I admire folks who focus. They concentrate their energy in one area and pursue it with all their might. (Some of us have been known to chase the proverbial shiny object now and then.)
Mia Anstine is one leader who is focused — big time.
She is an advocate for her industry, an outdoor writer, licensed outfitter, hunting guide, keynote speaker, range safety officer, firearms and archery instructor. She is the founder of MAC Outdoors and host of the MAC Outdoors Podcast. She serves in a volunteer leadership role for a number of organizations, including the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA) and Safari Club International (SCI). She was also the first American woman featured on the cover of Field & Stream magazine.
I’ve watched Mia’s career from a distance for almost a decade. We’ve never met in person, but I came to know her through the Women’s Outdoor News and social media sites. I was interested in her perspectives on leadership in the outdoors industry and she was gracious enough to share her time to be interviewed.
As a hunter education instructor, Mia has seen increasing numbers of women and young people attend her classes, along with the men. In face, women hunters are the largest growing demographic. In the U.S., there were 1.8 million registered female hunters in 2001, but by 2013 those numbers grew by 85 percent, up to 3.3 million. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, women now account for approximately 15% of hunters nationwide.
It’s Possible to Be Credible and Humble Too
It’s assumed men already know about hunting, but that’s not always the case. And it can be intimidating for anyone, male or female, to admit how little we know and be willing to seek out instruction. At the two-day hunter ed class I attended (way back when), it was wonderful to see how welcoming and supportive the instructors and fellow classmates were. There were no stupid questions. And there’s nothing like mastering a new skill to build self-confidence.
Mia: “The more we do any activity, the more we learn how much more there IS to learn. Instructors talk about our personal experiences, how we’re not perfect and why it’s important to continue learning. It is possible to be credible and vulnerable at the same time.”
Seek First to Understand
From her website: Mia grew up in a small house on a dirt road along the San Juan River. Her father hunted to put food on the table. Mia’s mom grew a garden, sewed, and taught her daughter how to fish. Her great-grandfather used to visit the area for annual hunting trips and passed on his skills to Mia’s father, who passed them on to her.
Mia: “In ranching communities, there are urban young adults who want to learn cattle ranching. They’ve spent time with one cattleman and think they know it all. But if they spend time with a variety of ranchers and pay close attention, they will learn so much more.”
“Good instructors and facilitators take time to feel out the crowd, ask questions and try to get to know their students. That way you can better assess their knowledge and skill level, then tailor the training to their needs. You provide just enough support so the person believes success was a direct result of their own efforts.”
It’s easy to underestimate people because they don’t fit the right image. Maybe they’re too young, too old, not well spoken enough, low-key vs. flashy. I wish I had a nickel for each time I’ve heard about a hiring mistake based on a person’s image vs. their substance.
Mia: “I participated in a Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt a few years ago. I went as a mentor to be paired with another hunter. They paired me with a 15 year old girl. Her Dad was a hunting guide and she had hunted before, so I didn’t have to be so much of a teacher. I felt no pressure. We had both hunted antelope before. This little girl became MY mentor. Her discipline, restraint, ability to pass on a shot if she wasn’t perfectly comfortable was admirable. She passed three times. It was neat to have a young person be someone you admire. It showed me she had good parenting.”
Leaders Need Backup Too
Even confident people benefit from someone saying, “Go get ’em.” Or encouraging them with words like, “You can do it.” Without that kind of support from mentors, loved ones or someone they respect, some will give up. But for those who don’t quit, it sure makes the journey easier knowing someone’s got your back.
Mia: “That young lady…her parents obviously spent time with her. She is very confident, but having her parents behind her made a difference. When People don’t have someone backing them up, it’s harder for them to be confident. In one of my hunter ed classes, a parent called their child “stupid” when they didn’t pass the class. That will take a toll on a person, especially a young person.”
One of these days I hope to meet Mia in person. She’s been a role model for more people than she will ever know. Visit her website at MiaAnstine.com and find her on most social media sites.
This article was originally published in February 2020.