Sunday Profile: ‘The eye of the hunter’
Local hunter and outdoors advocate Jackie Gross Guccini is competing for the crown of Ultimate Extreme Huntress
On a crisp sunshine-drenched day outside of Silt, Jackie Gross Guccini looks out her dining room window spotting a rafter of about 50 turkeys.
For Guccini, the hunt is not just about the kill — it’s preventing overpopulation and the spreading of disease, sustaining habitat, and providing for her family.
And sometimes, it’s about feeding a whole African village.
A native of Louisiana, born and raised in Youngsville, Guccini is a true ‘Cajun’ at heart who now calls western Colorado her home.
Guccini said growing up in Louisiana, the outdoors was her playground.
“We didn’t have fancy swings, trampolines or video games. We had our forts that were covered in old plywood that we would find in our Daddy’s shed plus any junk that wasn’t being used,” Guccini said. “We had our own little kingdoms in the woods that were filled with wildlife and if we were thirsty we drank out of the water hose.”
Guccini said she was raised on the water, and being a fishing woman was what she loved.
“Everything I grew up around involved cooking and providing,” Guccini said.
“I’m Cajun, we’d cook a goldfish if we knew it would taste good.”
Although she was living in one of the fishing capitals of the world, her passion for hunting began at an early age.
“When I was super teeny tiny my dad and brother would go duck hunting, and they took me in the duck blind. I picked up all their shotgun shells.” Guccini recalls.
“I was so excited because I got to go with the boys, and then from that point forward I was always in the duck blind with my dad or my brother.”
Hunting became the one thing she couldn’t go a day without. Guccini said once that happened she wanted to do more.
To this day as she continues to hunt, it provides a link to childhood memories that she was able to share with her dad.
“I knew where I came from in life, I grew up super-poor, we didn’t have a lot and I knew what it was like to struggle and not feel accepted because my dad worked in the oil fields. “I never felt like I was part of something, but being in the outdoors is where I truly found myself,” Guccini said.
Before school, Guccini and her brother would go duck hunting and have to hurry to get back so they wouldn’t be late for the bus.
“I just loved it, I always wanted to travel the world and go hunting, but it was so expensive,” Guccini said.
She dreamed of one day going to Australia and Alaska to hunt big game.
For her it is the feeling of adrenaline that flows through her body as she tracks an animal.
“It usually starts when I know that animals should be near, you get this unique power when at sometimes you’re almost trying to hold your breath so you can use your ears to the best of your ability, Guccini said. “Your heart starts pounding and the shaking of hands and teeth usually start. This is the time where you have to remind yourself to breathe because you have to breathe before taking the shot. The pumping of all emotions fade for a split second as you have to make a few decisions on taking an animal — Then if you have a successful shot the harvest of the meat starts and the deep breaths to know that you not only just had a true meaningful hunt but you’re providing for your family.
For Guccini being outside is one of the biggest rewards and pleasures of hunting or being on the water.
“The satisfying exhaustion after a long day in the woods to expect the unexpected. Keeping my passion and the love of all of my memories are heart full moments that can never be taken away,” Guccini said. “I can close my eyes and feel a sense of being where I am supposed to be. No distractions, just a place that makes you feel like you’re on top of the world in God’s Country.”
After attending college to play softball, Guccini followed in her father’s footsteps and began working in the oil fields.
The career move landed her in Colorado for the first time in the mid-2000s.
She continued to hunt and picked up a bow in 2007 and fell in love with being that close to nature.
Still dreaming of traveling the world, Guccini applied for a worldwide competition called Extreme Huntress back in 2010.
While trying to win a spot in the competition Guccini met her husband TJ, who was born and raised in Glenwood Springs.
“In 2012 I had the opportunity to compete for a worldwide competition, and had to submit an essay on my true passion about hunting and wildlife conservation and how I want to help women and children become more involved in the outdoors,” Jackie said.
Guccini said the competition was televised and called the “Eye of the Hunter,” she competed against 10 women and after a worldwide vote she was named the most extreme huntress.
“The whole state of Colorado got behind me and I was able to travel to Zimbabwe in 2012 and win the competition,” Jackie said.
“From that point forward it had made such an impact on my life, that I wanted to continue to help women and children become more involved in the outdoors.”
For the last seven years, she has traveled to Texas to help coordinate the Extreme Huntress show.
“I’m like their momma bear,” Jackie said.
PASSING DOWN TO THE NEXT GENERATION
After winning Extreme Huntress Jackie started Bowkrazy, a company focused on teaching youth the ins and outs of bow hunting for free.
“I enjoy it, I’m proud of her for doing it, I think it’s an awesome thing to get women involved,” TJ said.
For Jackie, it is all about sharing her knowledge and passing the passion for the outdoors on to other women and children.
In 2016 Jackie and her husband TJ welcomed a son, Chap. From the age of five months he has been right there with her hunting and learning outdoor conservation.
“With a 3-year-old it has been challenging, but we find time to go hunting when they can. I work for a living, I’m a mom, step-mom, and wife,” Jackie said.
“Any spare time we are doing something.”
Jackie admits she and TJ don’t get as much of a chance to hunt together these days, but they take turns. One will watch Chap while the other will go hunting with friends.
And every year Jackie goes out on a women’s only hunt.
“That’s my thing — some gals go shopping or go do something with their girlfriends. I wait, wait, wait, and then me and my girlfriends will go to Texas, Wyoming or somewhere and have four days and five nights of talking about our husbands and hunting,” Jackie said.
Jackie is currently working on her apprenticeship with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to instruct hunter education in Garfield County.
“It’s nice to have someone there to help the women and the kids feel a little more comfortable,” CPW District Wildlife Manager and mentor Brian Gray said.
“It’s helpful to have that kind of presence out there promoting that for younger people and women.”
BACK IN THE COMPETITION
This year marked the 10th anniversary of the competition with the Ultimate Extreme Huntress of the world, and Jackie was selected to compete once again.
The competition tested the four women’s physical fitness, shooting, tracking and hunting skills.
“They chose four of the previous 10 winners, and I was selected along with a gal from Sweden, another gal from Idaho, and another gal from Montana,” Jackie said. “It makes me real excited after all these years of work and dedication of trying to empower women, being a leader and role model, that I was accepted with the best of the best women.”
Guccini was invited to San Antonio where she competed in a precision shooting competition against the other three finalists.
“If a mother goes hunting so will her children, thus preserving our outdoor heritage for future generations,’ Executive Producer and Founder of Ultimate Extreme Huntress Tom Opre said.
Jackie returned to Zimbabwe in July to test her hunting skills as part of the competition.
She said the trip was to find out what happens after the shot.
“What happens to the meat, where does it go to in these areas,” Jackie said.
“It’s not just about hunting the animals, but what are you going to do with the meat afterwards. And how it provides the protein to all the different villages and kids that never have that especially in areas where they are not even allowed to hunt animals.”
The entire event was captured on camera and 13 episodes were produced.
“It’s not just about the hunt it is also about the importance of wildlife conservation and sustainable habitat,” Jackie said.
Guccini said episodes can be watched on extremehuntress.com, Facebook, and Amazon Video Direct. Voting has already started and lasts until Jan. 6.
Voting is 10% of a hunter’s final score, and Jackie said people can go to extremehuntress.com to vote, the winner is announced at Dallas Safari Club.
“For me it would be so rewarding just saying I successfully accomplished that one goal to be the best of the best,” Jackie said.
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