Q&A: Melissa Klingerman Takes Aim
Not every 7-year-old girl tries to tan hides in her bedroom. Melissa Klingerman, who grew up in a family of hunters, did—until her mother discovered the rabbit skin under her bed. It was Melissa’s last attempt at tanning hides, but her love of hunting, fishing and foraging has endured. Now in her early 30s and living with her husband and 3-year-old daughter in Argos, Indiana, Melissa primarily hunts on her father’s property, a 36-acre stretch of land in Tippecanoe.
Q: How did you get started hunting?
A: My father’s family has hunted forever. He started hunting with his father. Before I was old enough to hunt, I would be there when he was processing deer. I went on my first deer hunt when I was 11, and I got a small buck. After that, typical teenager stuff got in the way and I didn’t hunt very much, but I returned to it in my 20s.
When I was little we would also go mushroom hunting for morels, which I loved. My sister and I would go foraging together—we’d collect wild garlic, wild strawberries and wild asparagus, which you really don’t find anymore.
Q: And now, is hunting still a family activity for you?
A: I’ll go hunting with my husband or my father. My daughter, Charlie—we’re going to try to get her to go mushroom hunting and fishing this year and see how she likes it. When I was little, Dad had me convinced that I had to be very quiet or else I’d chase the mushrooms away. Of course, I can completely understand that now with my own 3-year-old, but I was just sure I’d frighten them if I spoke above a whisper.
Q: Are there other ways you’re introducing your daughter to the idea of hunting and foraging?
A: I don’t think she’s really made the connection between the animals and the meat we eat. You know—she loves Bambi, and she knows what venison is, but she’s still connecting the dots. But she has grown up eating everything that we do. She’s had morels, and she loves venison heart—it’s like candy to her!
Q: Does your daughter show an interest in hunting?
A: Charlie has toy bows and toy guns, and she loves her toy bow—I think that’s how she’ll start. We’re already working with her on gun safety—that means never pointing guns at people. I’m not sure what we’ll do with squirt guns, because those you do want to point at people—we haven’t gotten to that yet.
Q: So the bow is Charlie’s favorite—what do you hunt with?
A: My husband does archery, and I have mainly been firearm, but I got a bow this year, and I’m looking forward to starting archery. My bow is pink and black—purple is my favorite color—but good luck finding a purple bow.
Q: You mentioned eating venison. Do you primarily hunt for food or sport?
A: We definitely shoot for the freezer first. I prefer to stay away from industrialized meat—my beef is grass-fed, and of course venison is grass-fed. But I have to admit if I see a beautiful buck and we’ve got room in our freezer, I’m going to take that shot.
Q: What’s your favorite part about hunting?
A: It’s not the hunt itself that’s my favorite. You get to watch the world wake up—you walk out into the woods and you sit down, get quiet, settle in. The squirrels come out, the raccoons go to sleep, then the birds wake up. That part of the experience is magical.
Q: Do you consider hunting an important skill?
A: I think people are often too far removed from where their food comes from, which isn’t bad in itself, but losing important skills due to convenience is a bad thing. I’ve never been into canning, but this year my aunt is teaching me how to can more from the garden. I think self-sustaining skills are something everyone should learn.
Q: What would be your advice to someone who’s interested in hunting but doesn’t know where to start?
A: Find an older person who has been doing it for a while. Old folks have so many anecdotes and so much wisdom that we don’t use. Right now, we can still find people who had no choice—hunting was an essential skill for them. You are going to get the best information from them. Also—appreciate what you take, and use it.