Theresa Vail shared some candid, thoughtful responses to our questions.
Theresa Vail just wants to hunt in her backyard, by herself, “how it was meant to be.” And can you blame her?
She told us as much over the phone when we spoke on the first day of the National Rifle Association‘s 2016 Annual Meetings and Exhibitions, in which she was poised to play a bigger role than she anticipated. More on that later.
But getting back to her desire to return home and go on a solo hunt, without any cameras rolling or unfamiliar territory, isn’t that what we all want? Traveling on hunting trips can be an exciting experience, especially when you take them to the extent someone like Vail does. But there’s nothing like hunting where you call home, on land you own and amongst wildlife you’ve helped shape and prosper as much as you can.
“That’s something I’ve missed out on the past three years now, so I’m ready to go back at it alone,” she said, “and just get back to my roots.” Coming from someone who’s blazed a path through the hunting world as much as she has, that’s a cool thing to hear.
For the last two years Vail, like a lot of folks in the outdoor industry, has made the NRA Annual Meetings a regular stop as a chance to mingle with likeminded people and appear on behalf of some of the companies that stand behind her. This weekend alone, Vail had upwards of eight scheduled stops, punctuated by a meet and greet and autograph session at the Outdoor Channel booth (4015) to in part promote her job as host of NRA All Access presented by Franchi.
But at the last minute, she was nominated for the emcee gig at the NRA’s Country Jam, happening Friday at 6:00 p.m.
“They asked me to host tonight’s concert, and that’s going to be a whirlwind,” she said. “I told them I’ve never even been to a concert, ever, so I don’t know how I’m supposed to emcee one, but hopefully it goes well.”
Though a concert crowd might be a little different, she’s certainly proven herself as the host of a major television show.
“I had actually been profiled on NRA All Access when I was just coming off of my year as Ms. Kansas,” she said. “So I had kept in contact with the All Access guys, and they approached me about hosting as I was preparing to leave the other show on the Outdoor Channel that I was with.”
What drew her to the position? As she puts it, it was a chance to move the spotlight away from herself.
“I essentially got to be the Diane Sawyer of the show, interviewing other people with less emphasis on myself,” she mentioned. “‘All about me’ has just never been what I’ve been about. I’ve always been about service to other people. So coming on to this role and having the show not be about me, but all about other people and their incredible, inspiring stories, that’s what I love.”
She made it a point to bring up a recent profile, which will air on next week’s episode of NRA All Access, on Ashlee Lundvall. It seemed to embody exactly what she was getting at.
“I just interviewed her out there in Wyoming, and I’ll tell you, one will never know the true meaning of inspiration until they hear her story,” Vail said. “When she was 16 she was paralyzed in an unfortunate accident, and instead of letting that hinder her or hold her back in life, she just took full charge. She embraces life, embraces every single day and lives life to the fullest, because she knows accidents can happen and life can be taken away in a very short moment. It just gave me an entirely different perspective on life as I know it, and I’m really excited to share that with viewers this season.”
When asked about the state of hunting, as an industry and a lifestyle, Vail took a second to think, and shared a candid viewpoint you don’t always hear, especially during large gatherings like the NRA Annual Meetings.
“Contrary to what many here today might say, I don’t think the hunting world is in a great place,” she said. She fully acknowledged the increase in hunter numbers, particularly in the female demographic, as a huge positive. But it didn’t outweigh the negative.
“Altogether, hunters are still under attack from mainstream media and leftist groups, and we’re not doing anything to stop it,” she continued. “The anti groups garner so much attention because they’re the loudest, and when hunters are under attack from these groups, I rarely see fellow hunters come to their defense. And even in this industry, I’ve seen people jump ship. Parts of the hunting world don’t want confrontation, they don’t want to put up a fight, and I think it’s time that we do. I think it’s time we stop being this silent group.”
She felt a lot of the same emotions when it comes to gun control, and didn’t shy away from responding when asked about firearms.
“With all the talk about more gun control, I really do believe people are starting to wake up to the realities of the future of firearms in this country,” Vail said. “I may be wrong on this, but I believe that gun ownership is growing for this reason: fear of control, fear of big government, and fear of being rendered defenseless when all hell breaks loose, because you and I know that’s going to happen eventually.”
Vail also made a good point on what the two worlds, firearms and hunting, could do to help the greater good. If her idea were to work as she envisions it, the impact could be dramatic.
“The thing strength in numbers comes to mind,” she said. “There are five million members in the NRA right now. Do you realize what volumes it would speak to the leftist side if every hunter were to support the NRA by becoming a member? I hate for this to come across as a hard sell, because that’s not what this is about, but numbers speak volumes, and higher numbers just means we’re a force to be reckoned with.”
With a huge following on social media, including a Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram presence that rivals anyone in her same league, Theresa has found a way to capture the attention of the bigger hunting community, even if it wasn’t fully her intention. She said she just tries to portray herself as a person, a student (she’s applying to medical school), a family member, and not just “this animal killer that PETA wants you to believe.” She makes pheasant stir fry for her family and feeds her dog venison. She’s at the gun range. She’s working out with her friend Cameron Hanes. She’s living her life.
“I’ve noticed that not only hunters, but non-hunters, respect that,” she said of her honesty in what she shares. “Allowing people to see that you’re more than what they see on TV helps a lot with spreading the message that hunters are still really good, compassionate people.”
Giving more of those people the spotlight on NRA All Access seems to be the preferred method for Vail at this point, but she’ll certainly be followed too. That is, until she gets back home, and finally gets to hunt by herself.