By Marissa Jensen, PF/QF Education and Outreach Program Manager
For Sandy Austin, hunting has long been a part of her narrative. Even as a child, she hunted squirrels and rabbits with her brother at their grandparents’ farm. Although her parents didn’t hunt, the two siblings would head into the woods, BB gun or .22 in hand, to target practice with a collection of cans or bottles.
Her passion continued, but it would really take flight as she became an adult and married her husband Mike, who was also a hunter. They would move to Prior Lake, where they learned that their neighbors enjoyed upland hunting. They would introduce Sandy and Mike to not only the uplands, but waterfowl hunting and the world of bird dogs.
Sandy’s family would grow to include two children, Nancy and Cody. And as their family grew, so did their passion to hunt and explore the outdoors together. The whole crew would eventually take a South Dakota trip to hunt when Nancy was 17 and Cody was 12.
“Nancy wasn’t sure if she wanted to hunt yet, but she did want to take photos,” says Sandy. But the love of hunting would eventually find Nancy, who at 35 continues in her pursuits today, much like her younger brother, Cody.
As the kids grew, and eventually left the house to start families of their own, Sandy continued to hunt more and more. As an avid supporter of Becoming an Outdoors Woman and Pheasants Forever, Sandy has helped host and participated as a mentor in several events over the years, including turkey, elk, grouse, and pheasant hunts. She’s also planning a pronghorn and mule deer hunt in October.
Additionally, Sandy’s sporting clay’s team, The Bird Bustin’ Babes, along with the Metro Pheasants Forever Chapter, hosts Clays for a Cause, an annual fundraising sporting clays event to help create more public access for pheasant hunters in Minnesota.
“We wanted to keep the dollars raised locally, so that people who were supporting the events could hunt the places they helped raise money for,” she explains. Clays for a Cause is now heading into its 7th year and has raised over $38,000 and impacted over 1,200 acres for public access in Minnesota, something Sandy is very excited about.
To this day, Sandy continues to find joy in the field for a variety of reasons, including the opportunity to help mentor her 10-year-old granddaughter, the oldest of five grandchildren. When asked what recommendations she has for other mothers and grandmothers looking to get their kids involved, she answers with a smile in her voice, “I think for some, the desire to hunt comes slowly and to not push it on them. And safety. Safety is always number one.”
On this Mother’s Day, and all Mother’s Days in the future, don’t forget to pause and remember those who helped show you the path to the outdoors. Remember the original Women on the Wing who helped encourage you to grow in your pursuit of all that is wild.
And most importantly, make a promise to share your love with another, whether that’s a family member, friend, or neighbor. Regardless of who you choose, help introduce others to this beautiful outdoor way of life so that it can remain for generations to come.
Celebrate Mother’s Day by purchasing flowers for someone special in your life or buying the gift of wildlife conservation and habitat through a membership with PF/QF. Share your original #womenonthewing stories with us this Mother’s Day by tagging @pheasantsforever and @quailforever in your memories.