As summer morphs into fall Kayla Bell starts to get antsy. At first glance she appears to be a typical young girl. A seventh grader at Maconaquah School she does well with academics. The 12 year-old is also a cheerleader who can be seen rooting for her school’s athletic teams.
When not encouraging fellow athletes she individually participates in track and cross country. When not involved with school activities, she hunts, and is darn good at it, accomplishing what most only dream of. She defies the typical image of a hunter.
In the last five years she has taken seven deer, whitetail in Indiana and mule deer in western states. “I’ve also taken two wild boars and too many squirrels to even count,” she added. Her biggest buck, a beautiful eight-pointer came on this year’s Thanksgiving morning.
In the beginning, at the age of four, she would accompany her father, Lance, on hunting trips. The pair would sit in a ground blind. “I used to fall asleep,” she said smiling. “Then after a few years I began to really get into it and would pay attention to everything going on in the woods.”
Kayla collected her first deer at age 7 with her 44 mag. rifle. She hasn’t looked back since. It’s become common practice for her to change from her cheerleading uniform to camouflage clothing, trading pom-poms for powder propelled projectiles.
Her parents wholeheartedly support her passion for hunting. “I think it’s great,” said her mother Robyn. “I believe it makes her a more rounded person and the experiences she has encountered only adds to the enrichment of her life.” Although Robyn does not accompany her husband and daughter in the woods she does provide an important support system for her family. “I help with all the processing and book out of state hunts for them,” she added with a laugh. “That’s my role.”
Together the Bell’s have five children with two still living at home. “I have a son who likes to hunt and our other daughter loves to take outdoor pictures but none of them have become totally enamored with hunting like Kayla has,” said Lance.
The family totally immerses themselves in the hunting tradition. “We eat wild game every day and I love it,” Kayla explained. “I love venison and sausage made from wild hogs but my favorite is probably moose jerky my mom makes and of course, squirrel.”
Processing wild game is a family affair. Instead of taking big game to processors the animals are properly cleaned, prepped and packaged in a shop in their garage. “Kayla has skinned animals and gets right in there to help,” Lance added proudly. “There is nothing that she won’t do.”
When asked what others thought about her passion for hunting, especially for a petite, blond, little girl, Kayla was quick to point out. “Oh, my friends think it’s really cool,” she explained. “Even my teachers at school always ask to see pictures of the game I take and hear the stories.”
Lance is proud of his daughter and feels that bringing up young girls in the hunting tradition is easier than boys. “Girls to me are more patient,” he explained. “Boys can sometimes be a bit macho, especially as they get older, where girls seem like they have nothing to prove and follow direction and advice a little better.”
“Some people think it’s hard for girls to become accomplished hunters,” Lance continued. “But I would put her up against anyone especially when it comes to safety, knowing her equipment and having patience when in the woods.”
When it comes to experience, Kayla is seasoned beyond what her age may reveal. “I have a great time whether we get anything or not,” she explained. “Just being out there seeing squirrels, fox, coyotes or whatever makes it so much fun.”
Her father offered a bit of advice when it comes to introducing youngsters to hunting, especially deer “Take them in the evening instead of early mornings,” he stated. “Kids like to sleep in. Plus it’s usually a little warmer in the afternoon.” He also explained how it has been his experience most children like to know when the hunt will end. “If you take them in the morning they never really know how long they are going to be out but if you take them in the evening they know when it gets dark it’s over.”
When asked about her favorite hunt Kayla was quick to respond. “All of them,” she said emphatically. She also made quick reference of her deep desire to soon pursue elk and antelope which could happen in the upcoming years. “Whenever I hunt and am fortunate in taking an animal I feel an excitement I only feel when hunting,” she added. “And sometimes that excitement last for days.”
As far as her father is concerned, he couldn’t be happier having his young daughter share the same outdoor passion. “I have the best hunting companion I could ask for,” he said with an air of gratitude.