When Abby Casey recently moved from the wide-open spaces of Wyoming to Conway, South Carolina, she had to adjust to the heat and humidity and learn the ropes of saltwater fishing. She talked to Hook & Barrel about her life in the outdoors.
H&B: Tell me about growing up in Georgia. Who got you into hunting and shooting?
AC: Growing up in Georgia, my father was a big part of why I loved the outdoors. He passed away when I was 16 years old, but he had a huge influence on my life. He instilled in me the importance of the outdoors. And I had a great aunt and great uncle who were very active in the archery community in the 80s, and my aunt was a skilled bowhunter.
At the time, as a woman hunter in the 80s, it was kind of unheard of, and she had a big influence on me as well. I went to woods every chance I got. My family called me the Briarpatch Kid because is was so hard to get my out of the woods.
We had a family place in Georgia—an old dairy farm that my grandmother ran. We all lived on the property together, and when my dad passed away, I lived with my grandparents. It was such a cool place to grow up. We had a lake and woods, and we would just run around wild.
Becoming a hunter
H&B: What turned hunting and shooting from a fun family activity to something you were more serious about?
AC: The biggest thing that made me more serious was shooting on the rifle team in high school. We had a really phenomenal MJROTC program at my high school, and we had a rifle team as part of that. One of my biggest mentors was my rifle coach. He was really there for me after my dad passed away.
I was a Georgia state champion, a national champion, and I went to the Junior Olympics. This was the same time that my dad passed. If I hadn’t had shooting sports to completely immerse myself in, there’s no telling where I would have ended up. But it set me on a great path, because I got a shooting scholarship to the United States Air Force Academy. I decided I didn’t want a military career, so I ended up shooting for Columbus State University in Georgia.
Becoming a Pro
H&B: So how did you go from college shooting champ to an outdoor industry professional?
AC: College was ending, and I knew I didn’t want a desk job. I wanted to work in the outdoor industry, so I made up some business cards—completely fake it til you make it—and I was having lunch in Columbus with Tom Fuller who used to work for Bushnell, and I was telling him what I wanted to do. He said, ‘you know you should really talk to the guy sitting behind you,” and I turned around, and it was Bill Jordan and every higher up at RealTree Outdoors. So when they got up to pay, I ran over and introduced myself and gave Bill Jordan one of my business cards and told him I’d like to talk to him more.
I got a call from his secretary that same day, and the next day I had an internship in the RealTree video department. So it was a really fluke start in the outdoor industry. I don’t believe in coincidences in life; I feel like there’s a time a place for everything. I call those moments checkpoints, where you are exactly where you are supposed to be at that exact moment, and that was one of those moments.
Being a Female in the Space
H&B: What has been the most rewarding thing about being a female in the outdoor industry?
AC: One of the things I love the most is getting to share all my cool experiences with people and show them what it means to be a good steward of the outdoors. To be an example of someone who’s trying to do it the right way has always been in the forefront of my mind. And it’s so cool getting messages from young women saying they want to get into hunting because they see me doing it—to give someone the confidence that they can do it is amazing. It can be intimidating to get into a male-dominated sport, so I’m always willing to help anyone who’s interested.
H&B: What is your favorite thing to hunt and a favorite hunting memory?
AC: I love hunting elk and turkey. They’re similar in ways because you have to call both of them, so it’s a cat-and-mouse game. Everything is memorable when you’re in the woods with elk. They’re never in an easy spot; they’re always five miles away heading up the tallest mountain. They don’t run down mountains, they run up. And hunting elk takes you to the most beautiful spots in the country.
H&B: What’s your best one-that-got-away story?
AC: Several years ago, I missed the biggest whitetail I ever had the opportunity to shoot. My family had three acres, and I caught this monster deer—probably 150 to 160 inches—on camera. So I was in my stand bow hunting. He came out like clockwork on my trailcam, and I had my arrow nocked for a 45-yard shot.
I drew back and took the shot, and nothing happened. The arrow went right over the top of his back. I never miss like that, so I didn’t make any adjustments and shot again, and the arrow went right over the same spot. When I looked at my bow, one of the pins had gotten bent and was causing me to miss. And I only had two arrows. I thought I had grabbed a third, but when I pulled it out, it was just a field tip. The deer never ran. He literally walked right underneath my stand, and all I could do was sit and watch him.
H&B: Tell me about American Airgunner and your shooting competitions?
AC: I’m a field producer for American Airgunner. Planning hunts are a lot of fun and I serve as a co-host and field producer. Taking part in the last season of American Airgunner Challenge which was filmed in Arkansas was a lot of fun. As far as competitions go, I do two different types: I do the competitions that you see on American Airgunner and just this year I started shooting air pistols. I’ve only done two competitions, and it’s totally kicking my tail. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do.
A Few More Things
H&B: In addition to shooting and hunting, you also fish.
AC: I grew up bass fishing and bream fishing, and once I moved out West, I got into fly-fishing. And now, I live on the coast, and we bought a boat, and it’s like starting over from ground zero. I thought fly-fishing was the hardest thing in the world until I started trying to figure out salt-water fishing!
H&B: What’s your favorite gun?
AC: I’m a big fan of my Browning X-Bolt 6.5 Creedmoor. It’s a great shooting gun.
H&B: What’s still on your bucket list?
AC: I want to get my pilot’s license. That’s a big one. I want to do more elk hunting. And I want to be involved with bringing more young shooters and hunters into the outdoors and shooting sports.
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