Our first Wild card is here, and she rightly deserves the tittle of queen of hearts. As you read her story you will agree with us on that.
First name: Ellie
Location (county will be fine): Currently split between London and the Shires of the Home Counties.
Occupation? Currently working with Athina Sporting and Shootcalendar.com
Please give our readers a small bio so they can get to know the lady that answered the above questions?
…My name is Ellie and I shouldn’t be here. A chancer, a joker, a wildcard. This wasn’t meant to be. Three years ago I nearly died. Field sports have given me back my life – a life I never thought I’d have. A life I so very almost didn’t have. 5th November 2013, Bonfire Night, I was in a serious freak accident resulting in a traumatic brain injury which robbed me of everything I had and knew. Three years ago I couldn’t speak, write or communicate for myself. Three years ago death came for me and I convinced him to change his mind and give me another chance. I promised to make this one count. And this is what I have to show for it in return. It’s taken three years but I’ve made myself in to a shining star, outshining the shadow of my former self. I’m 28. I’ve been living trapped in the city, in London for the last few years, but am now following my heart back to the Berkshire countryside. I hunt, catch and shoot all my own food. I live for being outdoors and for the field sports community. I built myself back up from a severe head injury, began shooting in the back garden with a cheap air rifle and blossomed in to a recognized and commended person in the field in the space of a few years. I picked myself up, dusted myself off and this is what you see today. All I really did was didn’t die and never ever gave up.
If you have a partner are they also involved in field sports?
I couldn’t possibly comment! Watch this space…
Please tell us how you got involved with field sports, who introduced you to this world and how long ago? I fly fished with my grandfather from a very young age, but the real credit here goes to three people. Firstly – Giolla. My best friend. He wasn’t my best friend when I first met him, but a friend who took me in after my accident and ultimately was my carer for a year or so as I recovered. He did literally everything for me. But the best thing he did was when a friend of ours gifted us an old Webley Tempest air pistol. We started target shooting in his large back garden. The amount of confidence and trust that man had in me is beyond belief. I couldn’t even tie my own shoelaces some days, but he entrusted me with a firearm and every day gave me the routine of lunch and shooting. Some days I’d wake up and be unable to communicate because of the way my brain was healing its broken pathways. But every day I shot. When I cried because I’d done so well for weeks and suddenly forgot how to butter my toast, he’d show me my targets. My improving clusters of shots. He’d remind me I was getting better. Every day. As time went on, we obviously upgraded to bigger and better firearms. But all credit to begin with lies with him. He never let me give up.
Secondly is Mr. Mark Harris. Mark has been like a father to me. I even partly in jest call him my adopted dad. Both he and his wife have been fantastic to me. Mark was the person who first took me out lamping and who I shot my first pheasant with. Who has guided and directed me in my recovery and development as a hunter. He taught me to be a better fly fisherman and shared his knowledge of the countryside and field craft with me. Mark has always looked beyond what happened to me and has seen potential in me and done nothing but encourage it. He’s always been on call for my most ridiculous of questions and has been nothing but a true father figure to me. Even if it is calling him at 10pm asking how to unblock my kitchen sink!
Thirdly is Mr. Daniel Francis, who took me to shoot my first deer (and subsequent ones!). Daniel has been a wealth of knowledge and information on deer stalking and I couldn’t have asked for a better guide and tutor. He was kind enough that when I was still unable to drive due to the accident, he drove an hour and picked me up to bring me stalking. Obviously I now drive there myself, for his horribly early morning stalks! He’s now a fantastic friend and it was thanks to him and at his request that I was able to compete in the BDS SE Stalkers Cup. Which I did him proud by winning the Ladies Buck!
Which disciplines do you take part in? The ones I can eat the result of! I fly fish, deer stalk, sea fishing and do rifle shooting as vermin control. I have also done a little clay shooting… But they hurt your teeth! I don’t recommend clay pigeon tagine.
Tell us about your achievements – do you compete in your sport? Have you won any trophies, rosettes or awards? Are you considered to be famous for your participation in your chosen field? – Would you want to be or want to compete? I’ve competed in the British Deer Society South East Stalkers cup – which I won the Ladies Buck cup. I thought I shot like a muppet that day so I was very surprised to have won! But it goes to show that you’re never quite as bad as you think. As for fame… I’m kind of well-known as being “the one with the purple hair” – it does kind of make a name for yourself when you stand out like that. I’ve also been in the Naked Huntress calendar for two years running, so I’m on a fair few people’s walls!
Achievement you’re most proud of? Not dying! My subsequent recovery?
No? Hmm, okay, well I’m chuffed I won the BDS cup. But I’m also most proud that I am capable of sourcing my own food in a responsible manner. There really is no feeling like the “I caught/shot that!” moment when it’s on your plate served as a delicious meal. You know it didn’t suffer and you played a part in every moment of field to fork. That is something to be proud of.
Are you a born and bred country girl, or have you moved into it to pursue your lifestyle? Or are do you still live in the city and travel for your pursuits?
I grew up in semi-rural Berkshire, where I rode horses and fly fished with my grandfather. But I spent most of my adult life in the big smoke, in London. Don’t move to London – it’s horrible! I have never been happier to be finally leaving it behind for good and get back to the countryside.
Are there any professional ladies who inspire you?
Kendall Jones. She doesn’t give a damn. She loves what she does, whether people think it’s ethical, cruel or not. And she just gets on with it and takes it on the chin. That takes a lot of balls.
Does anybody have a funny story they wish to share? What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you in the field?
I once missed a decent fish out sea fishing because I was busy peeing in a bush! My bite indicator bell was tinkling away as I was and as just as I pulled my pants up and ran over to the rod … nothing! Missed it! It was made worse by the fact it was the only bite I had all day!
Describe your field sports trip or holiday of a lifetime if time and money were no object?
Africa. Without a doubt. There’s something mysterious and appealing about the continent as a whole. My family grew up there in the 50s, but the area they lived in is no longer safe to visit. But I’d love to go to the continent and hunt, to experience just a tiny bit of what they grew up in and to experience the thrill and excitement of hunting plains game.
Any other hobbies. Do you have time for any? Any other surprising skills?
I like to SCUBA dive and I also home brew! I’m also really keen on birds and have a pet parrot. I also like fossil hunting and can often be seen scrambling across piles of rock on the beach sifting for signs of previous life!
I know many take part in several types from beating and fishing to falconry and clays. If there was only one activity you could do till you are too old to carry on what would it be? Is there any activity you would like to have a go at but not had the chance yet?
I’d probably have to say fly fishing. There’s so much variety with it – you can fly fish in fresh or salt water. For anything from arapaima to zander. You can fish in England, Europe, America, Russia, New Zealand. Big game, small game. For dinner or to catch and release. I love the simplicity of how all you need is a rod, a reel, a net and a line with a fly. There’s something very artistically beautiful about it – to mimic Mother Nature by utilising the tools provided by her to tie a fly and catch a fish. It’s so basic and primitive, whilst maintaining itself as something of a dark art. It’s trickery at its most finest and simplest. As for trying something new – if it isn’t big plains game in Africa, then I’d love to fly fish for big game fish somewhere.
We are hoping to inspire the next generation of ladies out there to step up and follow your trails. What would you like to say to these young sports -what advice would you give them?
“Spend a little more time trying to make something of yourself and a little less time trying to impress other people.”
Never, ever, ever give up. Ever. You are better than you think you are and you’ll never know that’s true until you try. There are no stupid questions. The only stupid ‘question’ is the one you never have the guts to ask. Don’t just sit there denying yourself knowledge and experience. Get up. Get out. Escape defeat, because you owe yourself more than that. It may be a male dominated sport out there but don’t be afraid – the vast majority are some of the kindest and most helpful people I’ve ever met. If anything, you’ll get a better helping hand because they’re keen to see more ladies in the sport! You’ll have the time of your life. There’s nothing quite like the outdoor lifestyle. Be the girl that can.
I know that you all do many activities from full bore rifles and clays, air-rifles and driven shooting, but which discipline would you recommend to our future generation to take up to get started?
I started with air rifles. If you have the space, it’s a great way to start learning marksmanship. Or just a bit of sea fishing – a sea fishing set up is a good cheap way to get in to fishing – you don’t need much gear and it’s a lovely way to spend an afternoon or evening on a pier with a snack and a line in the water. With a bit of luck you’ll even catch yourself supper!
Now, we all joke that you ladies take ages to get ready, but we have found you’re normally first up when it comes to being out in the great outdoors! So how many of you wear or even take any make-up out with you in the field?
Always. My eyebrows are blonde and I look like an egg with a smile unless I draw some on. Even at 4am getting up for stalking, I at least draw some on first! But I always have a mini mirror with me in the field. Mirrors are useful. I have hay fever, so my eyes run a lot in summer. Because of this I don’t wear huge amounts of makeup, but the mirror helps fix any smudges but also comes in VERY handy when you get a gust of wind in your face, along with all the grit and dust that comes with it. It’s very useful for picking bits of crud out of your eyes in the middle of nowhere. I also always wear foundation – because I’m so pale I make Casper the ghost look tanned, so I wear foundation with SPF 30 in it so I don’t burn.
Most memorable experience?
Well, you never forget your first…!
My first pheasant shoot with adopted dad Mark was pretty memorable. Nothing compares to that incredible rush of adrenaline as the first bouquet of pheasants is flushed overhead and you squeeze the trigger (or in the case of sheer excitement, pull it, let the gun slip and recoil right in to your bicep! It’s certainly one way to teach yourself to stay calm and composed, that’s for sure!) It was a wonderful way to spend a day with my adopted Dad, and I came home with a few brace of pheasants and a massive smile on my face.
Do you think the countryside/hunting media do enough to promote ladies as shooters/hunters, as opposed to portraying ladies as a novelty bit of glamour holding a Rigby or Purdey? Is there anything you would like to see changed in our world, with regards to the male attitude towards women participating in field sports?
I think it’s changing, for sure. I’m not sure if it’s changing enough, but it’s changing from novelty to something serious. It used to be a bit of a gimmick to see a woman with a firearm, but it’s becoming a lot more popular. I’m not overly keen on the ladies only shooting clubs as I think to an extent it reaffirms this men vs women divide which is sometimes perceived in the shooting world. We should all be supporting each other regardless of gender. There’s no reason that a male novice should be treated any different to a female novice as we were all new once and should all be supported equally. The only thing I think is missing is a more varied range of ladies equipment. Everyone is keen to see ladies involved but there’s so little in the way of clothing and accessories for women in field sports which are both practical and well-fitting but also reasonably priced. For some reason it seems the clothing side of the countryside and hunting sector hasn’t quite got the message that girls shoot too and most of us don’t want to wear pink camo or fitted butt-lifting trousers which fall apart after 3 uses. We want affordable, decent quality gear just like the gents ranges! Not this ridiculous, novelty hunting attire. If you’ve ever tried getting decent stalking attire in a size 4 or 6, which both fits well and can endure at least a few days outside, you’ll know my pain. I don’t need my bum flattering or my waist defining in the field. I don’t want body sculpting, curve enhancing complete with a neon pink trim shirts. I want a shirt that fits and is up to the challenges of a day in the field. That’s where the problem lies – the fashion industry stepping on the practical clothing element of outdoor gear for women. The fashion industry is still trying to portray women hunters as pink-clad Barbies with guns. If a bloke can get a decent pair of gloves for £20 which last, so should a woman. Not a ‘ladies’ range which are pink trimmed, twice the price and half the quality.
The hunting news media itself, in my experience, has been very supportive of women in field sports and it’s time that the rest of the market catches up. Outside of the field sports media, there is still this element of women must look good whilst they’re doing things. To the extent that when I told my mother about a shoot I was attending she insisted on showing me this ‘fabulous dress and adorable heels!” which I could wear.
– You can imagine the look on my face…
There is this deeply ingrained element of style when it comes to women doing anything which is outdated and needs to change. There’s nothing wrong with marketing an extra padded jacket for shooting “because your bra strap can end up giving you one hell of a bruise” but to advertise it as “flattering” is patronising and reiterates the frequently held opinion that we’re delicate little flowers who need extra protection and a more gentle approach. Which simply isn’t true. Maybe if the media as a whole stopped portraying us as special little delicate snowflakes who need our own clubs and ladies meet ups and lighter cartridges and flattering shirts in order to participate, opinions may change for the better. Don’t make us lighter ‘ladies only’ cartridge – teach people it’s just okay to use a lighter cartridge or teach them how to absorb the recoil better by improving their technique. Teach people that you don’t HAVE to get a gun off the shelf and expect it to fit. Teach people to embrace their own comfort rather than pigeon hole them in to ladies or men, cute or tough, pink or blue. After all, our anatomy is the same when it comes down to the trigger finger. We should be supporting ability and enthusiasm, not gender. Nobody should feel they can’t do something because of how they look doing it. I’ve had enough hassle from people over the years regarding my own appearance – I’m too thin, I’m too short, I’m too small, I’m too alternative, I’ve got piercings, my hair is too bright. And I honestly don’t care anymore. It’s not the field sports or countryside media, its people as a whole who have this outdated view that women need to look good or natural or just that a woman needs looks. Nobody ever criticised a man for not having enough hair or growing a beard, or wearing dark instead of pale camo. If you want purple hair, dye your hair purple. Don’t let anyone tell you to eat more if you’re eating enough. Shoot a 12 bore if you want to. Spey fish a raging torrent if you wish. If you’re happy with your 410, don’t be pressured in to shooting a 12 bore! Pierce your nose, wear several earrings. Worry about your eyebrows or choose not to shave your legs. Nobody should care. Sometimes I think other people care how you look more than you do. Just remember that the only thing you’re trying to attract and pick up in the field is your quarry, and the only thing that to your quarry is a clean kill, a humane death.
And the deer can’t see in colour any way.
Do you think that the national press should be more proactive towards our world as opposed to their constant negative bias? A good example would be stories published about kids using airguns to shoot old lady’s cats, whilst our Commonwealth and Olympic shooters achieve gold and are rarely commended in the press for their achievements.
Definitely. There is a fear of firearms in the air at the moment. With the dawn of unrest and this new age of a war on terror, guns have been demonised to such an extent that we’re frequently all lumped in to the same category. If a terrorist shoots someone, it’s the guns fault in the media. “Gun ownership must have tighter restrictions!” No. No it shouldn’t. Did they restrict sales and possession of household cleaners and nuts and bolts when the IRA reigned terror in the 90s? No. Terrorism will always find a way to break the law to cause terror. It’s the fundamental principle of terrorism itself. They’re criminals. Criminals do not care for the law. Unfortunately in our day and age of bite sized media and news clips they are quick to point blame and make easily digestible snippets and easily pointed fingers of blame. In the wrong hands, a gun is a scary and terrifying object, which makes it an easy target if one will excuse the pun. More needs to be done to change the opinion on firearms from weapons towards portraying them as tools. The same way that a golf club in the wrong hands can cause terror and injury, but to most it’s just another piece of sporting equipment. It’s ignorance and laziness. The same is true for hunting in general, in particular fox hunting, where ten years on the vast majority of the general non countryside population still thing we’re hunting foxes. Pure ignorance and the laziness of the press to report anything informative and in depth. After all, “Depressed teen murders cat with air rifle” is a much better headline than “Youth wins target shooting championship and boosts self-esteem at the same time.” It’s disgusting, but purely reflects our clickbait attitude to sensationalist news articles. Everyone loves a bit of drama.
Right, desert island time: One firearm, one item from home and one piece of music?
That’s the nastiest question so far! Probably my .22 Brno, a good knife and Frank Turner’s Tape Deck Heart, VNV Nation’s Empires or My Dying Bride’s The Dreadful Hours. I’d be tempted to take my e-cigarette, but I think a knife would be more useful!
Now ladies, it’s a known fact us country boys have a sense of humour – from bad jokes down the pub to lad’s pranks out in the fields. Tell us your best clean joke?
I’m really rubbish at jokes…
Clothes! Do you all wear tweeds and breeches, or do you wear what is comfy and fun for going outdoors?
I like my muted colours. Off the field it’s not unheard of to spot me in some brightly coloured leggings, though! In the field I’ll usually be in my green/brown moleskin trousers, my thermal compression top in winter (seriously, get a compression layer top, they’re incredible). I like to wear a shirt when I’m out and a tie for more formal events. I also have my lucky hat – a 1950s Homburg I picked up in a charity shop for a fiver. I keep the feathers and such from things I’ve shot and have a small collection of them in the band. It’s on its last legs now and really needs replacing, but it was just such a perfect fit and is so comfortable that parting with it is going to be difficult.
What do you get personally from your involvement in field sports?
Pride and satisfaction in the knowledge that I am sourcing my own food in an ethical manner. Really nothing compares to the taste and level of moral satisfaction in seeing something free ranging to fork by your own hand. You know the quality of the meat, the animal and can rest assured it died quickly and humanely. There’s no guilt in eating hunted meat. The most delicious meat comes served with a clean conscience.
Share with us your favourite game recipe…
Venison steaks with black pepper, soy and ginger.
Take two large slabs of venison steak – I like to use either the back strap or sliced from the rump. Room temperature, of course.
Marinade it for several hours in a mixture of soy sauce, sake or mirin, a pinch of cayenne pepper, a big pinch of cracked black pepper, some finely chopped ginger and some powdered ginger and garlic powder.
Chop up red onions and mushrooms. Sauté in butter. Real butter. None of this rubbish margarine stuff. Chop a garlic clove and chuck that in too. Tiny bit of soy sauce. Lovely.
Sear the steaks in the pan, not too well done. In fact, just warm them up in the pan. Seal the edges. Delicious. Leave to rest on a plate whilst you finish up. Serve with your choice of rice, noodles or potato.
Share the most useful tip or trick you’ve picked up – from the fastest way to de-breast a pigeon to how to sink your fly line perfectly?
The three-vape trick to fly fishing. Cast your nymph. Leave it for the amount of time it takes to take three nice long vapes on an e-cigarette. Retrieve… play your fish and land it. Perfect amount of time it takes to sink a sink tip line to the correct depth on a warm day!
The final shots…
Please add your thoughts about our world, from the price of milk to a countryside issue you feel strongly about?
Be nice to each other. We’re all in this together. Support each other. Put the knives away and stop stabbing each other in the back. What good is it doing? Be supportive. Respect each other. We’re all out here earning a living together, enjoying our sport together. Stop worry what other people are thinking or doing and enjoy yourselves. We’re not here long and what we do have can be snatched away in an instant. Stop worrying about the little things. You never know when your time may be up. Make it count. Prove people wrong. Ask questions. Learn things and pass that knowledge on. Give others a chance. Don’t get to the point when you no longer can and you’re wishing that you once did. Be able to say you’re proud of what you’ve achieved rather than disappointed in the things you have not. Live every day like it could be your last.
Many thanks ladies, I know you have busy lives, and hopefully there is a young lady sat out there and reads this and is inspired to get off the TV or Xbox and take up a gun or rod or even a bird of prey and keep it up till they themselves become the next generation of inspiring women.
Right Gentlemen, this is for you you might enjoy our world as much as the ladies do, but we have a hidden back theme on these article cancer, please drop by and support this great cause.Here: