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MORRISVILLE- Carmel Lehr was getting her boots muddy way back in the woods long before the current women’s movement in the outdoor industry started to gain a firm foothold.
This all around outdoorswoman has traveled all across the country and Canada to hunt. She’s seen glorious Mid-West mornings and climbed treacherous Canadian terrain. She’s hunted caribou, moose, whitetail deer, bear, turkey, and so much more. She’s dabbled in fur trapping. She’s become a proficient salmon angler. She’s had experiences some only dream of, and she’s worked hard for it every step of the way.
Growing up just outside of Peterboro on a dairy farm, she hunt, fished, and worked the farm with her brothers and dad. She remembers trudging through snow a foot deep, tugging on the back of her dad’s shirt telling him to take shorter steps so she could keep up with him. She also remembers catching trout with him, and always catching her limit.
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After she married her husband Jim, they immersed themselves in hunting and fishing. They have shared some epic adventures. Last autumn they went to Newfoundland for a moose hunt. She got a six point moose on the very first morning.
“Our camp was on the edge of the lake,” she said. “We went across and got out and climbed up the hill. It was really tough walking. You’ll hear water running but you’re on rock or grass, and you look down and there is an opening in the ground a foot deep with a full stream of water right down there.”
The mountains also had old caribou trails that looked shallow but were deep and muddy, making the hiking complicated.
“At the peak of the hill we walked around, overlooking the valley,” Lehr said. Her guide pointed the moose out across the valley. Lehr set the tripod up and squinted to see the moose. The guide called and the moose came closer and she finally saw him. “The guide said, ‘don’t shoot until I tell you.’ So I waited and waited, and the guide said, ‘okay you can shoot now.’ But I only wanted to shoot two hundred yards, so I waited. The moose came closer until he was at fifty yards. He walked behind a bunch of bushes and was raking his horns. He finally came out into the open and I shot. The guide said ‘he’s hit! He’s hit! It was raining this whole time. After I shot, the rain quit and the blackflies came out.”
They had hunted moose before in three different places and went home empty-handed. This trip was completely different because not only did Carmel shoot a moose, that same trip, on the third day mid-morning, her husband Jim shot a twelve point.
“It was awesome,” Lehr said. “I was beyond ecstatic.”
Lehr especially enjoyed being able to be there while her husband shot his moose.
“We were up on a stone ledge watching across the valley,” she said. “It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen when that bull moose lifted his head out of the thick evergreens.”
Lehr likes to stay busy. She spends many hours shooting her bow and competing in archery shoots across the state. She also stays very active, so that she can stay in shape to keep hunting and shooting bow. She retired last year, and in that year she’s cut, split, and stacked one hundred cord of firewood. She also scores for the NYS Big Buck Club.
“I try to shoot bow every day,” she said. “I go in with the attitude to just shoot the best I can.”
Lehr originally became interested in shooting bow when her husband came home from a busy morning in the forest. He told her he had seen five “shooter” bucks. She decided then that she wanted to bow hunt to be able to hunt early in the season. She became proficient with her bow and that led her to compete in 3D archery shoots. She continues to compete in a variety of competitions.
Some of her goals are to elk hunt in Colorado, to do a bow hog hunt, and to take a hunting trip to Alaska. When she’s not traveling, she hunts on her 200 acre homestead.
Over the many years she has been hunting and fishing, Lehr said she has seen the attitude towards women in the outdoors evolve. She has encountered some hostility, she has carried on despite it.
Early in their marriage, she and Jim would take trips to Pulaski with a friend and her husband to fish for salmon. She said at that time, she did not have the proper equipment, but she didn’t let that stop her.
“We were the only two women on that river and we were looked down upon badly,” she said. “Now there are women all over the river. I kind of hope that in some minuscule way that maybe I’ve helped pave the way for other women so that they don’t get treated like that.”