What does a pretty woman have to do with “deer and deer hunting” you say? Good question? Everything … when you get past her looks and focus on what she stands for and what she works tirelessly to promote across the country. She is most likely one of the best women deer hunters who you might have never heard of … at least not in the hunting world.
In case you’ve never heard of her, Nicole McClain is a former model and actress turned advocate. She is just now emerging onto the hunting scene because she wants to get the word out on some worthy causes she believes in and stands behind — perhaps most noteworthy: faith, cancer awareness and supporting our U.S. servicemen and women.
First, a little more on McClain (see her photo gallery). She’s a fitness freak obsessed with tactical weapons gear who grew up covered in the color of mud and muck rather than pretty in pink. But she is more than just another female who rides ATVs and calls herself a ‘hunter’ to turn heads.
• She’s bench-pressed 275 pounds (on decline) as a weight lifter.
• She’s fought cancer with an iron fist.
• She’s an archery mastermind.
• She carries a Glock and isn’t afraid to use it.
We also best not forget to mention that she is bilingual and a college graduate with multiple degrees. She spends her downtime raising money for cancer research, is an active supporter of our military and raising money for Camp Patriot, and educating the masses about health, fitness and wellness.
In other words, she is pretty much a Type A personality who doesn’t do anything half-assed. She loves family and her dogs, here and gone.
Oh, and she looks like this:
Miss McClain recently took time out of her busy schedule to sit down to an exclusive interview with Deer & Deer Hunting. As you will see, there is more to Nicole than meets the eye. Much more.
D&DH: WHO ARE YOUR HUNTING HEROES?
MCCLAIN: I wouldn’t say that I have a ‘hunting hero’ exactly.
No one in my family hunts. I joke sometimes that I was raised by wolverines, and my parents are just figureheads. I’m the youngest of three, the only girl, and my brothers would rather be fishing or in a boxing ring than sitting in a tree stand waiting on a 10-point. My dad, now he was in Vietnam — and says that was enough ‘hunting’ for him.
We put Mom through the old parental ringer, bringing home boxes and buckets full of all-things-fish, frogs, mice, turtles, insects —even stray cats. She was pretty good, even when she called me (age 7) at a friend’s house because my ‘frogs had escaped’ and were hiding somewhere in the laundry room.
D&DH: HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN HUNTING AND THE OUTDOORS?
MCCLAIN: I became intoxicated by the opportunities of the outdoors at a young age. I was an impressionable little whip.
My father, a tough but soft-spoken Vietnam vet corralled me under his parental wing and introduced me to fishing. Dad taught me, “You catch it, you clean it.” This phrase also meant you bait your own line, and what you catch, you take off yourself. 5-year olds don’t really know what all this means, but I learned lickity-split the day I caught an 8 lb. catfish, nailed its lip to a tree, hit it with a hatchet, zippered the belly and peeled off the skin. Baiting my own hook wasn’t really a problem after that.
My dad always had patience—and patience is exactly what you need when your little girl casts her line and hooks you in the back of the neck. He sat there in silence, holding the back of his neck, looking out at the water in front of us. I cast much better now.
D&DH: YOU’RE A HUGE ADVOCATE FOR CANCER RESEARCH AND AWARENESS. WHY?
MCCLAIN: I was raised with God in my life from the time I was born. In my late teens, I was diagnosed with cancer. The outcome didn’t look very promising and I was pretty angry and confused for the first stretch. I’m confident everything happens for a reason and cancer was the foundation for me to get reintroduced to God in a completely new way. He changed my frame of mind. I wasn’t angry anymore. I accepted my fate — life or death — and this is one reason I’m still alive today. I decided I would do things differently — not really knowing at the time what that meant exactly.
A group of my guy friends were hunters and introduced me to deer hunting. I picked up a bow and my arrow was just outside the ten. I shot again to prove the fluke, but came even closer to the bull’s-eye. I learned I was a damn fine shot, but could never see myself shooting an animal. In fact, when I started hunting, I passed on nearly a dozen deer because I couldn’t fire the shot. I passed on a 12-point buck and afterwards I told myself, “You either aim and shoot next time, or go back to catching frogs and give up this hunting thing.” The next go at it, I saw a buck, hesitated, thought about frogs, and then landed my first deer that dropped 20 yards from point of contact. I trembled in my stand, got teary-eyed about what I just did, and then called my father. “Well, all right,” he said. “That’s what you set out to do, right? Then good job.”
D&DH: WE SEE THAT YOU LIST “ANIMAL LOVER” ON YOUR WEBSITE. HOW DO YOU MIX THAT WITH YOUR HUNTING ACTIVITIES?
MCCLAIN: I’m a hunter by birth, but I still feel a moment of affliction right after I release my arrow—every single time. I don’t parade my accomplishments, I don’t shout from the bellows. I’m as confused as a cow on AstroTurf when I see other hunters act like this. I realize I’ve taken a life, a radiant creature that didn’t know he was in my sights. I look each animal in the eyes and send my gratitude to his spirit—and ask for forgiveness. My range limits are shorter than most hunters, not because I can’t shoot, but because I would rather walk out of the woods empty-handed than in mental agony that I inflicted injury on an animal. The average wounding rate for bow hunting is 50 percent. I can’t sleep at night knowing that deep in the woods a deer lays suffering because I’m a lazy or greedy shot. If I lack confidence in a shot, I don’t take it, end of story. I want my deer to drop within 30 yards and leave this earth quickly and as passively as possible. I’m the girl who will stop my truck on the side of the highway to put an injured deer out of it’s misery and feel anguish the entire time even though I know I’m doing well by nature. I wish more hunters were like this. More hunters, and people in general, could learn a thing or five from our Native American ancestors.
I have an arsenal of hunting gear and firearms to cherry-pick. I live for bow season. The crisp air, colors of fall, the first smell of a woodstove or fireplace, and the sun on rustling tree leaves makes me feel like a brand new person.
D&DH: YOU PRETTY MUCH SUBSCRIBE TO AN ALDO LEOPOLD VIEW OF HUNTING AND GAME MANAGEMENT?
MCCLAIN: Here’s my prophecy: Understand the sport. Respect the skill. I think this needs to ring true for both hunters and non-hunters alike. I’d like to believe most hunters — and nonhunters — understand this sport is not about killing animals or wasting meat by taking reckless shots. In like manner, hunters need to respect the skill of being a good shot (and practicing to be one) by shooting accurately and abiding by hunting rules and regulations. In turn, non-hunters need to understand we respect rules and regulations, commit to shooting accurately not expeditiously, and be resourceful when it comes to utilizing each and every deer we harvest.
Anything bother me about hunters? Yes. The ones who take the dog-of-a-deer in the woods because they didn’t think before they took the shot or are so hungry to say they shot something they would shoot a Pleated woodpecker if it came into range. What else? The word, “kill” when it refers to taking an animal. When I hear other hunters spitting phrases like, “I could’ve killed that thing,” or, “I should kill that one,” I feel like it’s disrespecting the sport and the animal. Call me a word-sensitive freak, and I’d tell you you’re not the first. It’s just something that gets under my skin a bit.
D&DH: DON’T YOU GET PUSH-BACK FROM ANTIS?
MCCLAIN: Hey all you anti-deer hunters out there: Enjoy your vehicles, homes, shopping centers, and gardens. Cultivation means deer have fewer place to live = accidents = death + road kill. Deer on the road have become a much greater concern as new roads are built through deer habitat, deer populations increase, and more deer move into suburban areas. Farmers have learned this, and suburbanites can too.
For the non-hunters, I share this with you: 60 percent of all deer hunters fail to kill a deer no matter what. And of those who are lucky enough to tag a deer, 73 percent kill just one deer, 19 percent kill two deer, 5 percent kill three deer, and 3 percent kill four or more. Deer reproduce quickly, not in a linear fashion, but exponentially. A doe matures at 2 or 3 years, and then typically gives birth to twins each year for 10 or more years. In the last few decades deer numbers have literally exploded, and now exceed 30 million nationwide. No one wants to kill Bambi, but Bambi starving to death is every bit as unpleasant an option. The key is about sharing the land, and as humans, we haven’t done a good job of doing that.
We are takers with bulldozers and scaffolding. My brain fires up like a pinball when people tell me I’m wrong for hunting but then build their 4,000 square foot house where a thousand-plus habitats once existed. Another kicker? The same person who says it’s cruel for me to hunt a selfless animal is often times the same person who buys slaughtered beef, won’t pay the extra money for range-free eggs and chickens, and eat veal. If you’re a true vegetarian, let’s have coffee and you can try to convince me otherwise.
Anything is possible I guess.
D&DH: YOU REFERENCE YOUR FAITH QUITE A BIT DURING YOUR EVERYDAY CONVERSATIONS.
MCCLAIN: That’s because without Him, nothing is possible.
In my late teens I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. The outcome wasn’t promising. I was angry and scared as Hell. God and I had a conversation about it — let me tell you, I’ve never had another conversation like that one again. It was raw, coupled with confusion, emotion and acute fear. But when it was over, God gave me a peace so pure that my transformation was visibly apparent to my family when I exited the sanctuary.
I want to experience that purity again, just not under those circumstances. As a fighter and now survivor, I decided I would do things differently — not really knowing at the time what that meant exactly. Now I share my story to help others struggling with cancer and faith, and work with foundations to raise money for cancer awareness. If I need to hunt with pink arrows and knives, wear a pink sportsbra, or bridge my networks to raise money, I’m zeroed-in on those projects like a sniper.
Maybe that’s why I’m still here — God has His plans.