Claudette Chorney is the “Grandma Who Guides.” A full-time houndswoman, mountain lion and bear guide in Canada, she believes in honoring her heritage and empowering women through hunting.
I grew up being very shy about my identity as a Metis First Nation woman.
It was a time when there was a lot of racism going on. As I got older, I learned to be more confident and assertive. There were a lot of First Nation women who wanted to learn how to hunt and to provide for their families. My dad and brother took me hunting with them quite often, and I learned as much as I could. I worked in the school systems as a Native liaison, and I made a point to stay in contact with several of the students I taught. They look up to me as a role model. They call me kokom, which means “grandma” in Cree. I’m proud of who I’ve become, because I wanted to walk a straight path and lead by example for First Nation women, and all women. It’s a way of life for us, something that I want to pass on to my granddaughters.
Sharing this life, this passion with my husband—it’s a wonderful life.
We both had the same dream of becoming outfitters, and the same passion for hounds. When we started chasing mountain lions with the dogs, it lit such a spark in us. A lot of the other hunting that we did for elk, moose and deer got put on the back burner. Running an outfitting business centered on hounds is constant, hard work. We are a team. There is no off-season; we must maintain our dogs every single day. We have this incredible bloodline called the Light Foot English Coonhounds. Our dogs’ lineage can be traced back more than 80 years. The dogs always come first; without them we wouldn’t be out there hunting. Hunting without them would be like hunting without a gun.
The grizzly bear season might be ending for us here in British Columbia.
It’s a huge disappointment for so many of us houndsmen. Our government has changed. The anti-hunters are really against what we do; they consider us just trophy hunters. We keep everything, we use everything. As a First Nation woman, I grew up learning to respect the land and the animals. If we’re doing a spring hunt, I like to take a moment to teach our hunters about what Mother Earth can provide them. It’s a holistic approach to living on the land. We don’t take more than what we need. Hopefully we’ll get the chance to get a grizzly for ourselves. The season doesn’t close until November this year, so we’ll see if we can get up there and get one for ourselves. It’s our last chance, unless we go to a different country.
We have 42 research collars out on the cougars in this area.
We work for the Alberta government, trapping and helping with the study of the cats. This season we’re going to put another 20 collars out on entire families. The tracking collars give the biologists valuable information about how the animals travel and helps them figure out what might be affecting them. For those who might be wondering, we don’t have that locator information during hunting season; the government shuts that off to ensure all hunts are fair-chase. The research is so interesting to us, and has taken our passion for cats to a higher level. It is not just about the trophy, it’s about learning what that animal is all about. We become one with the cats. It’s a passion that keeps growing.
Be a friend to another woman. Don’t pick each other apart.
Women need to support other women. We can’t be mean to one another; there’s plenty of people lining up to do that to us already. Take some women out hunting. Talk about the gear you’ll need, and train together—get strong and work on your health together. It’s hard work. You’re going get dirty—it’s not a fashion show! I only post my best pictures on Facebook; maybe you do, too. However, when I’m out in the field I’m no glamour girl, I’ll tell you that much!
OK… I love pink camo!
It started with my granddaughter; it caught her eye, and I kind of liked it, too. A lot of women think it’s only for girly girls. It’s not! I have a pink knife collection, too. There’s nothing wrong with being a woman and being pretty out there in the woods, because it can get ugly out there. There’s blood, there’s guts, there’s animals coming after you. My legs are covered in bruises and cuts. Nowhere does it say you can’t get your nails done. At the end of the day, wear what makes you feel happy. Just make sure you’re warm.
Want to become a guide? Do it. Do it before you’re 50!
Go out and give it your best—don’t let anybody stop you. I did not start out as a guide in our outfit; I was chief cook and dog handler, and I also booked a lot of our clients. There are so many different places to look for information. Read and learn, and ask all kinds of questions. No question is a silly question, not in the hunting world. I wanted to prove that women can be out there hunting and guiding because we like it. It’s not just a man’s world, it’s our world too. I can’t imagine doing anything else for a living. I enjoy people—I enjoy laughter and long talks with my clients. I’m genuinely interested in them. I’m not just out there for the money, I’m out there because it’s a genuine passion. I want to give my clients the best animal and the best experience possible.
.30/06 for bear or mountain lion. I shoot a 7mm/08 since I’ve had this arthritis; it’s a lot more comfortable. I shot a cougar with it last year. I recommend it for young girls and women; it’s not going to break their shoulder and discourage them right away. You don’t want an unnecessarily heavy rifle on your pack: You never know how long or how far you’re going to be hiking.
To book a hunt contact Big Cat Adventures
Read about other female guides here.
Courtney Nicolson is an outdoor writer, hunter, and angler based in Denver, Colo. She is an active member of numerous conservation groups and is passionate about empowering women in the outdoors. Courtney is the senior producer/editor for Outdoor Sportsman Group Networks. View all posts by Courtney Nicolson