‘You don’t need a man to hold your hand:’ Garfield County sportswoman works to help boost confidence for women in hunting | PostIndependent.com

‘You don’t need a man to hold your hand:’ Garfield County sportswoman works to help boost confidence for women in hunting

Local hunter and former guide Andraya Grangroth does a little target practice after an early morning turkey hunt south of New Castle.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

With her bow resting evenly across her shoulders, Andraya Grangroth swiftly paced up a steep, sandy incline toward the top of a hill outside of New Castle.

“Don’t tell anyone about this spot,” Grangroth said, seemingly unaffected by strenuous cardio demanded by the hike. “I like to challenge myself physically during a hunt. It’s one of my favorite parts.”

Grangroth’s destination is her spot to hunt turkeys, about a mile away off the road where she parked her Toyota Tacoma.

Outfitted in hunting apparel she designed herself, the 30-year-old Washington State native is making a name for herself in the outdoors industry within northwestern Colorado as a hunting guide and entrepreneur.

But getting into an industry mostly dominated by men wasn’t easy. Luckily, Grangroth’s upbringing played a role in landing her first hunting guide job.

Growing up on a 10-acre property, hunting and fishing was a lifestyle more than a hobby for Grangroth’s family.

“We grew every fruit and vegetable possible in the state of Washington. Our garden was essentially the size of a football field. Then we would fish in the summer for salmon and steelhead,” Grangroth fondly recalled.

As soon as Grangroth turned 12, she took a hunter’s safety course.

“I don’t think I shot my first deer until I was about 14,” Grangroth said.

Local hunter and former guide Andraya Grangroth uses a call mimicking the sound of a hen while turkey hunting south of New Castle.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

About a decade later in November of 2016, Grangroth’s first hunt was to fill a mule deer tag.

“I remember standing over it and being like ‘oh, dad’s not here to help me I’ve got to do this.’ And it was a huge awakening for me as I was packing out that buck,” Grangroth said, adding that she carried 120 pounds of deboned meat back to her vehicle in one trip.

“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I had a lot of conversations in my mind.”

One of those conversations was about how she could make a living from hunting.

Andraya Grangroth talks about a tattoo she has on her arm symbolizing her first solo buck kill.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Shortly after that hunt, Grangroth and a friend were having drinks downtown when a pair of men approached them to ask if they’d be interested in playing a round of pool.

During their conversations with the men, Grangroth said she mentioned her recent mule deer hunt to the two men, who both worked as guides for Bear Creek Outfitters near Somerset.

“I told them the story, and they said you should come work for us,: Grangroth said, who jumped at the opportunity and began guiding for the outfitter the following season. “I had kind of already been thinking about becoming a guide in the back of my mind but as a woman it can be intimidating about where to start in a very male-dominated industry.”

Grangroth was the only female guide on staff at the time, and worked hard to break through stereotypes of women in the guide role.

Some of her male clients weren’t as sure of Grangroth’s hunting skills as she was, but she relied on her experience to prove them wrong — and help them have a successful hunt.

“For me growing up it was just all I knew. It’s not that way with everyone. A lot of women don’t have the background that I have,” Grangroth said.

”I think that confidence just carried over. There were times when I had to give myself space and leave the ranch, leave that energy of male dominance and get my head space. There were definitely times where I felt like they were almost trying to tell me how to do my job.”

Andraya Grangroth's hunting weapon of choice is the bow and arrow because it is more challenging and therefore more rewarding.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

During her first hunt as a guide, Grangroth was assigned to help a client fill a mule deer tag.

“It was my very first day and my boss was like, ‘you’re going to take him out and get him a monster mule,’” Grangroth said.

Before she took the client out, Grangroth said her male peers offered lots of unsolicited advice on where to go.

“I listened to them all, and ended up taking the client to the original spot I was thinking of, and we got a mule deer right away,” Grangroth said with a grin. “It was a confidence boost for myself.”

After realizing that guiding hunts wasn’t for her, Grangroth said she explored different ways to make a living in the outdoors industry. For now, she works as a nanny and housekeeper for a family in Glenwood Springs.

“That’s my source of income,” Grangroth said, before explaining her newest outdoors venture. “I’m starting up a woman’s camo clothing line called Ridge Patrol. I’ve spent so many years hunting in a big sweaty fleece. Women want to feel good and when we feel good we perform better.”

Her goal is to create an apparel line that allows women to feel and perform with confidence out in the field.

“Hopefully that will financially sustain me, but the bigger part of it is it’s part of my lifestyle,” Grangroth said. “I plan to be out in the woods 200 days out of this year.”

Grangroth has plans to fill pronghorn, bear, elk and whitetail deer tags throughout Colorado, South Dakota and Arizona.

But she’s also advocating for women to be more involved in hunting and fishing through her role as an ambassador for Rocky Mountain Sportswomen, a network of women based out of the Yampa Valley who are passionate about the outdoors, conservation, and community.

It’s not just about getting more women hunting for Grangroth, it’s about helping more people heal from whatever trauma they may have experienced.

Local hunter and former guide Andraya Grangroth does some early morning turkey hunting south of New Castle.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

“I suffered trauma when I was young. I was sexally abused as a child,” Grangroth said. “Nature was always the place I went to. It was fight or flight mode essentially until I moved to Colorado. You learn to deal with it in ways, and my way was being in nature.”

Grangroth knows her story of trauma and dealing with post traumatic stress disorder is a common one.

“There are so many people in the world that are sexually abused. There’s a lot of PTSD in general,” Grangroth said. “What I have found is nature is the most healing place. I’ve been through several types of therapy, but nature has always been the biggest healer for me.”

Local hunter and former guide Andraya Grangroth searches for turkeys during an early morning turkey hunt south of New Castle.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

But she knows that for women especially, getting out into nature can be intimidating, and her advice to other women is to just get out there and do it.

“You can only learn so much by watching YouTube videos. Buy the gear, go out — you don’t need a man to hold your hand to do it,” Grangroth said.

“There are so many resources, whether it’s through podcasts or just going into a local shop and talking with the folks there. Just put yourself out there and go after that. That’s where you’re going to learn and your confidence really comes from just getting out there.”

Grangroth said inexperienced hunters, whether male or female, need to make sure they’re safe by having the property equipment, permits, a GPS and practice with their weapon of choice.

“Once you feel like you have the basic knowledge, that confidence is not going to come until you actually get out there,” Grangroth said.

Reporter Shannon Marvel can be reached at 605-350-8355 or smarvel@postindependent.com.

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