I'm a 19-year-old, born and raised in a small rural farming community in Northern Ontario, Canada. I love the outdoors: hunting, shooting and fishing is a way of life for me. Northern Ontario is truly blessed. Wild game to hunt and fish; clean, clear freshwater lakes and rivers to boat, canoe and swim in; ice fishing in the wintertime, and endless hunting opportunities to enjoy with family and friends. I come from a family that has enjoyed these activities for generations, so I guess it's in my genes.
I want to share a couple of my best outdoor memories that I often think of. One was when I caught my first big largemouth bass on my little Scooby-Doo rod & reel kit my grandpa bought for me when I was just a small fry of four. I remember fighting that fish with everything I had, my dad laughing ‘til his guts hurt, but I never gave up. It was everything I could do, just to hold on to the rod, let a lone reel it in! I literally had no fight left in me by the time we landed it. I have picture proof of me with my Dora the Explorer sun hat on, my Scooby-Doo rod in one hand and a largemouth that I could hardly hold for my first fish picture in the other!
I shot my first hunting rifle before I was 12 years old and was my dad’s wing girl, sitting in a tree stand, freezing during the late November deer season, but I loved every minute of it. Another great memory is sitting with my dad in a corn field, watching the sun come up on the horizon, shinning over our decoys while goose hunting. It was so peaceful and quiet. Then, off in the distance, I could hear the faint cackle of geese getting louder and louder as they starting to fly our way.
Hunting and fishing to me is about quality time and memories with family and friends and the stories at camp. What goes on at hunt or fish camp stays at camp – Number 1 rule of hunt or fish camp! As well, the fresh game we take is a great nutritious and delicious food source with no GMOs. It hasn’t been injected with steroids or other chemicals. It's no wonder why I love to promote these sports so much!
I've been an active member within 4-H over the past 10+ years. I gained a lot of leadership and motivation skills to assist with achieving my goals. I enjoy volunteering within the community. Helping with many clubs and events is always fun, helping out at the Massey Agricultural Fall Fair with various events, working countless hours helping organize Safari Club events and banquets and assisting with the Sables Canada AYA (Angler & Young Angler) fishing tournaments. These all help grow and share my passion for hunting and fishing within our community through knowledge, accountability and awareness.
My love of farm animals has grown via riding, feeding and grooming horses. Currently I'm pleased to work as a farm-hand on a dairy farm for Emiry Farms. My biggest joy as a farm-hand is nursing baby calves. At a dairy farm, there are always lots of calves to look after. My daily chore duties include help with milking, disinfecting and hooking up the machines, nursing calves, cleaning stalls, feeding and much more.
I've been around dairy cows for more than eight years. I enjoy showing cattle. I give show cow lessons and help youth learn how to show their cattle. I teach them how to walk, groom and how to properly take care of them for showmanship and confirmation contests.
I also work a concurrent job with Ontario Parks at Chutes Provincial Park, located in Massey. There I have the opportunity to meet and welcome guests into the park from all over. It’s exciting to learn how far people have traveled to see our park. They all say that it's one of the prettiest parks, with the most beautiful waterfalls.
I'm currently attending Cambrian College, in my second year of graphic design where my program is ranked one of the highest for Registered Graphic Designers in Ontario and all of Canada and highly respected around the world. I have classmates from around the globe and was a “featured artist” at the Massey and Area Museum Art Show. I have had artworks hanging in the Sudbury Art Gallery for the last two years.
Then my life took an unexpected turn, I was asked to take part in the Miss Northern Ontario Pageant, a qualifier for the World pageant. I thought to myself that I wasn’t a girl suited for a pageant. I'm an outdoors girl with calluses on my hands and not scared of physical work and dirt. I wear cowboy boots, steel-toed work boots, blue jeans, hat and carrying a pocket knife on a daily basis. The other thing on my mind was my passion for hunting, fishing and shooting.
So, what was my message going to be? I knew in my heart what my true passions where, so if I'm gonna do this, what would be my message? I do a lot of community involvement with young women and youth, promoting education in hunting, fishing and shooting sports. As I contemplated some more, I realized that this could be a good opportunity to promote what I thought was important to me. My decision was made and my message was clear. I'm going to send a message to all about the benefits of women utilizing sustainable hunting and fishing. With the benefits of an all-natural, renewable food source to feed their families, I knew that with this message and wording things just right, I could pull this off on stage.
Other pageant contestants generally go with the usual themed messages: mental health, saving the environment, feeding the hungry, world peace and on and on. My message was far from the mainstream on the pageant circuit. To me, a lot of what the other contestants were talking about could be bettered in the world if they only realized the benefits of my way of life. Sustainable, well-managed hunting and fishing practices that provide a nutritional food source -- that could assist with all these global problems.
So, with this in mind, I accepted the challenge. I accepted to be Miss Sables-Spanish Rivers in the Miss Northern Ontario Pageant. It was a true honor to represent my little rural community of Sables-Spanish Rivers this year at the Miss North Ontario Pageant.
After becoming Miss Sables-Spanish River, I had to promote myself as being a contestant and an ambassador in the pageant. As an ambassador I felt I had a good cause. I went to work fundraising and promoting. I raised critical funds to donate to the NOFCC (Northern Ontario Families with Cancer). At the same time, I promoted my message of youth and women's hunting, fishing and shooting sports.
I did bake sales and a garage sale for fundraising. I helped in a Range Day for women, which was a great confidence-building opportunity for women who never held a gun before that day. Range Day introduces and educates women to the shooting sports. They experienced and learned how to hold, handle and fire various types of firearms – rifles, as well as shotguns for skeet and trap shooting, hand guns, modern style rifles (MSR) and archery.
The hope is that they can become comfortable and enjoy shooting guns and then expand on this experience to get their gun and hunting certification. They then can pass this along to their kids, family and friends. Range Day gives the ladies a full day to experience and enjoy friendships and sportsmanship through mentoring.
We ended the day with prizes and a great fish dinner (walleye) with fresh cut fries, sponsored by SCI North Eastern Ontario Chapter. Being an advocate for women's hunting, fishing and shooting sports has made me a lot of new friends, and with it I have overcome many challenges. I came from a family that has enjoyed the culture of hunting and fishing over many generations, so I guess it's in me to fight for our heritage and way of life.
The pageant event took place in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada over three days of long, hard work. We started May 9 with rehearsals and pre-judging, ending late that night. We had speech rehearsals, walking in high heels rehearsals, gown changing and fitting rehearsals, runway walking rehearsals, fashion show rehearsals, talent show rehearsals, fitness rehearsals. Then on May 10 and 11, we had more rehearsals, hair and makeup artist working on us for pictures and the main competitions over each night for the Crown. These were long, long hours with little sleep and with little to eat, especially for an outdoors girl like myself (kept asking myself where's the beef?).
The pageant was an experience all on its own. It takes hard work and dedication to achieve the goals. From the talent show to evening gown competitions, we worked together, all trying to succeed as a whole. To me, it wasn't important if I won or lost, but what we could take from the experience. It's what we gain from it and what we promote for our cause that is important.
And I think my cause of promoting women's sustainable hunting and fishing was key. The talk these days is about global warming and mental illness issues. If they only would take the time to think of the natural food sources we have without altering of any lands or waterways in anyway, and if managed correctly we can feed so many without harmful byproducts.
In the end I was crowned Miss Global Community and was offered a spot at the Worlds!
It was an honor for me, but I refused the offer to go the next step at this time. I needed to focus on my work and school, which is most important to me at this time. I competed against 42 beautiful ladies, all striving to do their best and take home the Crown of Miss Northern Ontario and move to the Worlds in Toronto.
These ladies are so talented. My talent for the talent show was turkey, goose, duck and deer calling; which to me sounded awesome, but I have to admit it didn't compete with some of the great talent of the others. So my message for women's hunting and fishing for a nutritional food source was not mainstream. But it was pretty well accepted after it was explained in my speech. I was the only one who had woops and cheers from a couple of guys in the crowd (and I know it wasn't my dad, as I was looking at straight at him). That in itself was a great feeling.
So, reflecting back on it now, I truly think we (SCI and SCIF Sables) need to promote more ladies telling our passion of hunting and fishing in pageants and other forms of media across the globe. With being a part of the pageant, my message, pictures and sponsors where printed in a pageant glamor magazine. Now the sponsor logos of SCI North Eastern Ontario Chapter, SCIF Sables, Fish Fish Bang Bang Outdoor Store and others are now across the country.
Hunting and fishing for game is a delicious and nutritional renewable food resource to feed families. Healthy living means eating well with no byproducts, GMOs, steroids or other chemical injections in our food. If expressed in the right manner, we can reach a new demographic of people.
I thank everyone who supported me throughout SCI and SCIF Sables on this fabulous journey. I will cherish it for the rest of my life.--Montana Brandow