Meet the Author, Christine Cunningham – Women Hunting Alaska
Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Christine Cunningham, author of Women Hunting Alaska. Along with some questions about her popular new book, I was able to talk to Christine about her evolving relationship with the sport of hunting. I really related to Christine as she began to share her story. I admired her courage to get down and dirty, try new things that may have been uncomfortable, and to just enjoy what unfolded as she got to know her unexpected passion. Our journeys are different, but the zeal appeared to the same. The quotes in this article are Christine’s from the interview I did with her.
Born in Sitka, Alaska, Christine did not grow up hunting or even shooting! It wasn’t until 2006, after college and being in a full time career that she was introduced to hunting by a friend. She explained that once she began hunting, she quickly realized that prior to going on her first hunt, that she was a “fair-weather outdoors person”. Mentally, her mindset was not ‘hunter’. Physically, she was fit, enjoying yoga, and actively experiencing Alaska by way of walking, hiking, kayaking etc. but, she liked it to be nice out! “It was almost as if I had a superficial appreciation for the outdoors”, she said. After deciding to trade her high heels and office attire for camouflage and a shotgun, she found herself in hand-me-down gear, on a tidal flat, hunting for Widgeon. Along with rain, Christine and her hunting partner were crawling through deep, smelly, muck complete with spider webs and the aroma of rotting salmon. That day, Christine missed her first shots at a bird, but what she didn’t miss was the experience, the excitement, and the challenge, which is what seems to be the real draw for most of us that have caught ‘the fever’. This, in turn, created a deeper appreciation of the outdoors for this Alaskan girl!
While sharing about her first outing, she explains, with a giggle, “I didn’t expect that I would have really enjoyed it or that it would lead to be where I am today. It was miserable!” There was no denying it, Christine was hooked. Routinely she found herself at the local gun club practicing her marksmanship skills. With her trusty CZ 20 Gauge shotgun at her side and some fresh clay pigeons, she was pushing herself to hone the necessary skills; shouldering, following through, shooting. Not only was she gaining confidence with her weapon, she was changing her mindset, training herself to operate differently, both mentally and physically. What started with the question “Can you hunt in the rain?” has since blossomed into 30-45 days in the field per season. With an affinity for water fowl, Christine has trained her two English Setter’s for upland bird hunting, as well as three Chocolate Labs that are her duck hunting partners.
With Christine’s relationship to hunting on the uphill climb, she became an avid reader of other’s hunting stories. Swapping hunting stories with more people and getting to know more women that shared in similar experiences, she quickly recognized the lack of materials representing the female hunter. With literature on hunting being primarily written by men, and about men, she felt that it was not the best representation of the fact that women are out there doing it too! She realized that there was not the quintessential ‘Hemingway’ for female hunters to identify with.
After talking to many other women about their stories, Christine felt like “the idea was hitting me over the head”. The next thing she knew, she found herself pitching the idea of a book to Tony Russ, of Northern Publishing. Mostly by word of mouth they gathered leads for different stories, and in short order they had enough response for the book Women Hunting Alaska! Christine went into this project with expectations aside, as she wanted accurately reflect whatever story was being told in a real untouched way. As Christine followed up with phone calls and coffee dates, listening to many first hand accounts of women hunters across the state of Alaska, the book began to take shape. The more women she spoke with, the louder the theme spoke to her. She was intrigued by the ‘get it done attitude’ of the ‘Alaskan huntress’. “It was inspiring!” These women are “sustaining their existence by their own efforts.” They knew there was a job to do, put food on the table, and there were no excuses! Christine expressed that the hardest part about writing Women Hunting Alaska was limiting the amount of biographies, rounding out the total to 17 in this publication. Surprised by how fun and particularly easy it was to write, the ladies whom she contacted were what made it so much fun! They were very responsive and it really amazed her how quickly it all came together. The spotlights in this book are from women located all over the state of Alaska with a dramatic variance in age. The youngest being 20 years old and the most experienced being 84. Although their journeys are very different, the underlying commonality set the tone; “Women hunters who have learned what it takes to enjoy hunting in the Great Land”, (back cover, Women Hunting Alaska 2012).
You can find more of Christine Cunningham in the The Redoubt Reporter. Christine contributes an outdoor column with a humorous twist. If she is not behind her keyboard, she can be found teaching hunter education classes, leading youth hunts, or volunteering for various outdoor conservation groups. If she is not there, I would bet you could find this Alaskan girl in the field with her favorite hunting accessory (hand warmers) hunting fowl, with her five furry companions. I would like to thank Christine for giving a voice to all women who have a passion for hunting! Support Christine and purchase your own copy of her book here!