Nov. 18, 2011
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — When Liz Watkins first brought up her affliction for hunting, her teammates gave her a nodding smile. When those teammates visited her Taylor Ridge, Ill., home, it went to a new level.
The Watkins’s are a hunting family to the “nth degree”. The “dead animal” room in their basement features 14 deer mounts on the wall, a full mounted bear on its hind legs, a deer antler and a skull in the middle of it all.
All the furniture throughout the room is deer print or camouflage, and there is a bear-skinned rug.
“When I came here my freshman year, and I had to go home for deer season for the weekend, I think my teammates were in shock,” said Watkins, who is in her senior season with the University of Iowa softball program. “We have a lot of West Coast girls that aren’t used to the tom boy that goes and sits in the woods to shoot a deer.”
Kayla Massey, a sophomore from Foothill Ranch, Calif., first heard about Watkins’ hunting tales in passing during preseason bullpen sessions. When she made her first visit to the Quad Cities, it was an eye-opener.
“There were deer heads everywhere,” said Massey. “It was a lot different than I was used to. It was a culture shock… I don’t know if I had ever even seen a deer.”
Watkins began hunting when she was 10 years old and has done it every fall since, averaging two deer each year.
“When I came here my freshman year, and I had to go home for deer season for the weekend, I think my teammates were in shock. We have a lot of West Coast girls that aren’t used to the tom boy that goes and sits in the woods to shoot a deer.”
Senior Liz Watkins
“My dad said if he had a boy or a girl, he’d raise us the same way,” said Watkins. “We (she and her sister) all know how to hit a nail, use a saw, ride four-wheelers and hunt.”
Every fall, Watkins’s extended family gear up for the hunting season and goes out on the first day allowed — it is tradition.
“There’s a little tin shed in the middle of our property, so we all congregate there in the morning before we walk into the woods,” said Watkins. “We’ll all go into the woods, go our separate ways, pick a specific time and then meet down at Grandma’s.
“She’ll make us a big lunch, then we’ll take a nap and all go back out. It’s a big family thing… that’s what’s exciting.”
Watkins likes the rush associated with turkey hunting, and the pride associated with shooting deer.
“There is an adrenaline going through your body when you’re hunting turkey,” said Watkins. “You’re sitting there, shaking, and trying not to move because they see so well,” said Watkins. “The turkeys are coming in and you don’t know if you’ll get a shot off or not because they could freeze up. It’s excitement.
“Deer hunting is exciting too, but we always see a lot of them. It’s just waiting for the right one. You get the most pride if you shoot a big one.”
You also can get recognition — like Watkins — for getting a big buck. The first deer she shot was a 14-pointer, which earned her recognition in Deer & Deer Hunting, an outdoor sportsman magazine. She has also been written about in Turkey Call.
After learning and hearing more about hunting, Watkins thinks her teammates’ perceptions have started to change.
“I think they’ve come to respect it a little bit,” said Watkins. “Some of them are intrigued with shooting and hunting now… but they won’t admit it.”