Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The First Lady of Waterfowling

Note to self: Next time I even think about feeling sorry for myself as a female hunter who's been disrespected - whether by male hunters or hunting gear manufacturers - I need to stop and think about Ellie Sharp.

I met this amazing woman Monday at a California Waterfowl Association event, where she was honored with the organization's first ever Artemis Award. The event also marked the kickoff of CWAs' Women's Outdoor Connections Initiative.

Mrs. Sharp, who hunted until the age of 98 (she's 101 now), was the first woman ever admitted to a duck hunting club in California. She took up hunting after she married husband Jim Sharp in 1932 and insisted on going along with him. He was cool with it, but the other hunters? Not so much. The first club they frequented made her sleep on the porch! After a year of her persistence, they finally invited her to become a member and she said thanks, but no thanks. She, her husband and her father then started their own club - the Flamingo Duck Club in District 10 near Marysville.

Sharp became the wellspring of a huntress dynasty. When she met her daughter's suitor, Charles Reese, in 1964, she had few questions for him:

"So, you're interested in my daughter," she began. "Do you fish?"

"Yes," he said.

"Do you ski?"

"A little," he said.

"Will you learn?"

"Yes," he said.

"Do you hunt?"

"Yes," he said.

"You're fine," Sharp declared.

Together they went out hunting with Sharp's granddaughter Clarissa, when she was just a baby, and she took to it immediately, squealing with delight when her dad fired his gun. She later took up hunting herself, becoming an excellent shot and a fantastic caller. Great-granddaughter Olivia is a mere toddler now, but the family reports she's taking a liking to hunting as well.

The nexus between Sharp's amazing story and what CWA is doing with it's women's initiative is clear: California has a fantastic history of women's involvement in hunting, and it's worth building on.

So, how did I find out about this? Well, that huntress I went out with two weekends ago, Tracey, is Tracey Fremd, an associate board member of CWA and co-chair of the Women's Outdoor Connections Initiative. She invited me to Monday's event.

To learn more about Sharp and the women's initiative, check out this article in today's Contra Costa Times.

And given that I totally support what the CWA's doing with this project, I'm guessing you'll be reading more about it in this blog.

© Holly A. Heyser 2008


Blessed said...

This is awesome!

Anonymous said...

That is so cool! You have got to do an interview with this woman. Between your writing skills and the stories she has to tell, it would be an amazing read.

HELLEK said...

I'm looking forward to being an actual hunter, rather than a bird-watcher, and join the club!

Holly Heyser said...

Thanks, ladies! It was a very humbling event, in many ways.

And Hellen, I too can't wait for the day we take you out there with a gun of your own. So much to learn, but every minute of it is amazing.

Othmar Vohringer said...

I am with Kristine and too would love to read and interview of this exceptional woman. This reminds me of my dear mother, she was a waterfowl hunter in a time when hunting was strictly a male affair.


deerslayer said...

Cazadora: I can only remember hunting with a woman once in my lifetime and it was for whitetails of which I witnessed her shot a fine 7 point buck at 225 yards off-handed running,so I encourage any woman who wants to hunt to go by all means and is welcome to hunt with me anyday. Real great article.

Holly Heyser said...

Thanks gentlemen! Someone at the event talked to me about doing an article on Mrs. Sharp for a California magazine - if that comes to fruition, I'll be sure to either include a link here on the blog, or if it doesn't go online, make a copy available here.