GG_webad090915-page-001A

Christine Cunningham: Finding Zen by Getting Lost in Nature



4-hugo-8-27-2016-439By: Sheila Rockwell

 

 

Christine Cunningham is an avid hunter, outdoorswoman, pro staffer for Syren and EvoOutdoors, writer, and yoga practitioner. The latter may seem to be a fairly odd way to describe someone, but for Christine, it is an integral part of who she is, and makes perfect sense when you read her blog or stories. Aptly named “Yoga For Duck Hunters”, Christine’s blog is not about yoga, per se. Instead, she chronicles her day to day life in captivating short stories. The writing is fresh and raw, drawing the reader in and leading them to the next entry fluidly. As you read, you can imagine yourself beside her in her native and beloved Alaska, on a hunt, or scouting a trail, or even exploring with wonder and awe the carcass of a whale. The language is beautiful, the energy expressed so easily that it is obvious that the author is in tune with herself and her environment. Isn’t that the goal of a yogi? To become one with the earth and it’s energy? Christine’s love for nature and respect for her environment is obvious. Her connection with her hunting dogs is a testament to the bond that humans share with their animals. Her kills on her hunts are respected and treated as revered harvests.

In 2014, Christ1-shotgun_1_ccine was the Prois Hunting and Field Apparel’s “Prois Award” winner. This honor is bestowed yearly upon an exceptional female hunter who “exemplifies the company’s principles including determination, a passion for the hunt, and involvement in conservation, management and community.”

The American Woman Shooter is truly honored to feature Christine in this issue, and grateful that she took the time to talk to us about her passion, goals, and everyday life.

5-4t3a1986

 

TAWS: “Christine, tell me about how you started hunting, and how your drive and

passion for it grew from that first experience. What was it about hunting that “hooked” you?”

 

 

 

CC: “About ten years ago, a friend invited me duck hunting. I had been a vegetarian, once. But, I’m a meat eater at heart. The thought that it might be intellectually dishonest of me to not want to kill an animal and yet eat them got me curious. The invite to go hunting was a chance to get a better look at reality and myself. After practice shooting a shotgun at the range for a few weekends, I went on my first duck hunt. It was raining, and I asked if we were still going. We crept and then crawled through marsh muck, and I kept thinking, “what the hell am I doing? Is somebody going to come out of the woods and let me know the joke is over?” When I got to the edge of a pond, two ducks looked right at me before lifting. I stood up and shot, once. It was a miss. My friend reached down and picked up the spent shell, and said, “This is what fall smells like to me.” I sort of fell in love. I wanted to go again and not miss.”
TAWS: “What is your favorite/choice animal to hunt, and why?”

CC: “Bird hunting is my favorite. I love bird country, bird dogs, and bird guns. There’s so much in the places upland birds inhabit and so much you can receive from being in those environments. It’s sort of a magical place that we get to by following a dog – it’s like they’re leading you to a Neverland of sorts. You feel blessed to get to see a world that is beneath and beyond most of our daily lives. And it’s special. Wingshooting is a more active shooting than hunting with a rifle, where you might only get one shot. It’s a lot of fun. You come back energized and grateful.”
TAWS: “How much of your hunt experience is dependent on your dogs, and how have you gone about in breeding selection, etc. Tell me about the bond that you have formed with the dogs and about their drive, too. How many do you have now? Do you train them yourself?”

6-shotgun_3_cc

CC: “For me, and I know it’s not this way for everyone, bird dogs are integral to bird hunting. I didn’t choose my life with a houseful of ten bird dogs. It just happened. I tried to be normal and have a normal number of dogs, but it didn’t work out. Some of the dogs were rescues. Some were picked from a specific kennel. Then my partner and I kept a litter of English setters. We named the five puppies after fine gun makers. They light up my life, connect me to what matters. I get to experience their highs in the field and get overjoyed with them. My abilities as a dog trainer are minimal. It’s more like they’re teaching me.”

 

TAWS: “You’ve written a book,(Women Hunting Alaska) have an active blog, (Yoga For Duck Hunters) and write multiple columns about hunting. For you, what is the most challenging part of transferring the hunting experience to paper, and what is the easiest?”

 

CC: “The challenge of writing is mostly getting to that space where you are listening instead of being full of your own mental chatter. The easiest and maybe best writing happens fast, when you are able to tap into that universal truth of an experience and just be the person who gets to get it down at that moment.”
TAWS: “Describe how the daily practice of yoga relates to your hunts and how you feel it can benefit others.”

 

CC: “Yoga is really about finding your edges and working with them. My daily practice maybe looks3-2016-opener-166 like a few stretches in the morning and some longer held poses in the evening, but I’m really practicing all the time. In a practical sense, the breathing, flexibility, strength, and balance exercises in yoga bring value to anything that includes physical, mental, and even spiritual risk, which includes hunting. But the greater value is probably in the way yoga brings you into the present moment. You get better at being embodied and tuning into what’s going on inside and that starts to extend to a greater awareness of what’s around you.”
TAWS: “Is there a “dream hunt” that you want to mark off of your bucket list?”

 

CC: “I’d like to take the five setter pups on a cross country bird hunting road trip.”
TAWS: “What do you feel is the toughest part about being a woman hunter?”

 

CC: “Probably that the fact that we are women is out in front as something novel or different to overcome before we’re all just hunters, living and experiencing the same thing for the same reasons.”

 

TAWS: “Tell me about any ways you “give back”….charities, philanthropic work, etc.”

 

CC: “I do the normal things hunters do – membership in conservation organizations, volunteer for projects and events that benefit game animals, the environment, or the hunting tradition. But, also the less obvious things matter – picking up litter in the field, writing about what we love, doing things the hard way and the right way so that future generations get a chance to live it ,too.”
TAWS: “How would you advise a lady that was (an absolute beginner) interested in going on a hunt to proceed?”

 

CC: “Having been there, I’d say it helps to go with someone who knows what they’re doing. Someone you admire and respect. If that’s not possible, there are great opportunities to learn with others through Becoming an Outdoors Woman, State Hunters Education programs, or local chapters of conservation organizations.”
TAWS: “Plans for future books? What is next for you?”

 

CC: “I’m working on a book about raising a litter of English setters. My goals now are to spend as much time with the dogs in the field as possible because they really are pure joy out there.”

 

“Lightning Round” Questions:

 

Favorite Gun? Syren Elos Venti in 20 gauge

Bow or Rifle? Rifle

Fishing or Hunting? Hunting

Dream Vacay Place? Maui

Favorite Food? Steak

Makeup or No Makeup? Depends on occasion

Stay Home or Go Out? Stay out

Favorite sport? Shooting

Favorite workout? Yoga

Beauty product that you can’t go without? Coconut oil

Mountains or Beach? Mountains

Tent or Hotel? Cabin

Coffee or Tea? Coffee

Finish this sentence: If I could pick one person (living or dead) to share a meal and conversation, it would be: Jack Kerouac, because that would be cool.