Julie McQueen, hunter, hunt
Photo by Backstage & Backroads Productions

Queen of the Outdoors: On the Hunt With Julie McQueen

The following Q&A with Julie McQueen is from the summer 2017 issue of Skillset Magazine. Grab a subscription at OutdoorGroupStore.com

Have you ever met someone and wanted so badly for there to be something wrong with this person? To the point where you hope for this person to be such a tremendous jerk that you would at least have SOMETHING to hold against her or him? Well, if you are looking for that in Julie McQueen, keep searching. This woman is not only one of the most badass, unique people we’ve come across, she’s also truly one of the most genuine, humble and kind humans we’ve ever been fortunate enough to spend time with.   

That said, do not underestimate her! This radiantly beautiful lady is far more than just a pretty face who knows how to shoot — she’s also a professional poker player, pilot, producer and a true believer in the practice of respect during the hunt. 

Describe yourself in five words?

I Live To Be Kind. 

What is something that you want people to know about you?

This is such a great question. I know that people look at me and see my physical appearance and make assumptions. We all do that to each other! I want people to know that I am a living example of why we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be pretty. I was bullied heavily; I grew up poor, and I had kind of a rough childhood. But fortunately, I had a mom who told me that I could do anything I wanted to in life, but the one thing I couldn’t rely on was my looks. She told me to be kind, to educate myself and never to be rude to anybody.

I want people to know that if you take away every good physical attribute that I have, you’ll be left with an educated and confident woman who has lived a passionate life and who has contributed to goodness in the world. I want people to know that of all of my accomplishments, being a nice person is what I’m most proud of.  

Not many people know this, but you were born on an Indian reservation. How long did you live there?

I was born in northern Oklahoma very close to an Indian Reservation, and then we moved to the Reservation when I was nine years old. My family bought a home there and it was a very nice place to live. It was a small town, so I was able to grow up in a community where we knew everyone. That’s a good way for kids to grow up. I go back there from time to time now because my Dad still lives close by. The town hasn’t changed much! It’s full of culture and people who are deeply connected to their roots. 

Julie and turkey
Photo by Backstage & Backroads Productions

Do you apply any of the native traditions into your hunting and conservation practices?

Back when I lived in Oklahoma, I was not a hunter. I didn’t really study their traditions because I didn’t know that I would one day become a hunter. But I connect with the level of spirituality that the American Indians are well known for when it comes to hunting. I pray over my animals. By laying my hands on them and silently reflect and give thanks for them. I try not to make a big show of this because I feel like it’s a sacred thing. Some people will film themselves or take pictures while they pray. I like my privacy at those moments. It’s just for the animal and me. I’m not sure if I feel that way because of the ancient Indian traditions, or if it’s just how my heart likes to experience it.  

The outdoors can be an unforgiving place; what’s something you have learned from your time spent in nature?

Some of the places that I go to are very unforgiving. You have to be careful and watchful at all times. Sometimes when you have a close call, it reminds you that this isn’t a dress rehearsal — one wrong move could change your life. One thing that I’ve learned is to think ahead. If you think you’re just going for a short hike, you still need supplies with you for a long hike. Sometimes a one-mile walk can turn into an all-day adventure. It’s best to always be prepared. I like to keep food and water in my pack at all times. It definitely adds extra weight, but it’s worth it. Many times in the field, I have been the only one left with water and food, and my preparation has been a blessing to someone else who did not think ahead. 

You are a model, an accomplished hunter, and you host a television show. What would you say has been the most interesting job you have had to date?

I’ve had some pretty interesting careers so far! I have never taken the easy route when it came to my careers. I found ways to make money doing what I love, and that did include playing poker professionally, owning a small bakery, and hosting and producing outdoor television (to name a few of them). To be honest, the modeling wasn’t my favorite thing to do, but it paid more than the other things, so I kept at it.

I retired from modeling when I turned 30, because I wanted to get out before I looked too desperate. And the people in the outdoor industry are so much nicer than people in the fashion world! I guess the most interesting job I’ve had would be the one I have now. I co-own a successful production company. We produce outdoor commercials and television shows, and I am also a television show host. This is my favorite job because it allows me to spend all my time outdoors doing what I love and being creative. 

You spend virtually every moment of every day with your husband (and co-host), DL. What is it like working so closely with your spouse? How did you two meet?

Daniel Lee and I had known each other through the hunting industry for a long time before we got together. We were friends and had many mutual friends, so when we both became single it was an easy decision! Anyone who has ever met Daniel Lee knows that he’s really hilarious and extremely nice. He’s easy to love. We do spend every day together. Working together on everything; we travel together, and we literally live parallel lives. This isn’t something that we would recommend for a lot of couples.

I think many people would have a hard time with this lifestyle. It takes a lot of communication and patience. You have to really like and respect that person. I’ve learned that it does help for us to have separate projects from time to time. He works on his music, and I go do things on my own sometimes. We respect each other, and we run our company very well together. At the end of the day, we still really love each other and we have a great time doing what we love to do. I think a major part of our success has been the friendship that we based our relationship on from the beginning. Also, we laugh nonstop. Having a sense of humor about life has gotten us through many times that would have been very stressful otherwise!  

Julie looking through a scope.
Photo by Backstage & Backroads Productions

What drives your passion for teaching women hunters how to become more confident — and competent — with hunting and conservation?

My passion for empowering women definitely stems from the fact that I didn’t have that available to me when I was first getting started. I didn’t have a strong female support system, or a woman to show me how to do things in the outdoors. I’m not from a hunting family. I am completely self-taught. And back when I got into the hunting industry there were only a few other women ahead of me. I couldn’t go to them for advice because I didn’t know how to reach them.

Now that I’ve established my platform in this industry, I can use it to help other ladies who are also passionate about the outdoors. I give my personal cell phone number out to a lot of the young ladies who are working towards their goals in the hunting world, so that they can reach me anytime. They can text or talk with me on the phone any time they need advice or just want to vent about things. I love using my hard work and success to help others, because that’s not something that anybody else ever did for me. 

What is the most common question you get from novice hunters?

The most common question I get from novice hunters is usually about cleaning their animal after the harvest. It’s daunting for someone who hasn’t been around it a lot. It seems scary for people who might not understand the anatomy of the animal or who think they might do it wrong. My advice for them is always pretty simple. Google it! YouTube has some incredibly informative videos that you can learn a lot from. There are different methods and ways of cleaning your animal, and it’s good to know how other people are doing it. When you get into the field, just take your time until you completely understand it and feel comfortable. Nobody is going to judge you for not being quick. We’ve all had to learn at some point. Just practice knife safety at all times and as time goes by, you’ll get faster and more efficient.  

How do you offer advice to those who are apprehensive to learn about firearms?

People who follow me on social media are constantly exposed to my love of firearms. I’m a firm believer that we should care for our firearms in every way if we want to use them in the field. I clean my own guns, practice with them and I respect them. So for anyone who isn’t completely comfortable handling firearms, I suggest that you clear (unload) the gun and handle it. Hold it in your hands.

Practice gun safety with an unloaded gun for a while. You can even carry it around unloaded if you want. Knowing for sure that it’s unloaded might help ease that tension. Next, learn to clean that gun. Take it all apart. Again, watch some YouTube video tutorials on how to clean and maintain your gun, and as you’re watching these videos, take the gun apart with them. I believe that knowing how things work will make us respect and understand the entire process even more. 

Some people are apprehensive about firearms because they’ve heard the bad stories, or that fear has been ingrained in them from someone else. Educating ourselves about things that matter to us is crucial. Understanding and respecting every aspect of our firearms will ultimately make us more responsible handlers of them. And, finally, if you’ve gone through all of the steps of handling, cleaning, learning about, and respecting firearms and you still just don’t like them, that’s okay. There is nothing wrong with people who don’t like guns. As long as you know about firearms, and respect them and other people who do love them, you have the right not to carry one.  

You have been fortunate to experience hunts that many consider bucket-list items. What has been your most cherished adventure/trophy hunt?

When I think back over the years of adventures that I’ve been blessed with, I become overwhelmed. I count my blessings. Even if I had to quit traveling now, I know that I’ve been able to experience more than most people ever will. That will never be taken for granted. It’s hard to choose just one adventure or hunt that stands out, but there is one that I think about more than some of the others.  

On my right forearm I have a large tattoo of mule deer antlers and roses. I see it every day, all day. That tattoo is cherrished because it commemorates the first mule deer that I harvested. I got that deer last September in Nebraska with my bow (from 65 yards!), and I cried when I recovered him. I had been trying for a few years to harvest my first mule deer, and my tattoo is a symbol of my adoration and respect for that process.

The deer’s life ended that day, but he will never be forgotten. I’ll look at the exact replica of his antlers on my arm until the day I die. I respect and cherish all of the animals that I take, but I also believe that we are sometimes more spiritually connected to specific animals. That was my animal. And I think that a lot of other hunters can relate to that connection we have with the animals that we hunt.  

Julie overlook
Photo by Backstage & Backroads Productions

I’m sure you’ve come across some really exciting or scary experiences while on the hunt. Tell us one of the scariest moments you’ve lived through?

Over the years, I’ve been very lucky to avoid many injuries and I’ve always been pretty safe. The only time I’ve had any type of scary experience was last turkey season when I almost severed my right trigger finger in the field. I had taken a turkey with my bow, and the most ethical way to finish a small game animal is to sever the brainstem/spinal cord at the base of the neck. A knife was handed to me, and when I leaned forward to put my body weight into it, I hit the release on the blade and it folded over onto my index finger.

I was wearing gloves, thank goodness, but it cut right through the glove and through my finger. The bird was finished up, carried him off the hill, and when we got back to the truck Daniel Lee had to use duct tape to keep the finger together until we could get to the hospital. I was genuinely worried that I might lose the finger. Any other finger would have been okay, but that’s my trigger finger! It made all of us realize that accidents can happen quickly in the field and that we always have to be careful. 

Surprise us — tell us a unique talent you keep in your back pocket. 

I don’t consider myself to have any real hidden talents, but I do educate myself on random things to make up for it! For example, about 10 years ago I earned my pilot’s license and then began studying aerobatic flight (where we do low-altitude flying maneuvers in lightweight aircraft). I’m adventurous, and that allows me to openly pursue different hobbies like that. I stopped my aerobatic training after a near-death experience in the air, but I have flown across the United States in experimental aircraft (a North American T-28 fighter plane). 

I also speak French, but not very well. Again, it’s not a talent, but it’s something I’ve worked on because I believe that our brains have unlimited capacity to learn new things. I still take French lessons so that I don’t lose that ability. I don’t know anybody in my personal life who also speaks that language, so I mostly just talk to myself in French from time to time. If you see me mumbling, it’s probably me trying to get my accent to work with their language. 

Rapid Fire Block

  • Animal: My dog Banjo
  • Food: Pizza
  • Drink: Whiskey 
  • Car: No, a Truck
  • Gun: .300 RUM 
  • Celebrity: Jana Waller 
  • Book: “The Twelve Caesars” 
  • Movie: “The Usual Suspects” 
  • Song: “Ophelia” by The Lumineers 
  • TV Show: “Impractical Jokers”  
  • Reese’s Pieces or Peanut Butter M&M’s: Peanut Butter M&M’s
  • Favorite Sound: Turkeys gobbling on a spring morning  
  • Least Favorite Sound: Alarm clock in the morning 
  • Zombie, Vampire, or Werewolf (Which would you choose to be?): Werewolf!

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