Straight Talk - Brenda Valentine By Frank Addington, Jr.
Aug 26, 2008 - 11:22:24 PM
Dressed in camo with my bow in hand is where I belong.
First Lady of Hunting®
FA: Brenda, I have known you and your husband for several years. We have crossed paths at a lot of sport shows during the past several years. Let's start the interview with where your story begins. Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in Paris, TN and grew up on a farm at a dead-end dirt road called Johnson Holler in Henry County, TN.
My introduction began at a very early age by my parents and uncles. Here at 18 months I'm sitting atop one of the prize family RedTick coon dogs.
FA: Tell us a little about your life growing up. Family, brothers, sisters, etc.
I was the eldest child of the family with one brother and two sisters. It took the hard work of both parents and every kid to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. We milked cows, raised hogs, chickens, tobacco, corn, cotton and a huge garden. I much preferred working in the fields and tending the livestock to housework. We raised some of the best hunting hounds in the area so training and selling coon dogs and trapping and selling hides supplemented the family income. I liked school but enjoyed playing basketball more. My greatest love was riding horses - always at a full gallop.
FA: Were you exposed to the outdoor lifestyle growing up?
I guess we never knew anything about lifestyles, I don't recall even hearing the word until a few years ago. My world was small and everyone I knew pretty much lived off the land so I never viewed it as a lifestyle but simply "LIFE". Our nearest neighbor was a few miles away and the outdoors was our world. There were occasional summers that I never saw a person outside of my family from the time school let out in the spring until it resumed in the fall.
FA: How about fishing and hunting and who introduced you to it?
If it weren't for catfish and squirrel we'd have gotten pretty tired of beans and taters. Both my parents could go out with a cane pole or .22 rifles and put meat on the table which was what hunting and fishing was all about in those days. Being the oldest kid I was introduced early.
FA: When did you actually go on your first hunt where you actually participated?
My father carried me on his back while coon hunting before I was old enough to walk. I'd sit by the fire at night wrapped up in an old waxed hunting coat with a scratchy wool liner, frayed sleeves, and years of blood, gun oil, dog slobber and general grime ground into it. When the dogs would tree he'd leave me to stay warm by the fire while he went to shoot the coon out. Most of the time I'd go to sleep wrapped in the old coat listening to the baying hounds, bull frogs, whippoorwills and other night sounds. Most of the time it'd be breaking dawn when he'd hoist me on his back and trudge up from the bottoms with a couple of coons and sometimes a possum dangling from his belt or stuffed in a gunnysack slung over his shoulder.
I actually got to shoot my first animal when I was 4-1/2 years old. It was a cold winter day and we were squirrel hunting up a white oak holler from our house. The squirrel flattened out against the side of a huge oak tree with a tall straight trunk. My dad put the barrel of the open-sighted single-shot .22 in the fork of a small dogwood tree and let me pull the trigger. The bullet dropped so much that instead of hitting him in the neck where I had aimed it cut his bushy tail clean off. The image of that tail falling to the forest floor is very vivid in my mind as was the tailless squirrel quickly climbing higher up the tree. I put the iron sight above the squirrels' head as instructed and that time killed him clean. When my mother cooked up all the squirrels we brought home that day she put mine on a separate platter so it would be my special squirrel to eat. I kept the amputated trophy squirrel tail in my room for years.
FA: When and how did you first decide to take up bowhunting?
I was never exposed to archery or bowhunting until Tennessee opened an archery deer season in the early 80's. I got to hearing some of the local hunters talk about how hunting with a bow extended their season so I decided I'd give it a try. There weren't a lot of equipment choices in this area at that time.
Every hunt is an adventure and every species a challenge.
FA: What was the first animal you took with a bow? When?
I ordered a bow from some local guys who had a dealers catalog in the spring and in just a few days shot a pile of gar and carp with it when they were spawning in the sloughs. Bow fever hit me harder and lasted longer than anything I'd ever been stricken with. I was soon traipsing around to all the local 3-D shoots and losing a lot of arrows. There were hardly any other women archers in this area and often the male shooters refused to shoot with me but that didn't deter me from giving every shot my all. That fall I shot a small whitetail buck and the bowhunting fever intensified. I give archery all the credit for me finding my way as a figure in the hunting industry which has allowed me to hunt practically around the world.
I've been so fortunate to tag some incredible animals considering I'd never hunted outside of my home state or been on a guided hunt until the past few years when I started hosting TV shows.
FA: What was that one hunt/animal that stands out from all the rest?
An old buck I hunted for 3 years on my old home place. It was the largest buck taken in our county that year and is still pretty infamous in this area. Thoughts of that deer stayed with me every waking and most sleeping minutes of the best part of 3 years. When I finally shot him it was like losing an old friend.
I shot this 54+ inch kudu with my trusty Parker compound bow.
FA: When did you decide to get into the hunting industry full time?
After 10 years of running a business full-time, shooting competitively on the national level for a major bow company and working part-time in the hunting industry I came to the place in the road where I had to make a decision. In 1996 I sold my business and went full-time in the hunting industry.
With the diversity of hunting opportunities available in most parts of the country today there is always a new adventure to look forward to.
FA: You are known as the 'First Lady of Hunting®'. What is the responsibility you feel that comes with that honor?
I was introduced by various radio disc jockeys and seminar announcers by this title long before it stuck. Some of my sponsors and co-workers felt it appropriate and thought it should be my registered mark. It has made me more fully aware of what a responsibility I have to help open the doors to hunting for other women. Of course being from the south every time I hear the word "lady" I think of my mother and grandmother who harped on every girl child that we may not always be the prettiest or the smartest but we must always conduct ourselves like a lady. That was hard for me when my favorite things were climbing trees or running traplines.
During the late 80's and very early 90's I was a member of the PSE Factory Sponsored team on the IBO and ASA National circuit.
FA: You are also the spokesperson for some companies, who are they and what is your job as a spokesperson?
I've been very blessed over the years to represent some of the finest companies in the hunting industry. Bass Pro Shops invited me to be a part of the RedHead National Pro-Hunting Team in 1996. I was a co-host of the TV show launched in 1998 on TNN and have remained a regular on that program since that time although we've changed networks a few times. As a member of the RedHead Pro-Hunting Team I field test products and offer input for new clothing and equipment. I also attend many store functions each year and present hunting seminars at various store events and conservation conventions.
I am also pleased to be the industry spokesperson for Parker Bows out of Mint Springs, VA. I've shot a Parker for 8 years and have become a part of the Parker family. Parker is a family owned company that believes in building a quality bow for a fair price and standing behind everything they sell. I also admire the fact that it's all made right here in the USA.
I am on the staff of Hunters Safety Systems mainly because I'm sincere about preventing treestand accidents and partly because the company is made up of the nicest, most caring family I know. I suffered a severe treestand accident many years ago so now I'm on a mission to help prevent this from happening to other treestand hunters. The Hunters Safety System is the most comfortable and easiest to wear full-body fall restraint device I've found.
Mossy Oak Camo is another of my sponsors. I've worn Mossy for many years and it works great every where I hunt. I love the idea of having pattern choices for various terrain and seasons.
Trophy Rock is a natural mineral salt mined from the earth and sold in its natural state. I've used it for about 10 years and have had wonderful success using it for a wildlife attractant. There is no other mineral salt like it on the market and the deer and other wildlife just can't get enough of it.
Winchester Ammunition is another company that asked me to be a part of their company which was a no-brainer for me since I'd been depending on the bullets in the red & black box with the galloping horse on it for decades. Winchester is one of those timeless household names that I'm pleased to be associated with. I mounted a Whisker Biscuit arrow rest on my bow the first year the guys at Carolina Archery Co. introduced them. That's been several years now and no one has been able to convince me there is anything better for bowhunting. I continued to endorse the Whisker Biscuit after Escalade Sports bought the company and hope they never decide to change a thing. The Biscuit is perfect just the way it is. As you can tell, I've built long-term personal relationships with my sponsors over the years and truly feel each one offers a necessary product vital for my hunting success. I wouldn't use it or endorse it if it didn't. Having this kind of confidence in a product or company enables me to wholeheartedly recommend it other hunters. I think it is important for people like me who consumers seek for product advice to maintain a level of honesty and integrity. Part of that comes from not selling their name to the highest bidder but by genuinely believing in the companies they work with.
A major feat for any hunter, taking a Cape Buffalo with a bow put Brenda on some rare space with this recent trophy.
FA: I saw on your website that you were the first female inducted into the Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame. Tell us more about that.
The National Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame www.Legendsoftheoutdoors.com was organized in 2001 as a way of honoring those in the Hunting & Fishing Industry for their contributions of protecting and enhancing our outdoor heritage. I was inducted in 2002 along with John L. Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops and others. I feel very honored to have been chosen as the first woman to be a member of this elite group.
FA: Every one has their mentors or heroes. Who are some of yours?
I don't really have any mentors and my heroes are the God fearing, gun owning, meat eating, flag waving, truck driving, Camo wearing, blue-collar Americans who work hard to make a good life for their families. These folks are the backbone that supports our nation and I salute them.
Winning the Outdoor Channel's Golden Moose award for the "Most Informative" TV show was a major highlight of my career. This took place in Las Vegas in 2003.
FA: You've become a well established personality in our sport and are looked up to by many. I'm sure you've also mentored some who are now making a name for themselves but in the area of helping others, young and old, what do you feel is your highest accomplishment in helping grow our sport?
I would have to say that helping to change the image of women hunters has been my greatest accomplishment. Back in the 70's women who hunted were often frowned upon. Today it is quite common to see women in hunting camps or on television not because they are competing or have something to prove but simply because they also carry a strong hunting gene in their DNA and genuinely enjoy time spent in nature pursuing wild game. My national exposure has slowly shown that many women are as enthusiastic and equally skilled as any other hunter.
Being able to share my hunting time with family is wonderful. During the spring of 08, Scarlet and I hunted Merriams turkeys in Montana together.
FA: Tell us a bit about your family. Your husband, your children, do they share your love of the outdoors and hunting?
My husband Barney, of 37 years, did not hunt when we first married. He just didn't get what it was that would make me get up hours before daylight and sit in a tree all day in the cold. Time changes things and today he is an avid deer & turkey hunter although he's never been bitten by the archery bug. Both our daughters, Melissa & Scarlet are good hunters and cherish the time they get to spend in the field however both have a young family which demands most of their time.
My 4 grandchildren provide both a sense of pride and purpose.
FA: Describe your proudest family moment.
There have just been way too many. I was especially touched when each of my 4 grandchildren were born for I knew there'd be a whole new generation of hunters in our family.
This 1980's photo is a timeless example of the soul soothing poultice of bowhunting in the mountains.
FA: Describe your proudest personal moment.
When I reached the top of the mountain and looked out over the world on a sheep hunt. When I completed a 60 mile endurance horse race. When my grandson made a perfect shot on his first buck. When my TV show won the Golden Moose Award. When my daughter walked the line for her Masters Degree and when my granddaughter sits on my lap in church and tells me I'm her best friend.
The bow and arrow has taken me from the hills of TN to the glacier ranges of Alaska to the thornybush plains of Africa.
FA: You seem to have arrived at the mountain top but do you have any goals set you have not yet? When I die there will still be goals I have not met but I keep a bucket list and there are a couple of things that have been on it for a while are 1. Take a big brown bear. 2. Hunt Australia. Two longtime goals of mine were checked off this spring; taking a Cape Buffalo with my bow which I recently accomplished and to shoot the wild turkey Grand Slam in one season. It seems that when I cross one goal off my list another one comes along and replaces it. I view this as a good thing because I believe every one needs a goal which keeps them motivated and gives them direction.
In my other life I was a hairdresser with some pretty recognizable customers. Like Hank Williams.
FA: I understand you crossed paths with some pretty important people in Nashville. Like who?
I've met all kinds of folks from every walk of life and I like to think everyone is important in their own way.
FA: Even the most successful of people have had great moments of disappointment. What would yours be?
I get disappointed when I work hard for something then it doesn't work out like I'd planned. I get really disappointed when I do stupid things, flub opportunities or miss shots.
FA: As a female, do you think you get the respect that man does in a male dominated industry?
I'll have to think about that one.
Brenda's Best Seller. Got yours yet?
FA: You have a book out. What's the title and where can we find a copy? What about an autographed copy?
My book has been out now for 5 years. It is a collection of short humor stories that actually happened. It is called, "Hunting Misadventures". The book is chock full of old family photos and hunting pictures from my early days. You can order an autographed copy from Deer Run Publishing, 1012 Martin Mill RD., Puryear, TN 38251. Cost is $10 + $2.00 S&H.
Ray Scott, founder of Bass Masters, hams it up during the photo shoot of my induction into the National Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame in 2002.
FA: Equipment is important, so what equipment do you use and endorse?
I've been at this a long time so I know what works for me. I'm not a gimmick person and I believe that simple is better when bowhunting. I'm shooting Parker Compound Bows exclusively and this year I'm shooting the new BlackHawk which has been customized a little to accommodate my short draw-length. I love it. This bow is outfitted with a Whisker Biscuit Arrow Rest and a Lore Stabilizer just like every bow I've shot for the past many years. For my recent Africa safari I used the new Sims Vibration Prism Sight and was tickled pink with how it preformed. One of my all-time favorite broadheads is the Simmons Razor Shark. I've used mostly Carbon Express arrows for the past couple of years and of course I'm adamant about buckling up in a Hunters Safety Systems harness whenever I'm off the ground.
The Ladies all camo'd up with places to go.
FA: It's no secret that our hunting population across the board is aging and not being replaced. What do you think we can do to reverse this trend?
Actually, the numbers show that the hunting population has stabilized due to the increasing number of women joining the ranks.
FA: If you could share a hunting camp with anyone, past or present, who would be sitting around the campfire with you and where would you be?
I've always fantasized about what it would have been like to ride and hunt with Teddy Roosevelt. I believe he had the guts, grit and a sense of adventure I admire in a person. Sitting around a campfire on one of his ventures into the Dark Continent or chasing elk in the Rockies would have been right up my alley.
Being a member of the Bass Pro Shops, National RedHead Pro-Hunting Team for the past dozen or so years has been a dream come true. The friends we've all become and the fun we've had hunting, visiting the various Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World stores, and producing a long running, multi-award winning program is indescribable.
L_R Front row - Bob Foulkrod-John P. Morris-John L. Morris Back row- Jerry Martin- Walter Parrott-Allen Treadwell- Brenda Valentine-Jim Ryan-Angie Ryan.
FA: Ok, this is for anything I have missed or your place for any parting words of wisdom for our readers.
Walk your own walk, dream your own dreams, believe in yourself, be steadfast in your conviction, remember your roots, and don't take yourself too seriously. I got where I am today by refusing to conform to traditional convention and having a dogged determination that I could conquer any goal if I set my mind to it. It is heart that makes winner not pedigree, looks, skill, or education although those are all good things to have.
FA: I'd like to take this opportunity Brenda to thank you from all of us here at Bowhunting.net for participating in one of our celebrity interviews. Our industry owes you big thanks for promoting bowhunting and the outdoors like you do and we hope that you will keep doing so for years to come.