Greg Ray, the national manager for NRA Recreational Programs and Ranges, told me recently that a young lady from South Carolina out-shot all the men at an NRA long-range rifle school.
He said Debbie Le Gette was some kind of hunter, too.
Statistics from the National Shooting Sports Foundation do indicate that “new target shooters—those who have taken up the activity in the last five years—are younger, female, and more urban dwelling when compared to established target shooters. But it’s one thing to know a trend and another to meet someone who’s been living that trend all her life, so I decided to ask Debbie Le Gette about her passions.
Range365: How did you get started hunting?
Le Gette: While most of my friends were bringing and/or talking about their newest Barbie Doll, Tonka Truck, or Football, I was talking about my latest BB gun, puppy, or knife. I had Barbie Dolls and Tonka Trucks, too, but my parents raised me to know where my food comes from and to respect wildlife for what God intended, man’s use. I grew up on a family farm in the low country of South Carolina, a part of the country where it was not considered popular for girls to hunt, much less enjoy it as much as I do.
After school, when I wasn’t studying, I was playing with my dogs, goats, or chickens on the farm, fishing with my parents on our family lake, or squirrel hunting with my Daddy. There was a period in there, due to school, when I didn’t have time to hunt as much as I liked. After graduation from Clemson University with a B.S. in animal and veterinary sciences, and after being hired by my current employer as a territory manager for North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, I’ve had the time and the means to pursue my passion once again.
Range365: What’s your favorite type of hunting?
Le Gette: I killed a 10-foot, 1-inch gator in Florida with my Mathews bow. I took my biggest buck to date with my Savage .300 WSM. I killed a 250-pound boar in Texas and now wear its tusks around my neck—they are inlayed in a beautiful custom necklace. I have also taken a gorgeous aoudad ram and a delicious axis buck in velvet. However, my biggest hunting accomplishment so far is when I killed my “Royal Slam” all in one year in 2013. I just love to turkey hunt!
Hearing the woods come alive with gobbles always brings a smile to my face, makes my heart race with excitement, and causes goose bumps to form on the back of my neck from the anticipation of seeing a big, old boss gobbler. I call turkeys using my natural voice because I can’t run a mouth call to call in a turkey–a rat terrier maybe, but nothing resembling a turkey. I’m on the Road Crew Team for Dead End Game Calls and have used their awesome friction calls along with my natural voice to bring in my Royal Slam in 2013.
Hazel Creek Taxidermy in Missouri mounted all five of my gobblers in full strut, except for my Goulds, which is in a flying position. All are mounted in my bedroom. Waking up to turkeys each morning above my bed brings to mind all of the wonderful, exciting memories from that season. Until I go elk hunting, which I’ve heard is turkey hunting on steroids, I continue to say that turkeys are the most rewarding, yet frustrating animals to hunt.
You can sound better than any hen in the woods, but let one of those hussy hens cut you off, and nine times out of 10 that gobbler is gone. It’s really hard to compete against the real thing. However, when the plan comes to fruition and you see the first glimpse of that gobbler’s bright red head popping up through the forest background, hear him spitting and drumming and gobbling, you know there’s no better place to be in the spring.
Range365: What’s your favorite place to hunt?
Le Gette: I’ve been blessed to hunt in a lot of different states over the years, but my favorite state to hunt continues to be Texas. The wide-open terrain, the variety of critters you have the opportunity of hunting and seeing in one sitting is like no other place I’ve been, and I look forward to hunting in Texas each year since I began five years ago.
Range365: Do your girlfriends hunt?
Le Gette: The majority of my girlfriends support and admire my passion, but have no desire to join me on my hunting activities…fishing, yes, but not hunting. They’re not opposed to it, and love to eat the meat, but they’re just not interested in the pursuit of wild game.
I was raised hunting and fishing, so I’m completely comfortable hunting and fishing by myself. In fact, I do the majority of my hunting all over the U.S. by myself. It’s my passion, and I love the freedom, solitude, peace, and reassurance of faith that I feel each time I’m hunting in the outdoors. However, I completely understand why other ladies might not be as comfortable pursuing outdoor activities by themselves as I am. That’s why I enjoy being the Women In the Outdoors Coordinator not only for the South Carolina National Wild Turkey Federation state board, but also for my local NWTF chapter in Anderson, South Carolina.
Range365: Do you enjoy introducing other women to hunting?
Le Gette: Each year, my NWTF chapter and I host two WITO events just for the ladies, where they can enjoy a dove hunt or learn how to shoot sporting clays in a comfortable, pressure-free environment. Ladies who’re interested in learning how to hunt, fish, or shoot, but don’t have that a role model in their lives to teach them how, may not have the same level of independence necessary to pick up and try things on their own. That’s the benefit of the NWTF’s WITO programs. They introduce ladies to the outdoors and provide them not only with the knowledge, but also with the confidence required to pursue any outdoor activity they endeavor to try in the future.
Each year, U.S. sportsmen and women contribute $2.9 billion to conservation. It’s important to educate others about the outdoors, and how hunters are conservationists. I’m proud to be a part of the hunting industry, to hopefully instill the same thrill that I have for hunting in other ladies through the NWTF’s WITO events. And I’m proud to be a hunter. Hunting is my hobby, my extra-curricular activity, my grocery store, and my passion.