The first gun Brittney Cliburn ever shot was a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun. She was 5 years old living in her hometown of Wardsville, a tomboy who loved to be outdoors.
“I started fishing when I was 2 years old and as I grew up I loved to hunt small game,” she said. “My dad, Earl Moore, taught me everything I needed to know about firearm safety and he also coached me on target shooting.”
Cliburn, 27, eventually moved on to shooting more powerful firearms and today the petite 5-foot-1 firecracker is an avid deer and turkey hunter along with her husband, Brandon, 26.
“Growing up I was told that hunting is a man’s sport, but my husband has shown me differently and has encouraged and trained me to be an accomplished huntress. I’m proud to be who I am and know that a woman can provide food for her family,” she said.
“On our first date we went fishing and we started hunting together right away. Brandon introduced me to bow hunting, which I was always interested in doing,” she said.
She bought her first compact bow at the Archery Shack in Centertown, which has since closed, but was owned by Brandon’s uncle Samuel Cliburn.
“I bought a PSE Chaos and loved it and then a couple of years later I moved up to a PSE Stiletto and it’s even better. Being a smaller woman, these two bows fit my body perfectly,” she said.
Bow hunting, she said, is a very challenging and rewarding sport. After hit movies like “The Hunger Games” where heroine Katniss, played by Jennifer Lawrence, uses a bow, the sport has become much more popular among young girls and women.
“It’s not a sport that you can just jump into and it takes a lot of practice, hard work and dedication,” she said.
“My husband taught me everything there is to know about shooting a bow,” she said. “There’s practicing, working out and being fit and you have to be accurate, still and scentless,” said Cliburn.
She wears ScentLok hunting apparel to help hide her scent from the wild game.
“There’s also a lot of preparation involved. We put out food plots every year and set up trail cams to capture the wildlife we will be hunting later on in the season,” she said.
The couple live in Russellville and hunt on two family farms, one owned by Brandon’s grandma Judy just down the road from Shirk’s Country Store in Centertown.
During deer hunting season, they set out before first light but this morning the forest couldn’t be lit more beautifully and the cacophony of cicadas fills the quiet.
Brittney takes out her bow and hits the Arrow Red Block Target… one, two, three times in a row. Brandon recently increased her bow to more than her normal 45 pounds of pull, making it heavier and harder for her to accomplish, but she manages and she’s still accurate at 20 yards out.
This year Brandon bought her a monogrammed Savage Muddy Girl .243 Rifle and she’s anxious to use it in the tree stand, where she usually wears a harness to prevent her from falling.
“I have sat in the woods for hundreds of hours to bring meat home and share the harvest,” she said.
They process the meat for jerky, sausage and deer loin, and use it in all of the recipes that normally use ground beef. When in a generous mood, they share their harvest with others, too, fostering the communal aspects of hunting.
“My husband and I enjoy this time together sharing a similar passion. Being out there and listening and watching in the woods is almost like being in church,” she said.
“To provide fresh food to put on the table is a wonderful thing and we’re teaching our children what a great accomplishment that is,” she said.
“Hunting is not just a hobby for me and our family, it’s a way of life.”
About a year ago, Brittney Cliburn began making ammo jewelry and selling it through her company Sugar & Lead.
“I thought it would be very cool for women to show off their love of hunting so I started making huntress jewelry out of shotgun shell casings and I use stamped metal with sayings on them for good luck or motivation,” she said.
She posted her creations on Instagram and soon Taylor Drury, part of the Drury Outdoors family and host of a show on Outdoor Channel, and Allison O’Nan, who is a popular outdoors enthusiast and blogger in Kentucky, purchased a few pieces.
Cliburn’s husband, Brandon, cuts the ends off of her shells, and often she uses those from her clients’ hunting adventures and harvests.
“It’s fun to be able to make jewelry for women who love hunting as much as I do,” she said.