whether you win that free subscription or not, always “Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”
If you haven’t done so yet, head over to Union Sportsmen’s Alliance on Instagram (@unionsportsmen) or Facebook and give them a follow/ like to keep up with all of their accomplishments in helping conservation throughout North America. To become a member visit http://unionsportsmen.org. Awesome people and a great organization that I’m so happy to be apart of!!!!!!
Extreme Sport on the Chesapeake
By: Dennis Doyle
The waterfowl hunter is a different sort of man — or woman.
I decided to live life at full draw and took up archery a few years ago. I had the best group of people to teach me all the in’s and out’s to getting started. Between all the pointers and the practice I assumed that bow season was going to be simple. I had great groupings in the vitals on a GlenDel Buck target with just about every practice round, so I was unsure as to what could be so hard in the woods. Very quickly it was figured out. My heart was beating so crazy that I couldn’t get it together. I’ll be honest, I ended my first bow season with 2 trees, a ground blind, 2 arrows left out of a dozen and some unbelievably brave friends. It was an absolute mess but the ground blind weighed in at about 25lbs dressed.If I asked for anymore advice it probably would have been a majority vote to just give up. I took the humiliation to motivation but I figured I needed to keep my determination towards getting a deer with my bow on the low for a while until everyone regained trust in me. I practiced the whole following summer, I shot just about everyday and knew I was somewhat ready once I had my first Robin Hood experience. Now the next season didn’t start out as positive as I hoped, in fact it was very aggravating. Once I learned that taking my time and following the steps I had planted in my brain was all that mattered… BOOOOOOOOOM, I officially became successful, fearless and extremely grateful.
The feelings and thoughts you have when you are trying to harvest an animal with a bow doesn’t even compare to hunting with a rifle or shotgun. You constantly are thinking about what could walk out in front of you, if you’ll have enough time to stand up, if your mechanical broadheads are going to expand, if you smell like dirt or bath and body works because your easy, breezy, cover girl shampoo that you haven’t used in weeks but suddenly appears, slaps you in the face from the wind…which reminds you that you’re out of Sentlok Shampoo. Or if your range finder is right or not because you forgot to change the batteries and it slowly dies while making mental notes of 10, 20 and 30 yard marks . Once you hear the squirrel below you that sounds like a 180 class whitetail , I promise you will forget about everything. I can also promise that your first bow harvest is a thrill you will always remember and continue to feel. To all my present, practicing and future bow hunters keep up the good work. Determination brings success. I wish you much luck for the 2015-2016 archery season!!!!