It was April when I reached out to Tara to see if she would be interested in participating in my spotlight post. She had posted on one of the women’s fishing pages about how fishing had saved her life by keeping her active and by giving her some new perspectives in life.
When I reached out to her it was met with nothing but warmth and enthusiasm. Since then, Tara and I chat from time to time. She is just an inspiration. She is a self made fisher, hunter, and trapper on top of crushing her day jobs, yes jobs plural, and an amazing mom.
It is women like this who make me so happy to be a part of the women’s hunting and fishing community. Women who respect the sport, the animals, and most of all women who have the passion. Tara has nothing BUT passion. I hope that in the spring we will be able to get together and do some trout fishing!
Tara, thank you for telling your story. You are truly an amazing and beautiful woman inside and out.
My name is Tara Shannon Cardinal. I am a registered dental hygienist and baker, 49 years old, mother to 2 teenagers and live in the beautiful mountains of Central Virginia, the Blue Ridge…a mountain ridge known for its intense beauty. Growing up,m y father hunted to keep my family fed but back then..when I was small in the early 70’s girls weren’t generally taught to hunt and fish like my brothers were. We knew we were expected to help process and prepare the animal or fish my dad and brothers provided.
When I think back to some of the highlights of my mountain childhood, I am taken to the fireside late at night where the story of the day’s hunt was recounted slowly…methodically with all the details I yearned for as a bored girl child with a vivid imagination of unicorns and dragons in far away places…but…there my hunt ended. I had to stay and do the women’s work of making sure our freezers got amply filled with my daddy’s successful hunts.
But one day…when my father fell ill with cancer and knew his days were numbered. He called me to him and left me one, just ONE of his guns. A Remington 12 gauge shotgun and had me promise that I’d one day take a deer with it and I happily obliged his promise.. Now, I’m sure my brothers were left many guns as his collection was vast…but this shotgun holds the most special place in my life and in my daddy’s memory.
He taught me through his stories, the respect he had for the animal he harvested to feed his family. I have tried to instill these values into my children as well. A tough divorce and world pandemic seemed like a perfect time for some new hobbies for my family so we took to the mountains.
It has been a journey of rediscovery, growth, and change that have forced me to face my fears and manifested some serious positive changes. Both inside and out, physically and mentally. I have lost 50 lbs over the last year and have more clarity and resolve than I’ve ever known possible. While I lost that weight, I was gaining knowledge and confidence but not without plenty of failures along the way.
I started by teaching myself to fish for mountain trout, coming home many days without a fish, but with the will to go back and try again through cold rain and even snow some days. Then one special day I caught my first rainbow trout and I thanked God AND the fish for not giving up on me. Like a moth to the flame I fell in love with all things fishing, hunting, and trapping and the circle of life now made the most sense ever.
I have encountered a few men that didn’t understand my desire to step outside of the box. That maybe felt my yearning to learn as some sort of threat to them in some way; but honestly, the positive men that lift me up and celebrate my victories outweigh my naysayers by the boatload. No pun intended.
Like the elusive trout or turkey that evaded me with said 12 gauge all spring, I realize my spirit is strong and finds comfort in talking with God while I fish and hunt, always thanking Him for all the beauty around me. There is nothing more life changing than having to depend on yourself only to go on these hunting and fishing adventures alone, using your senses, knowledge and intuition to successfully bring you home.
I would say to a new hunter and fisherman, find your tribe. Listen, read, put in the work it takes to get the experiences that teach us and that awaken what should come naturally if we can quiet the world and simply listen.