Kelsey Harris is 20 years old, a college student and former Miss West Virginia Teen USA pageant contestant. Like millions of other Americans, she’s also a hunter. Harris is in the spotlight in the first of many upcoming installments of Deer & Deer Hunting’s new column, “I’m a Deer Hunter.”
DDH: You moved around a bit growing up but have lived in West Virginia for several years. Tell us a little about yourself.
KELSEY: I am definitely a small-town girl. Growing up, I was always asking my step-dad to take me hunting with him, but my mom was a worry wart and would never let me go! My hobbies included pageants, cheerleading, gymnastics and modeling. I became very involved in pageants and won several awards, including a Miss West Virginia Teen USA honor.
I loved growing up here. It was amazing. I could walk to the pool or the bowling alley with my friends, and didn’t have to worry about anything. Growing up, I, and probably none of my friends, thought that I would become the hunter I am today. I couldn’t think of something that fits me better. I love the country, I love the woods, I love a competition, I love practice, and I love my step-dad, Eric.
DDH: Not many beauty queens shoot bows, hunt deer and like a little mud in their hair. You may be the only one. Why do you like hunting and shooting so much?
KELSEY: My problem (growing up), was I never felt a part of anything. Within pageants, I could never do it for me. There was always somebody who picks who they think is best. For this, I make who’s best. I get to practice. I get to improve. This is my sport. More importantly, my family is so broken up. I never really felt that close to anyone, especially my dad whom I never get to see. Of course, he is there for me, sends me money, calls. But I’ve never had that special relationship. Unfortunately, Eric never had children, either. This is something that has given us a bond like you would never believe. He is so proud of me and for once in life I am really proud of myself for gaining a hobby. I love having him watch me shoot and helping me. He is an amazing teacher, and to me, is better than anybody on the Outdoor, Sportsman, or any channel there is! He is what you call a true, hard-earned worker.
DDH: How long have you been hunting and shooting?
KELSEY: I finally convinced my mom to let us go hunting my senior year of high school. Eric’s friend had a doe permit and he went with us one day after school. It was my first time ever shooting a gun. After the shot, I said, “I think I missed.” I still remember our friend saying, “No, you didn’t. She dropped like a sack of taters!” I was instantly addicted to deer hunting.
My first bow was a Mathews Mustang youth bow. I loved that thing! Although I wanted to hunt, I decided to spend the first year just practicing. Then one day Eric surprised me with a new Mathews Jewel. I was so excited! I put it to use at my first 3D competition and “Robin-Hooded” two arrows that morning. I won second place and consider that as the best trophy I’ve ever earned.
DDH: Everyone has a good “first deer” story. What’s yours?
KELSEY: In September, my boyfriend and I went bowhunting for does on his grandma’s land. While we were looking for a place to set up three does appeared, ran within 20 yards of me, and stopped. Of course, they bolted when I tried drawing my bow. Amazingly, on our way back to camp, we walked within 15 yards of another doe. I instinctively drew and sent the arrow on its way … THWACK! She went down after running just 40 yards. I thought I was going to go CRAZY!
I love watching deer. It’s about having your hands and knees shake uncontrollably, watching wildlife and learning how our earth works. Deer hunting doesn’t fit the stereotype a lot of people attach to it. It’s not a bunch of drunk rednecks going and shooting whatever they see. It’s a sport, a passion, and a way for boyfriends, girlfriends, wives, husbands, fathers, sons and daughters to spend quality time with each other.
DDH: What’s next for you after college?
KELSEY: I want to do something positive in the hunting industry — not wear a camo bikini and think I’m something special. My goals are to take kids hunting who cannot afford it otherwise; take women hunting so they understand what it’s all about; give food to people who can’t afford it. These are huge, long-term goals, but I will reach them.
DDH: We know you will, Kelsey. Keep up the great work!
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