They are young girls with big hearts. Meet the McCrea family’s daughters, featured at the website surrounding the family’s philosophy of life, “Country Girls Outdoors.” Remington Outdoor Company’s Public Affairs and PR person, Jessica Kallam, met Tori McCrea and her daughters – Kylie, Caitlin and Taryn – at the National Rifle Association’s Annual Meetings in Atlanta last May. After finding out more about Country Girls Outdoors, Jessica recommended that we, Women’s Outdoor News, find out more about this family and their aspirations to get more people, particularly women and children, involved in the tradition of hunting and other outdoor activities.
The McCreas call Fairview, Tenn., home. Eric McCrea had worked as a big game hunting guide, so it was natural that after he and Tori married, he introduced her to hunting and when the children came along, they went, too. “We raised them in the outdoors and took them along in our blinds,” said Tori. We put the viewfinder down on the ground so they could see what we were seeing out of the blind.”
At 3, each girl learned how to shoot a Cricket, .22-caliber rifle. By 5, they were shooting 20-gauge shotguns at large game, such as turkeys and bucks. The girls have also learned how to field dress and butcher the game they tag. The girls are now AGES, and help their mother run a concession stand in the summer. “The business teaches them responsibility and they make a little money, too,” said Tori.
In 2012, Tori and Eric decided they wanted to share their lifestyle with others, as inspiration and possibly, guidance. They started attending trade shows, and set up their business through a website. While at the National Wild Turkey Federation convention in Nashville last February, a 15-year-old named Megan Vess appeared at their booth – interested in talking to the girls about hunting. The McCreas’ booth sold tee-shirts and other items, designed by their daughters (ages 12, 10 and 8) and focused on appealing to the younger generation.
Megan lives in North Carolina, but since she has Stage IV glioblastoma (a tumor in her brain) she was at the St. Jude’s Hospital in Nashville to receive radiation treatments. Megan has been fighting cancer since she was 10 and diagnosed with leukemia. Megan and Kylie started talking about hunting, and Kylie mentioned that she would attempting to get her 4th Grand Slam on turkeys in the spring. Kylie told her mom, “Mom, I really want to help her get this Grand Slam.”
That’s all it took. The McCreas invited Megan and her family to join them on their journey throughout the US’s finest turkey hunting states. Some trips, Megan’s whole family accompanied them, and for other trips, it would only be a parent. The adventure started in Florida in March, where the girls tagged out on an Osceola turkey each. They then went to Tennessee for Eastern turkeys and to Nebraska for Merriam’s turkeys – where they continued to tick the birds off the list. They finished the successful streak in Texas for Rios in May.
The entire experience went from March 21 to May 14. “Our goal was to get it done quickly,” said Tori.
Megan is not new to turkey hunting. She’s been hunting turkeys in North Carolina since she was 10 years old, which is one reason she felt ready to try for a Grand Slam. Looking back, it’s difficult for her to choose one hunt as her favorite. They all were different, fun and successful. Perhaps the one that came down to the wire is the one she’ll remember first, though. When in Texas, hunting for Rios, she recalled how it was down to the last hour on the last day of the hunt. The flight home was in 2 hours. “We drove around, hoping to spot one,” said Megan. We found 3 jakes and a tom, and I made a 60-yard shot on him – through a fence.” Then again, she really loved the Florida experience as well, “I mean, you had the hunt and the beach.”
Her paw paw takes the turkey fans and creates interesting and attractive displays. He wills feature the Grand Slam display on the 4 corners of a picture frame, in the shape of a diamond. “Each point will hold a fan, and I can put photos from the trip inside the frame,” said Megan.
Amber Vess, Megan’s mom, said that the run-up and planning to the hunts seemed almost as exciting to her daughter as the hunts themselves. “It was a great experience for her, and it was something she wanted to do,” said Amber.
Megan shot her reliable Remington 870, in 20 gauge. She is hoping to meet Kylie in Kentucky in the near future for another hunt on the family’s lease. And, she also would love to bowfish for a stingray.
Thanks to the following outfitters, the girls reached their goals and accomplished something that many turkey hunters can only imagine.
Florida – Altair Training Solutions, Michelle Jones
Tennessee – Five Star Retreat, Jimmy Sites
Nebraska – Northstar Trophy Outfitters, Greg Fine
Texas – Jay Dickens family
Eric set up a GoFundMe page for Megan, so that she can continue to hunt and fish. Megan would like to bowfish for stingrays in the Florida Keyes.
Megan and Kylie keep in touch via social media and phone conversations. The McCreas hope to expand their abilities to take more women and children hunting, especially children from St. Judes . You can visit with the family at the World Deer Expo in Birmingham, Ala., from July 21 to 23.
Publisher/Editor Barbara Baird is a freelance writer in hunting, shooting and outdoor markets. She is a contributing editor at "SHOT Business," and her bylines are found at several top hunting and shooting publications. She also is a travel writer, and you can follow her at ozarkian.com. View all posts by Barbara Baird