‘Extreme Huntress’ 10th Anniversary competitors were, left to right, Lindsey Christensen, Jackie Gross Guccini, Ulrika Karlson-Arne and Angie Tennison (Photo by Tom Opre, ExtremeHuntress.com).
Go bow hunting with Jackie Gross Guccini of Silt, Colorado, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone more skilled or passionate about the sport — and, more importantly, sharing it with others.
Guccini, the winner of 2012’s Ultimate Extreme Huntress competition, earned a chance to defend her title in 2019, complete with her second hunting trip to Africa. But that’s secondary to her main goal of serving as a role model for others. She’s the founder of websites and Facebook groups Bowkrazy and Hunt Like a Mom, both of which have thousands of followers. And she does everything she can to expose the sport to other women and youth.
A self-professed “lil’ southern country girl from Louisiana,” Guccini, 38, started hunting as a child when her brother would stick her in a blind while duck hunting. “I grew up in the duck blinds of Louisiana picking up shotgun shells after my dad and brother,” she says. “Once I learned how to shoot a shotgun I became hooked. My brother and I would hunt before school and in the evenings. It was the best freedom I could ever experience.
“We were taught at a young age that we have to provide for the family, so after a morning of duck hunting we would clean our waterfowl and my mom would cook them up for duck gumbo,” she adds.
As her love for hunting matured, after college she moved to the Rocky Mountains in 2004 to hunt big game. She picked up a bow in 2007 and fell in love with archery hunting, shortly later meeting and falling in love with her husband, TJ Guccini. With TJ, she’s helped raise two stepdaughters, Brecken, 17, and Ashlynn, 15, as well as their son Chap, 4.
Staying true to her calling, she’s helped instill in them a love for hunting and the outdoors as well.
“Brecken has tagged out a turkey and a mule deer,” she says, “and Ashlynn loves anything and everything to do with hunting and wearing camouflage.” Even at just 4 years old, Chap also loves the outdoors, last year joining Guccini on both elk and turkey hunts.
“They all love the meat and helping harvest it,” Guccini says, adding that they all chip in processing their own game. “At times and it can be a chore but we all have our place in line — including hanging, trimming, making ground meat, wrapping, writing on freezer paper and loading in the freezer.”
A role model for others
All this plays into her love for exposing the sport and its habitat to others. “I am grateful to share with other women and children my journey in the outdoors and how to overcome the bias from others,” she says. “I hope to teach them that it’s okay to try something new and do what your heart tells you — that anyone can have a passion for something they love.”
Guccini started Bowkrazy in 2012 to help other women hunters get started in the sport.
“Years ago women hunters weren’t as accepted as they are today,” she says. “My original intent was to have a go-to place for folks to just read up on things like hunting, fishing, cooking game and just being in the outdoors.”
Hunt Like a Mom came about from people always asking her how she could be a mom and still go hunting? “It was a place for moms to reach out if they had questions on how I juggled my kids and hunting,” she says. “I’ve learned that even when life changes you still have to do what you love. If that’s being in the outdoors then you just need to adjust. Spotting and stalking turkey can be challenging with a little one, but pop-up blinds are pretty helpful to keep the kiddos quiet.”
Throughout all this, the common theme is following your heart. “The most important thing is to be happy in life,” she says. “Staying positive and keeping your confidence and chin up will help you accomplish your dreams. People can do anything they want to — you just have to believe and take that extra step.”
For Guccini, those steps have largely been outside chasing game — while shrugging off any gender stereotypes and getting other females to do the same.
“At first glance I don’t appear to be the average female hunter; my physique is pretty tiny but I have underlying strength that comes from my love of hunting,” she says. “I’m just truly passionate about every moment I get to be in the outdoors. I get a heart-thumping feeling deep down inside of me whenever hunting season arrives. I get overcome with sensations I could never have imagined — especially when I pick up a bow. My teeth chatter with adrenaline, my hands shake and a big smile comes across my face. It’s become an obsession; my whole life revolves around hunting.”
That’s largely what brought her to the hunting hotbed of Northwest Colorado, where her hunting locations depend on where she draws. “I usually hunt Area 33 for turkey, and Areas 21 and 22 for elk,” she says. “I have five points for my mule deer this year for Area 22 but not sure if I will draw. I have no luck for mule deer. It took me five years to draw my previous tag.”
Bear have proved equally elusive. “I’ve hunted bear for eight years but have never been successful,” she says. “I’ve seen them all over but never in my crosshairs.”
Still, filling her tag or not, she wouldn’t trade her hunting time and ability to raise her family in the Centennial State for anything. “I absolutely love hunting in Colorado,” she says. “I enjoy the challenge during archery season when you can hear the coyotes chirping, see the early morning fog moving off of the mountains, and hear bulls screaming. And I love the smell of the mountains when you’re glassing for hours. I just truly love it all.”
It’s this passion that earned Guccini her second trip to Zimbabwe.
The Ultimate Huntress Competition
Now entering its 11th year, the Extreme Huntress competition is designed to preserve hunters’ outdoor heritage and wildlife habitat while creating positive role models for women and children. If mom goes hunting, organizers reason, so will her children, creating even more conservation stewards in the future.
Throughout each year’s contest, which includes a variety of different hunting skills competitions, filmmakers produce episodes that get posted online, where viewers can vote on which Extreme Huntress they think should win. The whole event takes nearly nine months for the contestants to complete.
Guccini won the competition in 2012, capping it with a strong showing at the skills events on her first trip to Africa. “She actually postponed her wedding to go with us that first time,” says the event’s producer and founder Tom Opre. “To win it you have to really stand out and she did.”
Guccini went on to work for the Extreme Huntress competition in subsequent years, helping the finalists each season. Then, to celebrate the event’s 10th anniversary in 2019, Opre changed the format, inviting four previous winners to compete against one another at the coveted FTW Ranch in Texas and again at the DesFountain Safaris preserve in Zimbabwe. En route, he produced 13 film episodes airing online where again viewers could vote for their favorite huntress.
“Women are the fastest growing segment in hunting and after ten years we felt we needed to honor the past winners, all of whom have become great role models and spokespeople for the hunting community,” he says.
Joining Guccini in last year’s competition were past winners Lindsay Christensen, a world champion archer from Idaho; Sweden’s Ulrika Karlsson-Arne; and Montana hunter Angie Tennison.
After competing in various skills contests in the Texas segment, the foursome then headed to Africa. There they “walked miles in the bush” and were judged on a point system on everything from fitness challenges and tracking skills to an all-weather/all-terrain marksmanship course featuring charging cape buffalo targets.
“They are all previous winners, so the competition in every event was razor thin,” says Opre. “Each one can do it all and are as good as any guy hunter out there. They all eat, sleep and breathe the outdoor lifestyle and are great spokespeople and role models for the sport.”
The four women also interacted with local communities by visiting schools and medical clinics; met with wildlife researchers and game managers; embedded in anti-poaching units; and witnessed the wildlife conservation efforts of outfitter DesFountain Safaris, whose Save Valley Conservancy is one of Africa’s largest private reserves at over 750,000 acres.
“It’s not just about the hunt and competition,” adds Opre. “It’s also about the importance of wildlife conservation and preserving sustainable habitat.”
The concept worked. As far as animals, the four competitors saw everything from giraffes and white rhinos to elephants, leopards and lions — leaving a long-lasting impression.
“It’s truly a place that will always be in my heart,” Guccini says, adding the trip also exposed the group to the challenges and devastation caused by poachers. “Despite competing against one another, we all share the same passion for hunting and goal to get more women and children involved in the outdoors.”
During 2012’s contest, Guccini bagged two cape buffalo, a waterbuck, zebra and baboon. This time she shot an eland and a zebra. “But it wasn’t about killing animals,” Opre says. “It was based on how well you hunt. And Jackie did an incredible job and is an excellent hunter.”
Alas, Guccini’s performance wasn’t quite good enough to win her a second spot on the podium. As announced at January’s annual black-tie awards dinner at the Dallas Safari Club, it was previous winner Christensen who took home the contest’s top Ultimate Extreme Huntress honors.
“Each of us had a better skill than the other,” Guccini says. “But while I feel I was the most athletic, competitive and experienced, having hunted the Rockies for so long and in Africa before, it just wasn’t enough to win.”
And she has no regrets about her performance. “Even though I didn’t walk off the stage with the trophy, I know that I gave my all,” she says. “I gave it 100% and then some so I’m satisfied on making it that far.”
And the bigger prize, she adds, is serving as a positive role model for others.
“I’ll always have the drive and passion to help people follow their dreams and accomplish their goals,” she says. “It doesn’t matter where you come from or who you are, you just have to believe in yourself and never give up. Never let someone else stop you from your journey.”
More info: extremehuntress.com
- 2012 Ultimate Extreme Huntress Winner
- 2019 Ultimate Extreme Huntress Finalist
- Steiner Optics USA/IHUNT FIT team member
- 2015 BowChic Womans ProStaff Bowhunter Team Board Member, Ducks Unlimited
HOW THE CONTEST WORKS
- Women from all over the world are invited to post a short video describing why they are an Extreme Huntress.
- Celebrity judges score the entries to determine the top semi-finalists based on weighted criteria (they’re interested in why the women hunt, rather than what size animals they’ve taken).
- Essays are posted on ExtremeHuntress.com with the public invited to vote for their favorite Extreme Huntress, bringing public awareness to women and hunting.
- The top four finalists travel to FTW Ranch in Texas and then Zimbabwe to DesFountain Safaris for a head-to-head competition that tests physical fitness, shooting, tracking and hunting skills. The entire event is filmed.
- Competition episodes are posted on ExtremeHuntress.com, and viewers vote which finalists is their favorite.
- The winner is determined by their score in the outdoors skills competition (30%); hunting competition (60%); and total online votes after the episodes air online (10%).