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A Perfect Fit
INTERVIEW BY Jess Johsnon
PHOTOS COURTESY OF Weatherby
Modern Huntsman Volume Four guest editor Jess Johnson sat down with Brenda Weatherby to learn more about the unique woman whose drive, passion, and selfless love of family allowed her to make her mark on the Weatherby legacy; and the rifle that started it all.
Tell us a little about your background, and how you were introduced to hunting.
I didn’t come from a hunting background at all. I was born in L.A. to a low-to-middle class family, I was passionate about sports and becoming an athlete. I’d never had a gun, never held a gun, as far as I knew only cops or bad guys had guns. My whole life took a turn when I met Adam when we were fourteen years old. He was adventurous, had fun friends, and he cherished me beyond how I had ever been cherished. What he wanted to do, I wanted to do, just to be with him.
You and Adam got married at 18 years old, tell us how you navigated those early years together.
We proved the naysayers wrong. I was a very driven person, but I wanted to be with Adam more than I wanted my own goals. I was ready to sacrifice a lot of personal ‘success’ to be with this special person. Adam went to work and I went to school and then we switched. I put my plans on hold until I finished college. I look back and think it was a big sacrifice but it made sense. We were and still are inseparable.
So many doors opened for me because I went all-in with Adam; not because of his connections or any outside factors but because of the simple fact that we were better together. The formula of “us” was more important than just me. Sometimes that creates opportunities that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Now we get to do something together. I am pursuing my passions; I figured out a way to take my success and drive and do that in tandem with him.”
Tell us about your career path and how you ended up where you are today.
We had our two kids close together after we both got our degrees. There were hard moments before the kids were in school that felt a little like I was losing myself but there was never a regret. Once the kids were in school, it was my turn!
I started building on my athletic background, joining a tech startup, called Neurotopia Inc., that centered on wearable devices to monitor athletes. I was heavy into the operations-side of the company — building devices and testing them. I was working with Olympians and Red Bull athletes on elite brain training; I trained Jim Carey at his house in Santa Monica one time as well.
When Adam was taking over for his dad at Weatherby In 2015, I decided to go back to school and get my master’s in Organizational Leadership. Throughout that time when Adam was gaining more leadership in the company he kept asking questions like, ‘can you research things on this for me?’
Adam offered me a job at Weatherby not long after. I was hesitant to work there, I felt like this was finally my chance to do my own thing and chase my own success. But I told him, ‘well if you are really serious you will write up a job description and outline and make it formal.’ I didn’t want to be given a handout, I wanted to make sure I earned my place. And in 2016 I started working at Weatherby as the Marketing Rep for Women of Weatherby, and later as the Director of People & Culture.
You joined Adam on his hunts over the years, but when did you decide to start hunting yourself?
I had gone on dove and turkey hunts with Adam over the years while we were living in Paso Robles, California, but never hunted myself. I would go ‘bird dog’ till my son was born and then I didn’t ‘have to go’ anymore. When I joined their family, Adam’s mom wasn’t super into hunting so it felt like a guy thing; they went hunting, the girls didn’t.
When my son got older, he took to it [hunting] just like his father; he loved studying his hunter’s safety books to pass his test.
Around the same time that I started at Weatherby, my daughter turned 12 and wanted to take her hunter’s safety test too. I signed up to spend time with my daughter so that she didn’t have to do it alone but throughout the course, I realized I also wanted to learn as well. Weatherby, at that time, was in the beginning stages of developing their women’s rifle (the Lady Camilla, named for Adam’s grandmother) and they were asking me to weigh in on this gun.
People assumed I hunted and I just sort of avoided the question for a bit. The competitive side of me said ‘if I am going to do this I am going to be good,’ so I went and did a private rifle course.
I started going to the range 1-2 times a week by myself but I couldn’t handle the recoil for very long. I would bring the Camilla and shoot 5-7 times and then leave. It was about repetition for me, not hours at the range. I knew that on a hunt I’d shoot 1-2 times and I wanted to do that repetitively. As an athletic thinker, I was constantly evaluating how to have the best form and then repeat that.
I never shot off the bench unless I was sighting in my gun. I would do jumping jacks and push-ups and get out of breath and then shoot off of the sticks. This was the way that I became confident. I wouldn’t go with anyone else (Adam included) until I felt like I had a grip on things.
My first hunt was a pig hunt in California. Before I could commit to being a spokesperson for the family and the company I felt like I needed to know if I liked it or not and if I could even do it. I took a Mark 5 gun out and did a simple pig hunt at home.
I was nervous about doing it. I found that I loved the stalk, and I was surprised and interested in how unpredictable hunting is compared to a structured sport. It was so different reacting and responding to the movements of an animal.
My guide got me as close as possible; he knew hunting ethics and getting close to get a good shot was important to me. I didn’t know how I was going to feel taking an animal. I made a good shot, it was deeply emotional for me approaching the animal afterward. It is a perfect circle of life. Why wouldn’t we take this opportunity to experience this and put food on the table? Hunting began to feel like the missing piece in my life.
Four months later I was doing a bear hunt and a women’s safari in Namibia for Weatherby.
The Camilla rifle is what brought me into the world of women’s hunts. I got a crash course in hunting because of that rifle’s roll out. Pig, turkey, bear, whitetail deer, the safaris – all for marketing and testing work.
The original Lady Camilla gives me goosebumps, we [Weatherby] nailed it. It’s an avenue for women to embrace hunting and make it their own.
What does hunting mean to you today?
My favorite part of hunting is cooking. Everytime I take it out of the freezer, people ask what it is and it opens the door for a story. You relive that experience every time you eat that animal and I could see that whole circle. The complete gratitude that comes with knowing where your meat comes from. I love that I was part of being sustainable. Our whole family hunts for our food and I feel great pride in that.
Tell us about your family dynamic in the field.
The Weatherby’s hunt together. If it is one-on-one Adam and our son Connor typically go together; for some reason, it’s still uncool for a teenage son to hunt with Mom. Adam and I hunt together a lot as well. It’s our favorite way to spend time together.
I’ll go a lot with my daughter Dana too. Adam was gone a lot this year so she and I went out together. We got this buck and it took us a long time because we couldn’t get it on the ATV to get it home after we harvested it, so we ended up dragging it back to the barn. And then we struggled to hoist it up because we weren’t quite strong enough. But we got it! And in the end, Dana was like ‘Mom we did this all by ourselves.’ We both felt such a sense of accomplishment that there were no men there.
When a man is there we tend to defer to them especially if they have grown up in it and you are still relatively new. But when you don’t have someone there to rely on and you are calling the shots and deciding what to do, it creates a lot more ownership in your own skill.
What would you tell women who want to get involved in harvesting their own food?
My main messaging to women is that hunting is more approachable than you think. You don’t have to be an expert at it. With the Camilla we put it in our vanguard line, we put it at an affordable price because women aren’t going to buy five guns out of the gate and likely as new hunters aren’t going to spend $5,000 on a rifle. We have to make this easier because the stereotypes tell us it’s hard. How do we make it approachable and easy for women? How do we pass this gift down?
At the Wyoming women’s antelope hunt I brought a woman whose husband had been a big hunter but she never had. I took her out turkey hunting. We sat in the mud and pretended the turkey was coming, you don’t know what to expect unless someone walks you through what to expect. Even if you don’t’ pull the trigger, focus on the experience, the landscape, who you are with. There is a bonus in every aspect of it; even the quiet time we never get as women. When I teach people I am thinking about how to make it approachable- I am not worried about making an expert I am worried about making someone a participant.
How has the move to Wyoming shaped your family and your company?
The hunting journey and how I contribute to Weatherby is tied to how Adam and I are doing this together. When we made the move to Weatherby it was Adam’s dad’s company. When we moved our family and the business to Wyoming, that made it our company. We had that opportunity to take a huge risk. Two years of chaos, recruiting a whole new team and workforce, retelling the Weatherby story in a new context.
It was this fresh start that made it our own. This is our story now. We are doing this together now like we always wanted to. When people look at Weatherby they call it ours not just his. My involvement has grown a great deal, it now covers all the people and the culture of Weatherby. I know whose birthday it is and what is going on in the lives of our team. My passion is seeing this organization flourish. I bring the human side and Adam is gifted at the sales marketing and product development side. I work as an internal barometer and it is a good balance.
A beautiful accomplishment that we achieved together; the legacy we leave is a team effort. We love what we do and we love our family.
I feel like I am living my best life. Your life weaves a lot of different ways and sometimes you think ‘is this ever going to work out?’ And then with hard work and love, it just does.
Make History, Reforge A Legacy