Emily C. Roush
The Ashland Beacon
For Boyd County resident Elizabeth M. Dean, hunting is a passion and lifestyle. Last year, she was awarded the prestigious “Young Huntress of the World” title by the hunting organization Safari Club International. This award represented the culmination of experience, hard work, and dedication to the sport that began when she was a small child.
Dean comes from a family of hunters and believes her participation in the sport was inevitable. “My dad, Daron Dean, has been hunting and fishing for 40 years. My mom, Lisa Dale Dean, grew up in a family of drag racing, and my dad taught her to hunt 23 years ago. There’s no surprise I started going on hunting trips from the time I was six-weeks-old,” she said. Dean harvested her first doe at seven-years-old and progressed to buck hunting and later turkey hunting. It was at 13 that she felt she reached a turning point in the sport. “I was drawn for a youth elk tag in the Wasatch Mountains in Utah. My dad, as usual, was my guide. I felt I was a real huntress then. I then started bowhunting and harvested my next elk with a bow at 67 yards.”
Dean’s passion for hunting and love of the outdoors has grown exponentially since her early childhood experiences. “I love hunting because of many things. One of them is that you are out in the beautiful wilderness. It’s you, the trees, and the animals.” Dean is also an ardent fly fisherman and has been participating in the sport since she was five. This allows her even more opportunities to enjoy nature. “Once again, it’s you and the wild. It is a fact that trout find the prettiest places to live. While you are fly fishing, you can’t play on your phone. All you do is just enjoy the river and the outdoors and wait on that magnificent trout that you so carefully release back into its home.”
Dean also feels that the experience of hunting with her father has taught her important lessons that have shaped her as a person. “My dad was and is my mentor. Not only is he the best hunter and businessman I know, he is morally the best. We eat everything we harvest, or we donate to local people in the area where we are hunting. My dad has always taught me to never waste any part of the animal. As a matter of fact, my first elk took dad and me 10 hours to pack it out of the woods. But we didn’t give up.”
Hunting has also given Dean a variety of memorable experiences and interesting encounters. Country music artist and Grand Ole Opry member Craig Morgan invited Dean to appear on his television show All Access Outdoors. “That was exciting!” she exclaimed. “Not only was I on television, I was bow hunting with Craig Morgan,” she continued, noting her admiration for the famous hunter. She also has hunted with NFL Pro Football Hall of Famer John Riggins.
Dean’s enthusiasm for hunting and breadth of experience made her a good candidate for the “Young Huntress of the Word” award, but the idea to apply did not immediately cross her mind. She and her parents are lifetime members of the Safari Club International (SCI) and regularly attend its yearly convention in Nevada. It was at the 2018 convention that someone suggested Dean apply. “I was talking to an outfitter from Colorado, and they mentioned I should look into the application process of SCI’s Youth Huntress of the World.”
The extensive application included submitting recommendation letters and listing academic achievements. These were of no short supply for Dean, a high achieving student. She attended Faith Christian Academy and Holy Family School. Holy Family’s collegiate high school program offered the chance to also enroll at Ashland Community and Technical College (ACTC) during her 11th grade year. Dean was the youngest full-time student to ever enroll at ACTC and graduated with an associate’s degree in Management by the age of 16. After taking a year off upon graduation to travel with her family, she enrolled at Marshall University to work toward a bachelor’s degree in Business Management.
These educational experiences provided ample achievements to include on the application. “Dr. Kay Adkins, retired president of ACTC sent the recommendation to SCI. I also included my awards from high school which included the Yale University Engineering Science Award for my project of the benefits and the environmental importance of hot mix asphalt versus recycled asphalt.” The application also required a 500 word essay describing Dean’s efforts to be a role model in the outdoor world, photographs, and a list of her affiliations with other hunting and conservation organizations (Dean is also involved with the National Rifle Association, National Wild Turkey Federation, and Trout Unlimited). Dean submitted her application but did not think she would win. “I mailed in all the information but, really had no thoughts of winning being among an organization with over 50,000 people. But I knew I had no chance if I didn’t apply.”
Dean was “ecstatic” when she found out she won. She recalled, “I was at my grandparents one day after school. My mom had gotten the call from a lady that needed to talk to me. I returned the phone call and [she] said, ‘Congratulations! You’ve been selected as SCI’s Young Huntress of the World!’ It was the greatest day ever until I received my award in Reno, Nevada.” Attending the awards ceremony in January 2019 was thrilling but also “terrifying” for Dean as she had to deliver an acceptance speech in front of the 5,000 in attendance. She submitted her speech to the event’s organizers in advance for approval and gave the printed copy to backstage staff to place at the podium. When Dean took the stage, an unforeseen challenge awaited her. “They lost [the speech]. I had to wing it, but I got a standing ovation. It all worked out,” she laughed.
Winning the award last year has opened a myriad of professional opportunities. The Bass Pro Shop/Cabela’s company has asked Dean to be a Pro-Staffer where she travels to stores to present to the public. Safari Club International has asked her to write an article for their Young Hunters Handbook, and an article she wrote about her mountain lion hunt was published by the Colorado Outfitters Association. In the meantime, she continues to hunt and fish regularly while focusing on school and working for her family’s paving company, Blacktop Industries. “Right now, I’m concentrating on working on the paving crew and finishing up my last 10 hours at Marshall.” She plans to graduate with her bachelor’s degree next spring. Once the COVID pandemic subsides, she hopes to travel and hunt even more. “My dad is wanting to buy a motorhome, travel west, and hunt and fish until dark. I can’t wait!” she exclaimed.