Theresa Vail is a hunter and Miss America finalist … so how cool is that?
Vail was the 2013 Miss Kansas and competed in the 2013 Miss America pageant last autumn. She finished in the top 10 in the latter and drew attention during pageant week for her love of hunting, archery and tattoos. Vail was the first pageant competitor to model with body tattoos; as expected, that drew mixed reactions on both sides of the proverbial fence.
Pageant officials would not allow her to shoot her bow and arrow on stage during the talent competition. They cited safety issues, of course. But suffice to say that the 23-year old beauty from Manhattan, Kan., wowed the audience, TV viewers and judges with her intelligence, skill and beauty during the competition. A top 10 finish is strong!
Vail was interviewed by Alan Clemons in October for this “I’m a Deer Hunter!” feature:
You had quite the time the last year or so with Miss Kansas in spring, Miss America in autumn and a lot of media attention. How have the last few months been for you?
“It’s been a roller coaster with all the national media. But I’m very blessed and it’s been great. Busy, but great.”
How many interviews do you do a day?
“At least one a day and some days up to four. I don’t really understand it. I just went out and did my thing, didn’t expect national media from it, and was just out there being true to myself. Everybody has a story but not everyone comes out and shares their story.
“When my story about bullying came out along with my tattoos, I’ve done a lot of work and will continue to do so with schools about bullying, how to recognize it, and how to deal with it. I believe it’s far more prevalent than people realize. I talk with kids who are having major problems — being pushed into lockers, verbal abuse, cyber-bullying (online). One told me about being threatened with being stabbed. It’s big. It’s more of a problem than people realize.”
This is your service platform as part of your role as Miss Kansas and a Miss America contestant, right?
“Yes. There’s a reverence to the four points of the crown. One is for service and advocating our platform, at schools, fundraisers and public functions. There is no personal benefit to what you’re doing other than helping make a difference.”
What is next for you in your life?
“My year of service ends in June as Miss Kansas. After that I’m done with pageants. I’ve enjoyed it but I believe I’ve hit a high point with my national media and service. I’ve made my mark. But I’ll continue to speak to schools against bullying and my platform.”
How did you get into hunting?
“My dad is a big time hunter. When I was younger and being bullied, and I got it even in the home and felt like I was not safe anywhere, Dad took me when I was 7 years old. It wasn’t even the hunting we’re familiar with now. It was just being outdoors in a quiet, serene zone and not having to worry about anything.
“I enjoy deer hunting and squirrel hunting. It’s just fun. With deer you have to stay quiet and not move. For squirrels, you can walk around, talk and enjoy the day in a different kind of way. I prefer to bowhunt with my Hoyt Vixen but if my dad’s going to an area that’s better for gun hunting then I’ll do that.”
Note: Vail switched to using a Bear Archery bow after this interview was conducted.
With all the duties as Miss Kansas and with your service with the National Guard, do you get any break to go hunting?
“The (pageant) Board governs my calendar and what I do as far as appearances and events. But because they realize people love me for what I do and my hunting, which to some is my ‘unusual’ hobby (laughs), they’re lining up events with breaks so I can go hunting.”
Where all have you hunted besides Kansas?
“I was in Ohio last year at Thanksgiving and it was freezing. That was not comfortable for me. I had to keep telling myself ‘Just 5 more minutes’ and it was tough.
“When we lived in Germany we hunted for boar or deer. It was very regulated. The Germans would have maybe 20 German hunters walk in a line to push out the game, and the Americans were on the other side to shoot. That was pretty neat. When I would go with my dad he’d put me in a stand and then we would track a deer if he shot.”
How did your fellow pageant contestants feel about your hunting and outdoors passions?
“Once they learned about my hobbies and background, they kind of looked up to me as a leader, an Army girl, not a girly-girl. Quite a few were interested in learning about hunting, which wasn’t expected.”
If the right opportunity presented itself, would you get involved with outdoors companies as an endorser or promoter of hunting?
“Oh, my gosh, absolutely. That would be a dream come true. Girls are looking up to me and in the hunting industry because I believe I’ve shown you can have best of both worlds. You can be a tomboy and not have to stick with one thing. I have worked to introduce young girls to the outdoors and get involved.
“I’ve been contacted by Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops and Remington … if I was put into a position to help, I would consider it because I believe women want to see a real person, a multi-faceted person who has daily life with things related to work, kids, family, sports and spouses.”