I think this is one of the most challenging articles I’ve ever written. Is it normal to start a blog post by saying that? Ha!
I feel that there are so many stories, perspectives, and lessons to be learned that are wrapped up into this one experience. I can’t help but want to tell every single angle of it: a father/daughter relationship, the adrenaline we feel as hunters, the innocence of a first time hunter, the difference a single hunter can make in regards to conservation, learning to cope with all the emotions that surface after the shot, the peacefulness of a wall tent camp under the Northern Lights, and the undeniable results of a hard-working, faith driven family and outfit. I truly hope to depict an accurate reflection of the energy on this hunt, between the video and some added detail within this article. I can’t help but highlight what resonates with me the most: a story of a father and his teenage daughter going on her very first hunt. This certainly hits home for me, and it was really neat getting to see their relationship.
“I said Mace, that’s your bear! And it was so fast. Things got so real for her, so fast…” says Ryan Knapp, the father of 14 year old Macie Knapp who decided to join her dad in bear camp this year. Macie comes from a split hunting family; a father that is a proud hunter and loves the spiritual connection that hunting offers, and a mother who is a non-hunter that would rather not hear about the hunting stories, but does not influence any of her kids to choose a side. That being said, it’s a tough position for a teenager that’s still processing the world and sorting through her own opinions at that stage in her life.
Macie had never been to any kind of hunting camp until this trip. It was all so new to her. She didn’t have any expectations, but instead remained open minded to whatever would unfold. I watched her target practice and handle a gun confidently, and I love the innocence of her initial thoughts before the hunt. Watching her made me realize how much hunting molds a person - things that have become normal to me seemed to result in a bit of sensory overload for her - it was so much to take in at once.
Imagine if you had never been to hunting camp, then you showed up after many hours of preparation, had a bear within 10 feet on the first day, punched your tag on day 3, walked up on that animal while trying to process the emotions and what had just taken place, then saw it being cleaned - from skinning to a euro mount. It’s a lot to grasp for anyone. I remember seeing her eyes get so big at certain moments and I wish I would’ve encouraged her to share her thoughts because I cannot remember what I felt when I saw all of that for the first time. I was raised going to deer camp, and getting behind the weapon was a choice I made many years later. In fact, I was around 14 years old too when I shot my first animal, but I had many years of exposure to the hunting lifestyle before that decision came along. I can only imagine what it must’ve been like in the blind with her - that’s a lot of firsts wrapped up in one!
She talks about the different emotions she felt after the shot - the adrenaline, the nervousness, the sadness, and the uncertainty followed by excitement. I think what’s even more special is that her dad, a seasoned hunter, was sitting right next to her feeling all of them too. It’s funny because I struggle to remember my emotions the first time I shot an animal, but I vividly remember how proud my dad was after I made the shot. Ryan describes his daughter’s emotions perfectly: “I’m looking at her going, ‘she gets it. It’s hitting her, she’s getting it.’ You know that excitement and adrenaline that we all feel and just crave as hunters. She was feeling it for sure.” I don’t think those feelings ever go away, whether it’s your first time or your 100th time, which is the beauty in sharing camp with others. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, the amount of hunting you’ve done, or whether you’re successful. Every single person in camp has the opportunity to come back and exchange stories over coffee or dinner - stories from the evening hunt, or last season, or 10 years ago. We all have exciting stories to share in camp, and Macie got to see how special that is for a hunter!
In Macie’s post hunt interview, her dad and I were both trying to hold it together as she closed out her thoughts with, “It really is a deep thing with the animal that you experience after you shoot it and even before….it was incredible. I loved it.” I asked her if she thought she’d hunt again, prefacing it with the assurance that it was not a loaded question and there wasn’t a right or wrong answer. You could see the genuine excitement as she answered “I do, yeah. I was sad that we got evacuated because I wanted to be able to do it again, but I’m excited for next year too.” She’s referring to the Alberta wildfires that pushed us out of camp, leaving us both with a 2nd bear tag to be filled. Ryan’s face was priceless as the words left her mouth - he was already proud, but the thought of getting to have future adventures with his daughter while sharing his passion for the outdoors is enough to make any dad choke up.
The opportunity to see first hand how this experience would unfold was something I’ll cherish forever. The situation is so unbelievably close to my own story when considering the age that I got behind a weapon, having my dad right next to me, and the fact that my mom is a total free spirit that doesn’t want to see photos of anything I shoot; however, she is still one of my biggest cheerleaders in life. I imagine Macie’s mom can approach it in a similar way. Macie was so enjoyable to be around and I look forward to hearing about the future adventures with her dad! Who knows, maybe we’ll end up back in camp with 3 Rivers Adventures to fill our 2nd bear tag together!
See her full hunt video below!