One hunter’s journey paints a pathway to the outdoors
By Marissa Jensen, Education & Outreach Program Manager for Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever
Take a moment and think back to the beginning, back before you began your journey as an upland hunter, when you first started feeling the tiniest itch to explore what this world was all about. What did that look like, and more importantly, who was there to support and inspire you along the way? For Pheasants Forever (PF) and Quail Forever (QF) graphic designer Emily Snyder, her first hunting mentor was her father, pursuing deer in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
“My passion for hunting started with deer,” says Snyder. “I got my hunters safety at the age of 13 and started deer hunting that same year. I grew up with two older brothers and truly, I think my competitive side drove my desire to shoot a deer just like them.”
Fast-forward a few years to Snyder’s first experience in the uplands at age 15, searching for longtails with the family German shorthaired pointer (GSP), Reggie. “I shot my first pheasant on that trip, but what I loved most was watching Reggie work and seeing the way he responded to my father in the field. Knowing that someday I’d have my own bird dog to follow was what kept me wanting more.”
Although Snyder felt extremely grateful for the mentorship and opportunities to hunt, which were provided by her father, she couldn’t help but notice that she was the only girl that hunted in her group of friends. “Now that I look back, I’m just amazed and truly thankful that my father and brothers never made me feel ‘like a girl.’ I had all the same advantages and experiences that my brothers had. It really made me feel like my mentors were some of the best.”
What Snyder didn’t know at the time was that upland hunting would become a much deeper part of her life in the years to come. “I’ll admit, I didn’t know what PF or QF was before I saw the job posting. But I saw ‘conservation’ and ‘upland hunting organization’ and I was sold.”
A German Shorthaired Pointer named Cooper would inevitably become a part of Snyder’s life, solidifying her resolve to become an upland hunter. A rescue from Great Plains Pointer Rescue, Snyder couldn’t be happier with the companionship provided by owning her own bird dog. “He’s the best thing that has happened to me. He has come a long way from the frightened pup he was when I adopted him, and I couldn’t be prouder to call him mine.”
Snyder admits that her position with The Habitat Organization continuously stokes her passion for upland hunting. Beyond that, Snyder has been able to experience opportunities to become a mentor and give back to the upland community where she feels so at home. With Snyder’s role on the marketing team, she takes on mentoring opportunities in non-traditional ways.
“As part of the marketing team, you really get behind the scenes. You see what it takes to get the word out to the world about the importance of mentoring. I don’t know that I would have talked about my mentors and hunting experiences before coming to PF and QF,” admits Snyder. “The marketing team and the organization as a whole, from staff to volunteers and members, are all so invested, because they love conservation, bird hunting, their bird dogs and keeping hunting as part of our traditions.”
Beyond that, Snyder hopes to continue her role as a mentor. “I think back on my hunter safety course and how I was the only girl in my group, taught by all men. I wonder how much more I would have enjoyed the course if maybe there were women leaders?”
Over time, Snyder herself has become that leader. Whether it’s her role in the organization’s Women on the Wing initiative, graphic designs that inspire newcomers and current hunters to get out into the field, or by physically taking someone on a hunt, she knows the importance of passing on her love for hunting, so that the future of the uplands remains in good hands.