National contests recognize local huntresses

Donna McDonald (left) and Miranda Browne get in from the cold November wind at the Upper Canyon Ranch. McDonald and Browne have each been nominated for a national award recognizing them as outstanding female hunters. Photo by Ben Coulter

Ruby Valley outfitter Donna McDonald and guide Miranda Browne were both recently nominated for national awards recognizing their status as female hunters and their passion for the outdoors.

McDonald became a licensed outfitter in 1989 and currently owns and operates Upper Canyon Outfitters with her husband Jake. She’s served on the Bureau of Land Management advisory board and was the first female president of the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association.
She’s a member of the Ruby Watershed Council and is the chairperson for Big Hearts under the Big Sky, a program that provides guided hunting and fishing trips at no cost to wounded veterans, breast cancer survivors and children with life-threatening illnesses.

People are often surprised to see a female outfitter and hunting guide, McDonald said, but its nothing out of the ordinary to her. She’s been an avid hunter for as long as she can remember – ever since she was old enough to follow her father through the autumn woods.

“Being in the business for 30 years, I know that women enjoy it,” McDonald said. “Sometimes all you need is someone to say ‘Hey, I’m more than happy to take you.’”

She’s one of 12 contestants nominated for the 2011 Prois Awards, a contest recognizing “hardcore female hunters” in their determination and passion for their sport. Winners will receive a package hunt in the Canadian Rocky Mountains as well as a premium gear package.
But McDonald barely blinks an eye at the thought of prizes. For her, the inspiration to apply for the nomination came from the Big Hearts program.

“It would be wonderful, but its really about getting the word out and letting people know especially in Montana that there is a program like this out there,” she said.

This time of year McDonald keeps fairly busy with clients coming and going from the Upper Canyon Ranch, but there’s a strong support staff of guides and kitchen staff to help out with whatever needs to be done. In the background, Miranda Browne folds fresh linens. Her petite frame and quiet demeanor reflect a strong and confident young woman who was recently nominated for the Eye Of The Hunter – Extreme Huntress 2012 Contest.

Browne started working at Upper Canyon Outfitters as a 16-year-old wrangler and after two years she began to guide clients. Although limited this year by a knee injury, she’s in her third season as a guide.

Browne’s easy-going personality reflects a sense of gratitude to be where she is.

“Its such a confidence builder,” she says of being outside on the hunt, in pursuit of big game. “Its incredible to have a chance to go out and show other women that they can do what I do.”

The winner of the Extreme Huntress 2012 contest will receive a guided cape buffalo safari hunt in Zimbabwe, which will be filmed by NBC Sports for the television show “Eye Of The Hunter.”

Voting for the 2011 Prois Awards closes Dec. 15. To vote for McDonald, click here.

Voting for the 2012 Extreme Huntress contest closes Jan. 1, 2012. To vote for Browne, click here.

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