Fact: Pro Angler/Hunter Larysa Switlyk was afraid of guns, and had never touched one, until she was an adult. So it’s relatively hard to believe that after just a few years, she would have her own hunting-focused television show. But, stranger things have happened, and Larysa’s story is not uncommon. Perhaps that is why she is so determined to share her story with others, especially other ladies and youth. She aspires to share her passion for the outdoors in the hopes that more women and kids will turn off their televisions and computers for a while and get outside. Meet Larysa Switlyk of “Larysa Unleashed.”
When were you first introduced to firearms, fishing, and hunting? How different is your life today from how you’d imagined it would be?
“My parents used to tell me “if you touch a gun, it will kill you”, so the first time I was around one, I freaked out and didn’t want to go near it. Once I watched my friends shoot, I got up the courage to try to shoot it myself. Learning about it, how it works properly, and the safety behind it, I realized that my parents were wrong. (Makes me wonder what else my parents told me that they are wrong about!) That experience happened in my last year of college, which was also around the same time I really got into fishing. I was dating someone who had a boat and he introduced me to fishing. I realized I loved to fish when we would compete in tournaments together. I’m not a morning person, but when it came to fishing I didn’t mind waking up early and I loved fishing all day.
I got into hunting after college while I was backpacking through Australia and New Zealand by myself. I booked a hunt and had never shot a rifle before. The guide set me up and discovered I had a natural talent for shooting. Killed my first big game animal and everything went into slow motion for me. Hunting and shooting is definitely born in me. Considering that I didn’t get into fishing or hunting until later in life, as a young girl I definitely didn’t imagine myself to be working in the outdoors. Growing up, I never thought it was possible to create a job out of what you love to do. However, I am happy to have my accounting and business background because a lot of people don’t realize the business side of what I do. For every hour I get to hunt, there is probably at least 10 hours of work behind it. However, it doesn’t always feel like work because I love what I do and that is the key to being happy with your job.”
Elaborate a little on your experience as a professional angler and hunter…How did those opportunities come about? Do you think, at this point, that you’ve reached the “pinnacle” of your career?
“I definitely haven’t reached the pinnacle of my career. This is only the beginning! A lot of people think I just got discovered and was offered a television show. That is not the case. Can it happen? Yes, but only to a very small population, and it definitely won’t happen if you don’t put yourself out there and work hard for it. I created my own opportunities and took as many opportunities that came my way. I learned the business, and would fly to trade shows by myself and network as much as possible. I don’t really consider myself a professional hunter or angler. I just always push myself to learn more and challenge myself in these fields.”
“Being the first female to win the Sportsman Channel’s Viewer’s Choice Award for “Best Shot of the Year”! It was a goal I’d set for myself when I first decided to get into this industryand television. My first year at SHOT show, I snuck into the Awards show for Outdoor Channel and saw people winning awards for Outdoor TV. I told myself, “I’m going to give myself 5 years and I want to be up on that stage winning an award for my own television show.” That is exactly what I did!”
“What drives me is my passion and love for the outdoors and being able to share that with others. All the positive messages I get in my inbox are a constant motivator. My mother is my biggest inspiration because I strive to be as hard a worker as she. In my eyes, she is superwoman, raising four kids, working nonstop, and always putting others before herself. I’m glad to have her as my best friend and my biggest fan! There are a lot of amazing females in the outdoor industry, but I strive to be different and pave my own path in this industry.”
What do you consider to be the best part of being a pro angler/huntress?
“Sparking the interest of others to follow their dreams or to get more involved in the outdoors. I volunteer my time to teach kids or other ladies who have been interested in fishing, shooting, and/or hunting and enjoy taking them out on their first trip. That is the most rewarding part of doing what I do.”
Have you received any negative backlash from anti-hunters/animal activists as a result of your career?
“Almost daily … It’s so easy now for haters to hide behindtheir computers and write horrible things to others. I ignore negative comments and don’t allow them to affect me. I do my best to try to educate them if they are out of line and I have been successful at changing some of their viewpoints on the topic.”
What gave you the idea to create a television show? Where was the idea of “Larysa Unleashed” born, and how did it come to fruition?
“I wanted a vehicle to share my passion and encourage more females and kids to get into the outdoors. I also wanted to educate the non-hunters on why we hunt and fish and teach them the conservation behind hunting. My family criticized me when I first started hunting and told me that what I was doing was wrong. I figured if I could change the viewpoint of my family on the topic, then I can change a lot more people’s feelings towards hunting by educating them, and that was how “Larysa Unleashed” was born. It definitely didn’t come without a lot of work and having to overcome many struggles, sleepless nights, stress, money, sweat, tears, blood, but that is what it takes to make a dream a reality. That moment I saw my television show “Larysa Unleashed” air, it made it worth all the hard work.
Which do you prefer: hunting or fishing? What has been your most memorable hunt, and why?
“I love both – when hunting season is over I can always go fishing. My first passion is traveling and I like to at least hunt or fish everywhere I go. Most memorable hunt was actually while I was taking a kid from Hunt of A Lifetime on a ram hunt in Florida. Being able to share my passion with a child who unfortunately has a life threatening illness means a lot more to me than me being in the hunting seat. His mother told me a story about how she was on a deer hunt with him in a box blind. His illness attacked his nervous system and he and couldn’t walk. A deer came out, and he stood up, shot the deer, sat down and was so excited because he’d just shot a great deer. His mother said she started crying because she was excited that he’d stood up on his own! He wanted to call his Dr. right then because he said he’d found the cure for his illness….. HUNTING! That is why I share my passion for the outdoors! That is what it is all about!”
Have you ever felt, as a woman in the industry, ostracized or that you were treated differently from the guys?
“I think it happens in every industry, but maybe more in this one because this is definitely a male-dominated industry. I feel as a woman we certainly get treated differently and become easier targets for haters. Lately I have seen a lot of photos of women with their kills go viral and be the subject of threats and criticism. Men do the exact same thing we do, yet we get more hate for it. I personally try to surround myself with positive, good people and tend to avoid the bad ones. If guys do treat me differently, I am not afraid to speak up, stand up for what I believe in and demand respect. The thing I get the most is that guys don’t expect I can keep up with them but I let my skills do the talking and I get respect pretty quickly when they see I can outshoot or outhunt them.”
Do you feel any need toovercompensate or overachieve in the hunting/shooting industry because you are a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field?
“I hunt to my ability and I respect the animals I hunt. I can’t help it if I outshoot or outhunt most of the males out there. 😉 I’m not out to prove anything to anyone but myself. Each hunt to me is an accomplishment and a learning experience. That is how it should be; it shouldn’t I have a few things in the works, and right now I’m just trying to take things to the next level. I am always setting new goals for myself. I hope to have more time to volunteer . I would maybe like to try competitive shooting. I like to challenge myself and learn as much as possible. I recently attended Bobby Hart’s Long Range Shooting School. Learning more about long range shooting, training myself to be more confident in taking shots and understanding how the weapon works can only help me on my future hunts. I recently booked a Moose Hunt in British Columbia later this year, so I am really looking forward to that hunt.”
What else would you like our readers to know about you?
“I’m a Certified Public Accountant; I have my Real Estate License, and my Captain’s license. I used to work in New York City. I’m a city girl turned country. I got myself into hunting. Despite criticism from my family, and being told “no” a lot, I didn’t allow that to stop me from following my passion and turning my dream into reality. No matter how hard it gets, I never allow myself to give up because failure is not an option in my book. So whatever is holding you back, or stopping you from achieving your dreams, don’t allow it. “Go Ahead, Unleash It!”
Season 4 of Larysa Unleashed is currently airing on: Destination America at 6 am on Saturdays and 12:30 pm on Tuesday on Pursuit Channel. Catch old episodes on The Hunt Channel, Tuff TV, Wild TV, Roku and Amazon Prime and Fishing Show on World Fishing Network.