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Chasing ghosts

8/26/2010

Editor's note: To accompany Deer Camp 2010, we've asked athletes, prominent figures and outdoorsmen to relate their first deer kill.

Brenda Valentine, known as the "First Lady of Hunting", is a national spokesperson for the National Wild Turkey Federation and a member of Bass Pro Shops' RedHead National Pro-Hunting Team. The Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame inductee is also featured on a number of outdoors shows. She credits growing up in Tennessee and her early hunting experiences for helping take her far in the industry.


I don't even remember my first hunt. I started hunting when I was being carried in a hunting coat on coon hunts.

What I remember was going out in the bottom with my dad, building a fire, sitting there and listening for the dogs to tree one. Dad said, "You sit here by the fire and I'll go and shoot the coon and bring the dogs," and I would wake-up at daylight.

I'd go to sleep wrapped up in his hunting coat and it would be getting daylight. The dew had fallen on me. He would come dragging in two or three ol' coon dogs, we'd walk home and my mother would be up cooking breakfast.

Today, they would put people in jail for child abuse for taking a little kid out in the woods and leaving 'em all night around a fire. That's how I grew up.

That was right here in Tennessee and it was absolutely the way -- it was a different time. You can throw me out in a big city and I'm scared to death, but you can drop me off in the woods anywhere and I am quite comfortable and at home. I was born into the hunting industry or into the hunting and the timing was right.

My first deer was a challenge because when Tennessee first got a deer season, there were very few deer. It took me three or four years before I ever even saw a deer, there were that few. If you saw tracks that was a successful hunt.

The first deer I ever saw, I was working in a tobacco patch, and I was just a 12- or 13-year-old girl. We were suckering tobacco -- a lot of people don't know what that is. I went to the end of the row and I was waiting for everybody else to finish their rows.

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I heard this big crash through the woods and I saw this tail so I come back and started telling my parents, my brothers and sisters. I said I saw a deer and I might as well have said I saw a dragon because no one had ever seen a deer.

They looked around and we finally found a little track. We told the neighbors. We lived about four miles to the nearest house, but people from all over the county came to the tobacco patch to see that deer track because nobody had ever seen a deer, it was just totally unheard of.

Hey, this was in the 60s in Henry County, Tennessee. There were just none. There was stalking going on over at Fort Campbell, and so yes, that was the first one. But then I was just smitten and I learned to shoot a bow just so that I could deer hunt when Tennessee finally started an archery season.

Man, I could just shoot more deer and I could hunt more days. So I bought a bow and that's what got me into the hunting industry because I got so involved, so addicted to archery, that I went on the tournament trails and it was just from then on.