Ashley Hartley, Florida
Hometown: Jacksonville, Fla.
Hometown Chapter: Jacksonville Chapter in Jacksonville, Fla.
NWTF member since: 1994
Ashley Hartley was all smiles after she harvested this fine New York buck with her bow on Oct. 16, 2010.
NWTF: Ashley, it must have been an honor to be a member of the USA Shooting Team. How did you get so good at shooting?
Ashley Hartley: Lots of practice. I've heard people say that shooting well takes a lot of natural talent - and I had some talent - but I worked a ton at it. Reaching the level I did took a lot of practice, a lot of dedication and a huge amount of emotional and financial support from my family.
I was always a competitive person, always involved in competitive sports, so it was just natural for me to want to be as good at shooting as possible. On average, when I was shooting competitively from around my sophomore year in high school until my sophomore or junior year in college, I was shooting about five to six days a week. I was at the gun club anywhere from two to four hours every day. An average practice day for me would consist of shooting 10 boxes of shells. I'd shoot four boxes, take a break, shoot four more boxes, take a break, shoot another box... that sort of thing.
NWTF: What is the most important thing a person should do if they want to get better at shooting?
AH: If you want to be a competitive shooter, first, find a good coach. And really, from there it just takes a lot of work. Some of the best shooters in the world who I have known got where they are from just working really hard. There will be highs and lows - you just have to stick with it, keep your head up and practice. Practice. Practice. Practice.
NWTF: Were your friends also hunters or shooters?
AH: For the most part, no. Half of my friends had never held a gun before, much less shot one. A couple of weekends a year, I would load up my mom's vehicle with friends and we'd go to the gun club. For me, it was like an everyday thing, but for them, it was like, "Holy cow, this is pretty neat!"
NWTF: Who do you credit with giving you your love for shooting, hunting and the outdoors?
AH: My father. He introduced me to shooting because he thought it was good to know, from a safety point of view. I started hunting when I was nine. I was 11 when I killed my first bird, and I turkey hunt now more than ever.
NWTF: What was it like having a parent who introduced you to hunting and the outdoors?
AH: It's hard for me to imagine not having a parent like mine, because the outdoors was such an integral part of my life. After I got involved with and showed a real passion for hunting and shooting, even my mom got involved in turkey hunting. We planned vacations around hunting. We went turkey hunting in Texas; we went to Georgia. We traveled everywhere and spent so much time in the outdoors. I've hunted in South Dakota, New York, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas and Tennessee.
NWTF: What do you love about turkey hunting?
AH: Everything. I love everything about the woods in the morning. Each turkey hunting experience is a unique experience. The hunt is never the same, that's for sure.
NWTF: What is it about turkey hunting that got you hooked on the sport?
AH: I think it was interacting with the turkey. I always had to be one step ahead of the bird. There are so many things you have to do to have a successful hunt. You have to have a realistic set up and consider whether a bird would really come to that set up. It's just that constant interaction and the problem solving involved with turkey hunting that got me hooked.
NWTF: Do you have any tips to give first time women hunters?
AH: Don't be intimidated by the sport because you're a woman. The great thing about hunting is you can be just as successful at it as men are.
NWTF: Do you participate in the Women in the Outdoors program?
AH: Yes, I volunteered for the program often when I was living back home in Florida. I think the program is fabulous. I love it, and if I could give more time to it and the JAKES program, I would. The NWTF's outreach programs are great.
NWTF: Why do you feel the Women in the Outdoors program is important?
AH: Because it is a stimulus to get women in the outdoors, and it gives women an outlet to try new things. And that first instruction is so vital. Women in the Outdoors is a great program that really encourages women to learn, and the events are always held in a welcoming environment.
NWTF: So Ashley, are you still in pharmacy school?
AH: Yes, but I graduate in May and I am so ready to get out of school.
NWTF: What are your plans after you graduate?
AH: I'm recently engaged, so when I graduate I will move to the western New York area and hopefully will have a job up there pretty soon.
NWTF: Congratulations on your engagement! Have you two set a date yet?
AH: Yes, we're getting married next year.
NWTF: What's it like to share a common interest like hunting with your fiancé David?
AH: It's amazing to share this interest with my fiancé, because we understand each other's passion. Every spring we're in the woods together; we're in the woods together every day in May. I finished my grand slam this spring in South Dakota after many years of trying to book a trip out there. It's just a great experience. I recently shot my first buck with a bow and I was so excited! David was the first person I called.
Getting outdoors is such a great way - one of the best ways - for families to spend time together. There are no distractions, no televisions, no radios and no computers. You get to experience some amazing things together. There are things that happen in the woods that you won't experience anywhere else.
Hunters are just a great community of people and to be able to share my hunting passion with the one I love just makes it that much better.