by Maggie Stivers, staff writer
Almost four years ago, Jenny Ann Watrud decided to make a change. She had purchased her first bow and planned to use it to hunt deer during the upcoming season.
Watrud has always been an avid deer hunter, using a rifle until 2012. As a young girl, Watrud went hunting for the first time with her dad, despite her mom’s wishes.
“My dad took me out for my first time and my mom said, ‘Don’t let her watch you gut the deer, and don’t let her watch you shoot the deer,’” she explained. “I spotted the deer and he shot.”
Nevertheless, an 8-year-old Watrud eagerly watched as her father prepared to clean the animal.
“I sat there and said, ‘I can try?,’ and he let me gut it,” she explained.
From that moment, she was hooked, continuing to hunt each year in northern Minnesota with her dad and uncle near the Waskish and Kelliher area, as her family had a cabin on Red Lake.
“My uncle passed away when I was 15, so it’s been pretty much me and my dad. But it’s that one bond that we have,” Watrud, now 23, said.
Although she grew up in Apple Valley, Watrud isn’t much of a city girl, and she took every chance she could to spend time up north.
“Every weekend I could I was up at the cabin with my dad, fishing or hunting or just hanging out at the cabin,” she said.
She decided to make a more permanent move to the north in college when she chose to study nursing at Northwest Technical College in Bemidji.
While living in Bemidji, Watrud made several new friends — including Skyler Smith, who is now her fiance.
“I said, ‘If you text me tomorrow, maybe we can hang out,’ and so he texted me the next day and we went driving around from sunset to sunrise,” she said. “He was showing me all the spots that he hunts and then all of a sudden I realized I never left, so we just kinda hit it off together.”
The couple share a lot of outdoor recreation hobbies, including spear fishing, hunting, race car driving, shed hunting and simply enjoying the outdoors.
“Me and Skyler are weird… we’ll just ask each other, ‘What are you doing tonight, do you want to go for a walk in the woods?’”
It was his influence that led Watrud to try bowhunting. Together they had selected her new bow but he had a bigger purchase in mind.
Not soon after, the couple decided to purchase all of the equipment and products that the company had so they could open their own bow shop.
They opened Bemidji Bow Shop in January 2013, in the same building as R&R Arms, Inc., a business that Skyler’s mom owned.
The bow shop currently is only open for appointments, as the couple both have full-time jobs outside the shop.
“I work at Havenwood (Care Center) and Skyler is a mechanic,” Watrud explained. “I think it’s more of a hobby than a career. I mean we have discussed expanding it and I think we both would love to do that, but right now, we still need our other jobs to make our lives happen.”
A different experience
Hunting with a bow is a different experience for Watrud, and something she has come to enjoy more, compared to using a rifle.
“My first year, I had a deer come out and it was literally three feet in front of me,” she said. “I just stood there and stared at it. I mean, what are you supposed to do in your ground blind? It was sniffing around, and I can’t pull back because it would see me, so I just had to sit still and hope it turned the right way, but I didn’t get a shot at that deer.”
While preparing for hunting season, the pair often work together to figure out where to hunt by scouting their patterns and watching their trails.
Watrud began bowhunting with a child’s size bow set at 30 pounds, but worked her way up to shoot a bow set at 50 pounds. The weight of the bow is set in relation to one’s height and weight, along with their strength and the animal they are hunting.
“I got a new bow last year and he (Skyler) didn’t tell me what it was set at and I just started shooting,” Watrud said. “And he was giggling and he said, ‘I ordered your new bow at 50 (pounds) and I just wanted to see if you could shoot it.’”
While hunting with a bow, Watrud’s shooting distance is limited.
“I would never take a shot over 40 yards,” she explained. “Deer hunting with a rifle, I’m comfortable up to 300 yards, so deer hunting with rifles has become a luxury.”
Shooting a deer with a rifle and shooting a deer with an arrow are definitely different experiences, she said.
“It’s a different noise, like I’ve never (heard),” she said. “When you shoot a rifle, you can actually hear the bullet hit the deer and it’s like a thud. Whereas when you pull back on your bow, it’s your strength pulling back your arrow and you’re shaking and you have to calm yourself.
“It’s like a crazy feeling when you hit your trigger to release your bow and all of a sudden you just hear the arrow go into the deer, it was like the craziest noise I’ve ever heard; it’s so rewarding to be able to hear that.”
Watrud hasn’t shot a buck yet, but she’s hoping this is the hunting season.
“My soon-to-be brother-in-law has a really nice 10-pointer that keeps coming into his yard and it’s every night consistently, so well see if that happens,” she said. “I don’t even care about the cost. Anything over an eight, is going on the wall.”
Jenny Ann Watrud was featured in the Fall 2015 issue of inMagazine.