Meet the Author, Christine Cunningham[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ecently, 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 Irish 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 if 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! 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!
I love Alaska! I have lived in darn near every state west of Indiana over the decades. And they may have their good points but pale compared to Alaska. It truly is the last frontier.
I love being outdoors, especially near the ocean, which doesn’t make any sense since I get motion sickness dipnetting on the Kenai! And now I can wait for summer to get here! :)
I have lived in Alaska almost all of my life. My 41st birthday is tomorrow, and I LOVE THE OUTDOORS here in Alaska. I especially love ‘getting away from it all’ and going camping. Ditching that phone, and just being with my husband and 6 year old son, Hunter. When my son was 3, we took him trout fishing, and he caught his limit of 5 trout. I got skunked!!! My son fed us dinner that night!!
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Cristy, I believe you won the book, but you’ll need to contact The Alaska Life on fb within 24 hours of the announcement!
I love Alaska my aunt and uncle lived up there and the snow and snomobiling! I love to get up there and do some fishing for those big kings and halibut. I love fishing, hunting and the outdoors! And the air there is soo crisp. It was cool seeing the moose in the backyard too! :).
I love Alaska. My sister lives outside Anchorage and my nephew attends UA Anchorage and another nephew in Wasilla. We visit every summer. It is my goal to get my bird dogs up there for a vacation with us. I dream of this life. #godsmostperfectplace
The smell of the Alaska air while fishing in Sitka. I wanna win this book!!! I also shared on my page!! LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!!!
Though I only lived in Juneau for about a year, it was a year that my Weimaraner and I will never forget the feeling of. We have since moved away and to Indiana. I have random and strong occurrences every so often that set me into that daydream mode of Alaska… We were driving early the other morning to go out to hunt birds and the midwest cloud formations that I was driving into were set exactly like a mountain towering in front of me. When we kayak, we don’t have the swift waters or the salty air to breath in, but every once in a while, there are hints of excitement or little “waves” that propel us forward. I have to say, too, that the bird finds, while heartpounding, don’t stand muster to the birds of Alaska…
I going to have to get these books. My first experience involved just me and my fiancé (now husband) a moose going down in a swamp, it getting earlier than expected and taking the LONG route to the side by side. Yet somehow I got hooked.
I shared your photo on my page. I win!! ;)
This is my second year of living in Alaska. I have two daughters and we explore as much as we can when we can. During this past summer we just got in the car and took off. It was the best summer ever. And yes we picked moving to Alaska on purpose….came from CA and never expect to leave.
Love the story and the photos. Thank you for sharing.
My time in the woods calms me and gives me peace. Anyone that knows me or reads my posts knows that hunting is my passion. I journal every hunt and then when I get home I write the story. I love sharing my stories and have been blessed enough to have several published.
One day I will travel to Alaska as I just HAVE to see the bears catching the salmon in the rivers.
Whether I will your book or buy one, I will own it. It looks like an amazing read.
Love the outdoors by hiking, water sports, hunting, mountain biking, and cross country skiing…all with my avid outdoorsman husband and two little outdoor enthusiast sons. I have also had a “superficial appreciation of the outdoors,” butbthat has changed since moving here from Colorado. :)
Shared pic on FB.
I enjoy reading your blogs. You encourage me to keep hunting and try new game. I just started hunting this year. Being outdoors gives my family more memorable moments in the field and water.
I shared your photo on my facebook page. So pick me pick me.
SUCH A GREAT ARTICLE & STORY!!! Loved it!Alaska Life asked: “how you, as a woman, love the outdoors?”. This is my answer:The outdoors is where I go to reclaim myself, my sanity, my energy & strength. Alaska is where my life began & where I returned to live & learn about myself… when hiking, fishing, dipnetting, snowmachining, canoeing & even just exploring, I was learning…
Yes, in Alaska, the fishing filled our freezer & fed my children & the wood chopping kept the home warm & the moose & caribou & salmon that graced our table were essential to our survival some years, but the nearness of nature, the honesty of the wilderness & the kindness of our friends & neighbors in Alaska were what brought the most joy. Alaska & the outdoors, wildlife, wildflowers, mountains, lakes & rivers are where I taught my children what I believed was important in life… & where I learned to be “calm”… I miss my Alaska home, but I have rekindled my curiosity for the rivers, woods & rolling hills of the midwest & one day I will get to come back.Michele
Shared the photo. :)
Living in Alaska, I love being outdoors, especially near the ocean, which doesn’t make any sense since I get motion sickness dipnetting on the Kenai! Man, now I can wait for summer to get here!
Growing up in Alaska, it is beautiful As a woman I have enjoyed hiking to remote areas and taking great pictures of the majesty. I also love going fishing every chance I get and occasionally hunting. And my daughter started hiking with me when she was 1 1/2 years old, she hikes it right next to me, such a tough Alaskan girl already!
Thank you Nicole for a great interview! Enjoying all of the posts about women hunters in Alaska!
You are correct, they are English Setters! (Parker & Winchester). But, an Irish Setter is also part of the hunting family (Red), for a total of six!