Eva Shockey grew up expecting to be a dancer like her glamorous mother. But something about spending family vacations RV-ing across North America and going on hunts with her dad sparked in her an enduring passion for a different way of life.
In Taking Aim, Eva tells a very personal story of choosing the less-traveled path to a rewarding life in outdoor pursuits like hunting and fishing. For her, as her millions of fans can attest, that has meant hunting as a way of harvesting food, caring deeply about conservation, sustainability and healthy eating, and getting closer to God in nature.
In this riveting memoir for the adventurer in all of us, Eva takes readers along as she hunts caribou on the rugged Aleutian Islands, tracks a 1,500-pound bull moose across the unforgiving Yukon, and meets many other challenges of a life in the wild.
Along the way we learn that hunting is about so much more than pulling a trigger. "My story is about discovering your dream," writes Eva. "It's about following your passion, mastering your skills, taking aim no matter who thinks you’re crazy…and then letting the arrow fly. If you’ve done all you can, I can tell you that you’re almost certain to hit your mark."
Whether you’re a lifelong hunter or a city dweller who has never set foot in the wilderness, Eva’s story delivers an empowering message about rejecting stereotypes and expectations, believing in yourself, and finding the courage to pursue what you care about most.
|Publisher:||The Crown Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
A ship is always safe at the shore--but that is not what it is built for.1
Vancouver Island, Canada, 1995
“I’ve got a surprise for you,” Mom excitedly said to my brother and me. Strapped tightly in the back of the minivan, Bran and I cheered in unison. It has to be ice cream, we thought. Mom was such a health nut, this frozen treat was reserved only for rare and special occasions.
As we pulled up next to the carport, though, Mom revealed that she had an even better treat in mind: “Surprise! Daddy’s home!”
Dad had been away on a moose hunt with my grandfather and uncle and wasn’t expected to return for another week. My seven-year-old self tore out of that van so fast, my glossy black Mary Janes barely came to a complete stop before almost tripping over the hundred-and-fifty-pound hindquarter of a butchered moose. The meat gleamed red, marbled with fat, and rested on an orange tarp laid across the carport floor.
“Daddy!” I squealed, arms outstretched.
Dad put down a blood-splattered knife and scooped me up. “I missed you so much, Eve,” he said, a twinkle in his eye.
I snuggled against Dad’s heavy apron. It was stained red in places and flecked with tiny pieces of moose flesh and fur. I remember, nestling my head in the crook of his neck, that I was suddenly overcome with the scent of raw meat. “Eww, Daddy. You smell stinky!” I said, giggling. But it didn’t really matter to me. I was so happy to see him, I wouldn’t have cared if he smelled like sewage.
Certain memories stick with us over time, clues from our childhood that point to where we are today. Many times these memories stem from something we saw our parents do, such as working double shifts to put food on the table or studying night after night to finally earn a college degree. Or they might bring us back to a time when our parents challenged us to be all we could be. Maybe they pushed us to try out for the school play or refused to let us quit the soccer team. We might not know it at the time, but those moments wield power to shape us. As the years pass, they lead us to do certain things, go certain places, or make certain decisions . . . ones that can ultimately change the course of our lives. And it’s only when that happens that we realize just how poignant those memories are.
So, back to that carport.
Dad peppered me with questions about school as he leaned against one of the counters lining a wall. My attention was so wrapped up in our conversation, I barely noticed that the carport looked like a slaughterhouse. Mounds of raw moose flesh were piled everywhere. Thick slabs of backstrap and tenderloin lined one side of the long tarp. Three massive hunks each of hind and front quarters, rich red, claimed most of the space in the middle. Clearly, the hunt had been successful, providing an entire bull for each hunter, which meant enough meat for all our families for the rest of the year.
This scene might have been out of the ordinary for most kids, but it was just another day in the Shockey household. Before I started visiting friends after school, I didn’t realize that carports were called that because they were intended to shelter parked vehicles.
But “normal” is relative, right?
Our family lived on Vancouver Island, Canada, known for its rugged beauty and protected parkland. Here, the great outdoors rule. You can watch pods of orcas glide past limestone cliffs, soak up sun on a remote beach, and hike through old-growth forests where ancient trees seem to touch the sky. Much of the island is unspoiled, brimming with wildlife. Everywhere, it seems, Mother Nature is at her best.
Though my parents met and married in the city of Vancouver on the mainland of British Columbia, they wanted to raise a family with more greenery than concrete surrounding them. A place where their kids could fall asleep to the sound of chirping crickets, where they could chase frogs, pick berries, and swim in a lake right in their own backyard.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning.
Dad grew up in the suburbs of Saskatoon, a city in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. From digging up earthworms when he was two to trekking through the backwoods when he was fourteen, stalking white-tailed deer with his dad, he’s always been a hunter at heart. A competitive water polo player during and after university, he became the captain of the British Columbia men’s water polo team, and was scheduled to compete in the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. However, in protest against the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, Canada, along with several other countries, boycotted the Olympics that year. Disappointed, the team stayed home. After dabbling briefly in real-estate development, Dad tried his hand at another passion and opened an antiques and folk art store, which, over the years, expanded into three more shops.
A good-looking and charismatic guy, Dad had no trouble finding beautiful girls to date. He just couldn’t find “the one.” That is, until he showed up one night at the dance class Mom taught, hoping to meet a pretty girl.
Louise Johann was a triple threat: a professional ballet-jazz dancer who also modeled and acted. A gorgeous blue-eyed blonde, she was used to getting asked out by celebrities and politicians. For Dad, it was love at first sight. After class that night, Mom was looking for a ride home, and Dad happily obliged. On the drive, after small talk turned into deep conversation about how important their families were to each of them, he asked her out. Mom very sweetly said no. But that was a word my father was not accustomed to hearing; he’s a pretty persistent guy. Six months later, they were married. It was a match made in heaven, although strange in a way, considering that Mom was a strict vegetarian at the time they met and Dad loved to hunt.
In their early days together, Dad focused on his antiques business. He hunted only three or four times a year--just enough to keep the freezer packed with meat--but it was clearly his passion. When he wasn’t working or hunting, Dad was reading outdoor magazines. He noticed that although those periodicals featured plenty of hunting how-to articles--for example, how to form a hunting club, employ the best decoy strategies, or stay warm in a blind in the cold--they rarely offered captivating stories about individuals’ adventures. So he began writing about his experiences in the wild, the magazines picked up his stories, and readers loved the way he packed his articles with color, emotion, and humor.
In 1986, my brother Branlin (Bran, as my family calls him) joined the Shockey crew, and two years later, I arrived. When I was around three months old, Ralph Lauren walked into one of Dad’s antiques stores; it was located in the trendiest part of Vancouver. Enthralled by the beautiful, one-of-a-kind furniture and folk art, the world-famous designer bought out the entire inventory. Every. Single. Thing. While it would take a few years before Dad would start his hunting business, that remarkable transaction allowed him to purchase a commercial property on Vancouver Island, where he opened a new store. He also purchased a magnificent piece of land on the southern part of the island that included a beat-up farmhouse--our new home.
While the dilapidated structure wasn’t much to look at, the land was extraordinary and a child explorer’s dream. A half-mile-long gravel driveway peppered with potholes led the way to twenty-four acres of lush greenery splashed with the bold colors of wildflowers. Golden hayfields and ancient, majestic Garry oaks also dotted the landscape. Our backyard swept down to a sparkling lake, the opposite shore of which lapped quietly at the foot of a mountain.
I know--it sounds like a Hallmark movie. But I’m not making it up; our home was really like that.
My father, with the help of his dad, Granddad Hal, and Mom’s dad, Grandpa Len, transformed the dilapidated farmhouse into an eye-catching sanctuary, laying down rich hardwood flooring and building intricate stone fireplaces. They also tacked on an addition: Dad’s office-slash-man-cave. Over the years, Dad filled the walls of this room with hundreds of taxidermy mounts from animals he harvested all over the world, to the point that barely any wood paneling is visible today.
Above his office, Dad built Mom a dance studio where she could continue her teaching. When I was eighteen months old, so I’m told, I’d sit on the shiny wooden floor, watching little girls with tight buns and pink tutus navigate their way through pliés and pirouettes. When I was two, I wanted to do more than merely observe. So, donning my own pink leotard and tutu and sporting a fairly sizable potbelly, I pranced around in my blond bowl haircut with the rest of the class.
Living where the great outdoors was celebrated complemented my parents’ healthy lifestyle--and downright radical commitments. Each year, their goal was to live for twelve months without having to buy meat and produce from the store. With the smattering of fruit trees, the fifty or so rows of rectangular raised beds that grew a variety of vegetables, and Dad harvesting meat, most years it was mission accomplished.
My mom championed the benefits of organic food long before that became a trend. Thanks to Dad’s hunting excursions, three or four of our huge freezers were stocked from top to bottom with wild game carefully wrapped in pink freezer paper and labeled with the cut of meat. Deer, elk, caribou, moose--you name it, we probably had it in stock. The meat was lean, free of hormones, pesticides, GMOs, and antibiotics, and she knew exactly where it came from. More important for us kids, every meal, from moose steaks to deer fajitas, was delicious! My parents taught us the basic premise of the circle of life, that humans are carnivores by nature, and to understand that whatever animal was on our plate had given its life to provide us our sustenance.
I spent a ton of time with Mom in the kitchen, where she made practically everything from scratch. While other kids were chewing on prepackaged fruit roll-ups during snack time at school, I reached into my lunchbox for homemade fruit leathers made in our own dehydrator, a piece of equipment Dad also used to make deer jerky.
So, as you can see, nothing too out of the ordinary. Normal.
People who have seen him on TV often ask me what it was like to grow up with Jim Shockey as my father. Though I didn’t know it as a child, Dad was a pretty big deal. A world-class hunter, throughout the last forty-plus years, he’s traveled to forty-five countries and six continents hunting all sorts of wild-game species and documenting his experiences on film. In the process, he’s accumulated a lengthy list of awards. Of course, he was always just Dad to me. And if you’ve never seen his show, he may be just another guy to you. The truth is, I didn’t realize Dad was any different from John Smith or Billy Brown. He had a job, took us fishing, attended our sporting events, and taught us how to throw a baseball. He did what all the other construction worker, Realtor, or doctor dads seemed to do.
Then again, I never saw a deer carcass hanging in anyone else’s carport. Or a skull and antlers boiling in a pot on a friend’s kitchen counter. Or smelled the skunky stink of muzzleloader cleaner wafting through a neighbor’s house.
And then there were the Shockey vacations. When my friends would return from a family trip, they’d brandish photos of Disney World, cruise ships, and tropical beaches. But that was not our style. Dad would hitch our oldie but goodie trailer, complete with wood paneling and plaid upholstery, to the back of the trusty 1980s-era Dodge truck, and the whole family would embark on an adventure to God knows where. But whether we were driving toward the jungles of Mexico or the mountains of Alaska, every “vacation” was a hunting trip in disguise. We spent countless nights in pup tents with rocks digging into our backs or on cramped bunks in our camper. For the other kids I knew, “camping” meant driving a luxury motor home (equipped with a shower, flat-screen TV, and a satellite dish on the roof) twenty minutes down the highway into a fully equipped campground, then putzing around on leisurely walks and eating s’mores over a bonfire at night. Our family did things a bit differently.
On one of our hunting trip–vacations when I was seven, we drove up the Alaska Highway headed toward the far northwest corner of British Columbia. Destination: the Tatshenshini River area, home to white-water canyons, snowcapped mountains, and some of the largest glaciers in the world. Dad was looking for moose, which meant that he and my brother planned to spend a good portion of the day hunting, and Mom and I would remain near the campsite exploring the scenic wildlife. Periodically, Dad would ask if I wanted to join him and Bran, but I was never interested. It didn’t seem like something that the girly-girl I was at the time should do. I preferred to hang out with my mom, the textbook example of beauty and femininity.
But on this particular adventure, I discovered a new talent. One evening before sunset, Dad, his wild, shoulder-length hair blowing in the breeze, hollered, “Shooting competition!”
Bran’s eyes lit up. “I’ll get the cans!” he shouted, hightailing it toward the orange bag by the camper door. After he lined up some of the cans on a fallen log, Bran declared, “I’m going first,” and he reached for the .22 rifle in Dad’s hand. I remember what happened next unfolding something like this.
I bulldozed between the two guys. “No, me!” I insisted. Though I’d sometimes shoot a pellet gun for target practice with Dad and Bran in our backyard, just for fun, and though I’d watched my dad and brother at the shooting range, this would be my first time shooting a real rifle.
“Here, let me hold the barrel for you, Eve,” Dad said. I resisted that, too, at first. I wanted to do it myself. I realized quickly, however, that I wasn’t strong enough to do it myself. Patiently, Dad showed me how to hold the gun’s stock tightly against my shoulder, then rest the barrel on top of his two strong, outstretched fingers. It was a fatherly version of shooting sticks.
Guided by careful instruction, I slowly squeezed the trigger. The shot rang out, followed by a dink as the can I was aiming for fell off the log. A feeling of surprise rushed over me, quickly followed by pride and the urge to keep shooting.
1. Fred R. Shapiro, The Yale Book of Quotations (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), 705.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As a beginner hunter it's very encouraging to be able to read about her experiences in the hunting world. She's an inspiration to female hunters everywhere!
Best book I have read in a long time!
My husband is a hunter and is raising little hunters of his own. I myself do not hunt, I understand why we hunt. I do shoot archery, I have a compound bow. I understand the necessity to hunt for conservation and to put organic food on our table. I am sure my husband has explained to my 800 thousand times what Eva Shockey explained in this book but the ways she explained it seemed to sink in a thousand times better. So I’m going to say in advance sorry Mr. Tough Guy. I highly suggest this book whether you are into hunting or not, this book does not specifically talk about hunting. It talks about Eva’s journey to who she is now. This book explains conservation in a way that I never thought about conservation before. Hunters raise more money for conservation of animals than any other group is just one of the many facts I have pulled from this book. I knew that they did a lot but that is just amazing. “Here’s a fun fact: In 1900, fewer than half a million white-tailed deer remained in the United States. Today, conservation programs have returned the whitetail population to some 32 million.” Growing up Eva had dreams of being a dancer, just like her mother. When her father would come home from his hunting trips she would run out to the garage area and chat away about her week while he would process the game from that hunting trip. To Eva this was normal, the same as some fathers wear a tie to work, or my husband wears work boots and old clothes. She stayed with her dreams of being a dancer for years upon years even unto college. Eva only showed hints of being interested in hunting when younger. It wasn’t until after college that Eva really took an interest in her father’s career. At first she learned the ins and the outs of the business side. Then she asked to go on hunts with her father. When Eva was younger and would go to the hunts with her family, she would be able to see how the hunt provided for the village/town they were in. However she didn’t actually participate in those hunts. Now that she was older she wanted to participate to see the other side to understand everything. This book is about that journey, her becoming a woman in a man dominated field. How she overcomes the things thrown at her with grace and calm. Going hunting is much more than just putting food on the table for their families. It’s about the journey. You are closer to nature, you respect nature. You are respecting the earth for providing you with this food, for your family, friends, or village. “Criticism can arise in many different forms at any point in your life. People might make fun of your style, tell you you’re not good enough, call you dumb, or say your’re a nerd. As hurtful as negative words can be, they only mean something if you believe them. It’s not easy to hear or read mean or hurtful words-and you can’t stop them from coming. But you do have a choice. You can give negative comments power, which will cost you time and energy that you can never get back or you can allow them to push you forward and continue to follow your own path. The choice is yours.” Do I think everyone should read this book? Of course I do! It’s about a young woman going for her dreams in a male dominated world. I think Eva is much, much more than hunter and if you read her book you find that out real fast. She is an amazing human being, and role model for young ladies whether they are hunters or not.