Heritage Game Mounts Rita R. Schimpff Interview
Rita Schimpff grew up hunting, fishing and enjoying outdoor life in Oklahoma and Texas, thus developing an early love and respect for wildlife and their habitat. She has carried this love to her art and her involvement with many local and national conservation associations. Rita was a member of the first Junior League San Antonio Mitchell Lake Wetlands Project, created the MLWS logo and illustrated Mitchell Lake Wildlife refuge: an Illustrated History.
She is a proud 14th generation American.
Rita studied art privately since she was ten, under such noted artists as Carl Rice Embry, Reginald Rowe and Warren Hunter. She graduated from Texas Christian University with a BFA in Commercial Art and Textile Design. Rita has also enjoyed a 30+ year career in the interior design field.
After meeting future husband, Skip Schimpff she rekindled her love of the outdoor life under his patience and guidance.
Rita and Skip Schimpff are the owners of Heritage Game Mounts and they live for the sporting life!!
What’s one rookie mistake you’ve made hunting?
There have been many and so long ago….well, I still make mistakes and learn from them! I guess don’t ever think you are so good or have learned all there is! Thinking I am Annie Oakley or Plinky Toepperwine!
What’s the hardest lesson you have learned while hunting?
One of the hardest lessons for me to learn was to prepare early, and be organized. I am very impulsive and like to get right to the fun stuff. Haste makes waste. I learned the 7 P’s from a good friend–Proper Prior Planning Prevents P__s Poor Performance!
What one hunting skill that you most want to improve? Patience.
Who do you admire most in the hunting and conservation world and Why?
Anyone who can show respect for wildlife, takes and give back, allow for dignity in death and be a good example to youth.
How were you introduced to hunting?
Both sets of grandparents had country places where I spent many wonderful years enjoying the outdoors. My grandfather Sommers was a gentleman hunter and supplied delicious venison and turkey for our country meals cooked on an old army wood cook stove. I shot my first deer with him.
Who were the influencers in your life that helped you get into hunting?
The biggest influence was and still is my husband. He and his buds never said I could not go along with them- gave me wonderful advice & opportunities to hunt some fabulous game and places – and poked fun at me just as much as themselves! After 35+ years of hunting together – they are still my best friends and good role models.
Tell us about your first hunt?
My first trophy is not so much a glamorous story, but probably one that every hunter can identify with in some way.
I mentioned that I admired my grandfather Sommers for putting unforgettable venison sausage on the breakfast table. I loved the riding/shooting females in the old west: Belle Starr, Annie Oakley – so one day I decided I wanted to supply some venison like my grandfather (remember rookie mistake #1- thinking I am Annie Oakley?)
No one wanted to be left behind so we loaded up the dog, the gun, granny, my mother and brother in the back of the ’47 Ford pickup – gramps drove and we did not have to go far. There staring at us was a doe, probably as she had many times before since the truck was a common sight on the farm. As I recall she was not terribly far away, and somehow I hit where my grandfather said I should. I was not prepared for that first shot and immediately welled up with tears. My contribution to breakfast made it all worthwhile and I beamed with pride. That first hunt still stands out to me, and as it turns out my husband shot his first deer at age 10, so it then became a family tradition of sorts and both our son and daughter took their first deer at age 10.
What advice would you give someone just getting into hunting?
Enjoy your surroundings – the hunt is the fun, long, beautiful and exciting part, the kill is quick and secondary. If you are quiet, patient and observant – nature will reveal and teach you so very much and restore your peace of mind. Seriously! Also, don’t think you have to buy ALL your gear up front. Hunting gear is personal and there is a lot out there take your time and purchase what you will really enjoy and use.
What species do you most like to hunt?
Game birds and fish. I love hunting with dogs and I love to fly-fish. Any fish and all birds!
What gear do you carry that you could not live without?
Binoculars – I have some small Zeiss 10X that will fit in my shirt pocket.
What is your perfect big game rifle and bullet set up?
Actually, my favorite gun is an old Browning superposed shotgun and my favorite shell is a 28 ga Winchester AA.
What is your most memorable hunt?
A recent memorable bird hunt with my husband and daughter who had just finished college and was living with us for a short time while she was looking for a job. We took off to North Central Texas and it turned out to be unusually bitter cold (for us) remember I said enjoy your surroundings? Snow, ice. Beautiful. Turned out to be a great adventure all around!
What five pieces of gear do you carry with you on every hunt that you could not live without?
In addition to the ammo and gun du jour, it would be a Bandana, binoculars, water, flashlight and iPad! I hate being connected to the outside world when I am in the outdoors – but it could come in handy for an emergency and I love the photographs I take with it.
What conservation organizations do you support with your time and money?
Safari Club International, Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, Houston Safari Club, San Antonio Zoological Society,
What three tried and true tips do you have to offer hunters for small game?
Take good care of your game in the field: clean, cold and not sitting in liquids.
What three tried and true tips do you have to offer hunters for Spring Gobbler Season?
Don’t get excited, but don’t delay. Shoot when you get the chance – they don’t hang around long. And save the feathers! Great décor items.
What three tried and true tips do you have to offer deer hunters?
Make sure you really like what you are about to shoot. Will you eat it or mount it? Don’t waste an animal. If you are going for a trophy, study the animal well – often times the rack in the binoculars shrinks when you see it on the ground.
In all of the years of hunting what is the most important lesson you have learned from the outdoors?
Slow down & Safety. There is always time to be safe and careful.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I am on Pinterest, Instagram as huntinginstyle 2 twitter: @HGMgame @huntingstyle and on FB as Heritage Game Mounts and my personal page.
Where and when can folks tune in to catch your show?
I do a monthly blog for the Women’s Outdoor News: Bringing the Wild Inside—a sporting lifestyle blog full of décor tips for living beautifully with taxidermy and found objects in nature.
What would you like other hunters and non-hunters to know about you as a hunter/huntress?
I love animals and nature. I volunteer with rescue groups and a nature center that includes a historical home and farm that promotes sustainable living. I raised sheep as a youngster, was a Webelo leader and guided my son to Eagle Scout and my daughter through 11 years of Quarter Horse shows. I have 7 box turtles, 2 dogs, 1 tortoise, a cat, a parrot and – no partridge in a pear tree! Through my business, Heritage Game Mounts I work to bring elegant antler display into our homes and balance to the shared hunter/non-hunter home. I offer sporting art & accessories hand crafted in the USA.
When youngsters and their parents come up to meet you for a quick photo or autograph, what message do you hope to convey?
That girls can hunt and fish and still be a lady—-at any age!
Do you feel any need to overcompensate or overachieve in the hunting/shooting industry because you are a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field?
No. I don’t have to please anyone but myself – but I don’t want anyone to hold me back either! For over 35 years I have been hunting and fishing with men – gentlemen that did nothing but encourage me. I have been fortunate and probably did not know how fortunate.
Have you ever experienced any discrimination (or on the flip side, any benefit) because you are a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field?
Maybe a benefit. Remember I hunt with gentlemen, and we all pull our own weight, but sometimes I get light duty.
How do you feel media portrays women in the hunting/shooting industry? Do you feel there is a double standard?
Oh sometimes it seems there is a double standard in our own industry. I am not fond of the bikini clad clevaged gals that look like the fish or deer was just handed to them for the photo op. But there are some very beautiful ladies out there that are quite capable of the shot and the pose! In the main stream media I think they search out women hunters to pick on more than not, but recently I have seen two good articles on lady shotgunners one in print and one on the air – I tend to look at and support the positive and ignore the negative. But thank goodness we have those in our industry who challenge those Debbie Downers.
When it comes to hunting gear, how do you feel about gear specifically designed for women (guns, clothing, packs, etc.)?
Love it!! ‘Bout time! Stand up and cheer! Like I said I have been hunting for over 35 years and making men’s clothes do at times. Just last year I was so excited to finally find a women’s shooting sweater – no more boxy fit and armholes down to my waist!!! The British have always had some fine ladies shooting kits, but a lot of it was not geared for South Texas!
What do you feel is the most appropriate response to such personal attacks?
I have not experienced attacks, more like challenges. Some folks that just don’t want to listen to my side after they have polished off a chicken sandwich. Most hate comes from ignorance. Time Magazine had a great article earlier this year on the consequences of anti-hunting and overabundance of animals. And this summer the Houston Safari Club Bush Telegraph had an article by an animal rights activist that actually took the time to educate herself and changed her views by looking at the big picture.
I have seen other women attacked in the media. My response to questions from anti-hunters is usually to respect their wishes to be a non-hunter and vegetarian and for them to respect my wishes and rights. Then if they say they are not a vegetarian, I tell them how similar we are = only they hunt the aisles of a super market and let someone else do their killing for them! The animals I hunt only have one bad day.
What would you like other hunters and non-hunters to know about you as a hunter/huntress?
It is possible to be a huntress, a conservationist and also care about species welfare.