Theresa Vail won the Miss Kansas pageant on June 8, 2013. In September, she competed in the Miss America 2014 Pageant with a platform of “Empowering Women: Overcoming Stereotypes and Breaking Barriers.” Theresa Vail has spent her whole life breaking barriers, first as a soldier, then as a beauty queen and now she is breaking barriers in the outdoor industry. On the eve of the Miss America Pageant Theresa tweeted “Win or not tonight, I have accomplished what I set out to do. I have empowered women. I have opened eyes.” She further commented that, “nobody expects a soldier to be a beauty queen … but I’m all about breaking stereotypes.” We had the chance to ask Theresa a ton of questions, here’s our interview!!
What’s the hardest lesson you have learned while hunting?
- Do you remember that saying, “Good things come to those who wait”? Well, coming from a naturally impatient person, the hardest lesson I’ve learned while hunting was how false that saying really is! I could go out on a week-long hunt, waiting patiently, and see nothing. But I’ve learned that’s part of hunting.
What is one hunting skill you most want to improve?
- I’d love to improve on my stalking skills. Growing up, I sat in stands or on a tree line and I never learned how, or even attempted to spot and stalk. That will be changing this season!
Who do you admire most in the hunting and conservation world and Why?
- Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops, is the man I admire most for his work in conservation. Though he is more widely known for being an angler, he and his store pour millions of dollars into hunting conservation groups, like Safari Club International and the National Wild Turkey Federation, to name a couple. Mr. Morris truly understands that without support and protection for our land and wildlife, the future of our sport could potentially be in jeopardy.
How were you introduced to hunting?
- I was 10 years old and living in Germany at the time. I was being severely bullied at school and with 8 other kids in the house; I didn’t enjoy going home either. My dad’s solution was taking me out hunting with him. It became our bonding time and something we still enjoy doing together.
What advice would you give someone just getting into hunting?
- My advice to someone just getting into hunting would be: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. What I’ve noticed is that adults have a harder time with this than kids. Take all the advice you can get, try it, and if it doesn’t work for you, then throw it out. Don’t let pride get in the way of accepting tips and advice.
What species would you most like to hunt?
- I would most like to hunt elk or dall sheep. Anyone who knows me will tell you I like a challenge. I like putting my body through seemingly impossible physical demands; and from what I’ve been told, elk and dall sheep hunts will do just that.
What gear do you carry that you could not live without?
- Hand and feet warmers (in the winter months only, of course)! There is nothing more excruciating than frost-bitten fingers and toes and knowing you have to sit 3 more hours. When your extremities start getting cold, it seems to be the only thing you can pay attention to. Keeping well insulated with warmers is the only thing that gets me through those below-freezing temperatures for hours at a time.
What is your perfect big game rifle and bullet set up?
- I have always been a fan of the Remington Model 700’s paired with their premier core-lokt ultra bonded bullets.
What is your favorite archery and arrow set up?
- I am in love with the Bear Venue. The draw is so smooth that I’m actually able to pull more weight than I could with my old bow. I’ve named him Achilles.
What three tried and true tips do you have to offer hunters for Deer Archery Season?
- Aim small, miss small! When you’re staring through the peep sight, focus on that small tuft of hair behind the shoulder blade and nothing else.
- Don’t rush the shot! You have more time than you think you do.
- After you set up, visualize all the possible paths the deer could come in through. I’m an analytical planner so this is the most important step for me. I like to imagine every path, angle and trail the deer could walk by, so that I’m always prepared to draw back at the most opportune time without being spotted (if I’m in close proximity).
How can our readers follow you on social media?
- Readers can follow me on Twitter as @misskansas2013.
Where and when can folks tune in to catch your show?
- “Limitless with Theresa Vail” will debut on Outdoor Channel in July of 2015.
What would you like other hunters and non-hunters to know about you as a hunter/huntress?
- As a hunter, I’d like you to know that I’m more than what I appear to be. I believe I shouldn’t have to sacrifice my femininity to be taken seriously in the outdoors. I enjoy dressing up just as much as I enjoy getting dirty in the field. The beauty of being a woman is being able to have the best of both worlds.
When youngsters and their parents come up to meet you for a quick photo or autograph, what message do you hope to convey?
- I like to engage with every person I meet, make them feel important and special. In those moments, I hope to convey how genuinely happy I am to make their acquaintance.
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?
- I have spent the last seven years having to overcompensate and overachieve as a woman in the military. If you want to be treated with respect, it’s just something you have to do. I can say that it has forced me to make more logic-based decisions rather than emotion-based, which I see as a good thing. The military is no different than the hunting/shooting industry in the sense that it is traditionally male-dominated. We still live in a world where gender bias and judgment exist.
When it comes to hunting gear, how do you feel about gear specifically designed for women (guns, clothing, packs, etc.)?
- I think gear designed specifically for women is essential. It is no secret that we are built differently and with typically smaller frames. When I was a teenager, before female-specific gear was popular, I was wearing kid’s gear because it was the only thing that fit! What I don’t agree with is the “shrink it and pink it” method, which is why I love the new SHE line. SHE uses a hunter orange logo for those of us that don’t like pink, and it is created by and for women!