Montana women compete for Extreme Huntress title

2014-05-29T06:45:00Z 2014-07-27T15:51:27Z Montana women compete for Extreme Huntress titleBy STEPHEN YOUMANS for the Missoulian

Ashley Westphal harvested her first mountain lion early in 2012. It was an exhausting hunt that went against her doctor’s advice.

Her son had been born via caesarean section just two weeks prior.

Westphal, 30, along with Amanda Morgan, are finalists in the 2015 Extreme Huntress competition, the only two from Montana. Extreme Huntress is a contest that seeks the best women hunters from around the world, and is meant to inspire more women to hunt and pass their passion to following generations.

A nurse practitioner from Philipsburg, Westphal has been hunting for 12 years.

“My dad took me hunting when I was a girl,” Westphal said. “But he is not an avid hunter. He taught us gun safety.” Her husband Cody, she said, helped her become the hunter she is today.

“My husband is the reason I know how to hunt,” Westphal said. “He showed me how to be a responsible hunter.”

Hunting is a family affair, she said, and is how they like to spend their free time. Their wedding was even subject to their hunting plans.

“There was no way I could have a late-summer wedding,” Westphal said. “It would have interfered with bow season.” So they got married in May, which, as it happened, was not much better.

“I didn’t realize a spring wedding would interfere with bear season,” she said.

Westphal’s son has not been left out of their hunting, and was with her the day she took her mountain lion.

“My son has been on virtually every hunt with me since that time,” Westphal said. “In the end the experience was special because he was there.”

Amanda Morgan, 26, shares Westphal’s passion for hunting. Originally from Alberton, Morgan now lives in Clancy, and has been immersed in hunting her entire life.

“I started when I was real young,” Morgan said. “Dad got me shooting a BB gun when I was 5 years old.”

Morgan’s interest in hunting took off while she was working at Sportsman’s Warehouse in Missoula during high school, she said, and has grown to encompass almost all aspects of the sport, including trapping with her husband, Chris.

She has also developed an interest in bowhunting over the past couple of years, Morgan said, and teaches bowhunter safety in Helena. She also volunteers with the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ Montana WILD archery program.

“I basically put a bow in a young kid’s hands and teach them to shoot it properly,” Morgan said.

According to Morgan, the Extreme Huntress competition plays an important role in spreading awareness of the hunting lifestyle.

“It’s a great reason to get women and their kids out there,” she said. “It’s showing the heritage and passing that heritage along.”

The preservation of the hunting heritage is the main reason for the competition, said Tom Opre, owner of Tahoe Films Ltd. in Kalispell, the company behind Extreme Huntress.

“Women are the fastest-growing segment in hunting right now,” Opre said. “If you get women out there hunting, the kids are going to go, too.”

Women from around the world can enter the Extreme Huntress competition, Opre said, and this year there are contestants from as far away as South Africa and Australia. Out of the 20 semifinalists, of whom Westphal and Morgan are included, six will be invited to the 777 Ranch in Hondo, Texas, where the 2015 Extreme Huntress will be determined.

Once on the ranch, Opre said, the final six will compete in head-to-head challenges that will be filmed and posted online. These challenges will include hunting exotic animals like black deer, gazelles and oryx, along with skill competitions like long-range shooting and biathlon.

The winner will be chosen by a combination of head-to-head challenge results, online voting and on-site judging, Opre said. The judges will be Opre’s wife Olivia, winner of Safari Club International’s Diana Award, and outdoor television personalities Larry Weishuhn and Jim Zumbo.

The winner will be revealed at the Dallas Safari Club’s annual convention, Opre said.

Westphal and Morgan are not the first Montana women to make it to the semifinals, Opre said. Angie Haas-Tennison of the Flathead Valley won in 2011.

Read essays posted by each semifinalist, and vote for your favorite contestant at Voting ends Sunday.

Stephen Youmans is a journalism student at the University of Montana and an intern in the Missoulian newsroom.

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(21) Comments

  1. Onewickeddragon
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    Onewickeddragon - July 15, 2014 10:46 am
    You people are pathetic. This animal was killed more humanly than any of the processed meat you eat. Its people like you that blindly support the lifetime torture of animals that end up in the slaughter house, so that you can feel good about not hunting. No blood on your hands right?
  2. 2buck2
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    2buck2 - June 03, 2014 4:42 pm
    I guess what bothers me more is the one woman risked her own well-being (thus the well-being of her newborn child) over a hunt. And I remember reading about a candidate from last years huntress competition who when bear hunting at 8 months pregnant and ended up having to drag the bear she shot up a hill. Why does it seem that this hunting competition has several accounts of women endangering their children in order to prove themselves a competitor? I would say those are maternal fails. I would die for my child, not for a lion.
  3. RobertR
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    RobertR - May 31, 2014 8:24 am
    You Gadflee types need to wake up and have a reality check to see where consumables come from and renewable resources.
    This competition is not just about killing an animal or how many. It's about character and a life style that some don't want to understand. These women have a better understanding of the environment than most that have made negative comments. These women live in the real world not mambi pambi land as most of you critics.
  4. raptor53
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    raptor53 - May 31, 2014 5:42 am
    just because somebody else does the killing for you at point blank range in a slaughter house doesn't make you a superior being. your meat might come in a neat little Styrofoam package and that leather belt from a display rack. Oh, how civilized you are and you can now judge others and be disgusted? but its OK for you to live in a subdivision on winter range and fill your hybrid with the fuel we acquire by destroying the planet . Go watch another Disney movie on what you want to believe about wildlife and hug your bunny .
  5. BJackson
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    BJackson - May 30, 2014 10:10 pm
    What are you talking about Jacks? I know a lot of people who sit down to Mt. Lion dinners all the time, We had Mt. Lion for dinner Yesterday, cooked on the BBQ, marinated in a nice BBQ sauce, it was quite tasty, you anti's really need to learn about what you are talking about.
  6. Sassdog
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    Sassdog - May 30, 2014 10:06 pm
    All you modern day Liberals act like you are from California. If you don’t like mountain lion hunting, move to California where mountain lion hunting has been banned since the mid 1990’s and now you see young mountain lions on peoples roof tops searching for dogs to eat in back yards of houses because they have already thinned out the deer herd to almost being non-existent and have nothing left to eat. Liberalism is clearly a mental disorder!
  7. Sassdog
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    Sassdog - May 30, 2014 10:01 pm
    Have you been smoking the Maryjane…….
  8. Bittersweet
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    Bittersweet - May 30, 2014 7:58 pm
    Not a fan of these competitions, record books or so called big buck contests. Take only animals you yourself are happy with for whatever reason, weather it be filling your freezer or achieving a personal goal. Hunting shouldn't be like football. Have some respect.
  9. reloader212
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    reloader212 - May 30, 2014 3:18 pm
    I am a hunter (for food only), and this makes me sick. I don't have stuffed kills all over my house, because this is not the 1800's and we have advanced, and don't need animals for hides.
    I love animals and nature and these two make me want to puke. Sport hunting for competition, treating animals like matter. Like they have no other purpose but to be your target. Their is Universal law (Karma) and it will come full circle. This is not the way to treat other living things, killing for your pleasure, what a great "sport.
  10. JacksUsername
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    JacksUsername - May 30, 2014 12:01 pm
    'Harvest' a lion? Who are you trying to fool. Shooting is shooting. Killing is killing. And by definition 'harvesting' is something humans consume. Unless you want anyone to believe this girl is going to sit down at the dinner table and eat the meat from this mountain lion don't try and dumb down and manipulate words to soften the sting of something as idiotic as killing a mountain lion.
  11. BJackson
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    BJackson - May 30, 2014 8:17 am
    The term Harvest is quite often used when a big game animal is killed, if you don't like then start a campaign to change things, but harvest has been used since before there were game departments. A Mountain Lion is a big game animal regulated by the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Dept.
  12. RobertR
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    RobertR - May 30, 2014 7:19 am
    Those that want to criticize hunting and belittle these women need to grow up? These women put more passion into their daily lives than all of you trying to save the world one law suit and bitching about something that none of you will never understand. These women are not out there to just kill an animal, "wake up? As hunters we put more dollars into managing wildlife and habitat on a daily basis. Bring on all your belly aching save the world mentality!
  13. BWO
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    BWO - May 30, 2014 6:47 am
    Shameful disrespect for God's creatures. If "the hunt" is so important, then track the animal, take a picture and get out. There is no glory in such thing as a fair hunt when one of the adversaries is armed!
  14. Libertarian86
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    Libertarian86 - May 29, 2014 8:13 pm
    Since when were mountain lions a thing to be "harvested?" Maybe we should start harvesting humans- starting with humans who "harvest" mountain lions.
  15. Libertarian86
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    Libertarian86 - May 29, 2014 7:54 pm
    To me, those animals are worth far more than brain dead "hunters" who think shooting a beautiful, feeling animal is a competition. Catching a fish or shooting a deer for FOOD, with respect, is one thing. Shooting or trapping a lion or a lynx for "sport" is completely different. The saddest part is that these people don't even seem to know how sick their behavior is. Tragic.
  16. Bob cat
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    Bob cat - May 29, 2014 5:23 pm
    Pulling the trigger is never much of a accomplishment, almost anyone can, hunting is about getting to the point where you can pull the trigger. It's not hard to shoot a deer or elk that's 20 yards away either.
    I don't know about the hunting you do Roger but hunting almost always is a competition prey VS predator at the very least.
  17. Smilely
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    Smilely - May 29, 2014 4:41 pm
    A couple of sick individuals getting their jollies by killing such magnificent living beings that on a leveled playing field would have shredded these two women in a matter of moments if they knew they were fighting for their lives.
  18. citizenjane
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    citizenjane - May 29, 2014 4:23 pm
    I find this sickening. Sport hunting is a despicable activity. How anyone could take pride in the random killing of animals is unbelievable to me.
  19. Gadfly
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    Gadfly - May 29, 2014 3:52 pm
    There is no glory in shooting a treed lion, or any other animal. It is just killing, slaughter of a wild critter for a false sense of self-esteem. It is not a wholesome family activity, beauty or child or adolescent or paternal figure. It is not a skilled activity. It is a perpetuation of a time gone, of subsistence hunting. Now it is just blood sport, but not really sport, just glorified Elmer Fudd Nimrod hunter or huntress. She is not a hunter/huntress, just a shooter, and anyone can point a gun and pull a trigger. The war on wildlife by Jeremiah Johnson Wannabees is additive to animal ecology destruction, not good for wildlife or the wildlife killers.
  20. BJackson
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    BJackson - May 29, 2014 1:44 pm
    Roger, there is a lot more than just shooting it out of a tree, have you ever hunted lions? if not, you have no idea of what you go through to actually get in the position to harvest a lion, it is not an easy hunt.
  21. Roger
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    Roger - May 29, 2014 11:50 am
    That must have been quite an accomplishment - shooting a mountain lion out of a tree. I don't believe hunting should be a competition - kind of cheapens the activity.
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