Back in June 2016, we featured several photos of a river rat named Beka Garris, who isn’t afraid to get muddy and bloody on her quest to shoot roughfish of various species in her home state of Ohio. Here, in this exclusive interview with Beka, I ask her about everything from gar and whitetails, to social media and becoming a new bride.
DM: Your Facebook page has been going crazy for the past 6 months – now up to almost 99k Likes. Congrats! Do you sometimes find it hard to believe?
Beka: Yes, it definitely is crazy! I started my page on a whim a few years ago, and it has blown up like crazy. It’s definitely hard to believe there are that many people that want to follow my adventures on social media. I try to keep it as real as possible; I want people to relate to me and realize I’m just a small-town girl living life and hunting as much as possible.
DM: You don’t have a long bio on your FB page. In fact, it’s one sentence: “I am an avid outdoors woman, obsessed with bowhunting, bowfishing, and all things archery.” And you list affiliations with the NRA and NWTF (National Wild Turkey Federation). You obviously enjoy social media, but you’re careful to protect your personal life online. Is it difficult at times to walk this fine line?
Beka: Yes, it can be very difficult. But over the past 2 years I have received a lot of hate mail, and just creepy comments and messages in general. It’s just easier (and safer) to keep my personal life – and family/friends that aren’t on social media – completely private. It’s one thing to have people posting derogatory comments about myself, but it’s another if it’s about people I love.
DM: Regular readers of your Facebook posts can learn much more about you than what’s provided in your bio. For example, simply by checking out your page, I know you grew up in New Jersey, live in Ohio, work in a warehouse, and own a beagle. Oh yeah, and you recently got married! Can you tell us just a little bit about Mr. Beka Garris?
Beka: Our story is a little different than most! My husband is a police officer, and we met in the most unlikely way, when he moved into my apartment complex – in a bad part of town – and to this day I can’t believe our paths even crossed. The first time we hung out I actually took him bowfishing because he’d never been. That same night, I learned that he was a hunter and fisherman, and had just started bowhunting. We have pretty much spent every day together since then, and he proposed on the riverbank where we first went bowfishing. And he’s turned out to be a natural with a bow, taking two deer last fall and a black bear last week!
DM: You love bowfishing. And one of our favorite FB posts on your site is: “Bowfishing is the answer. It doesn’t really matter what the question is.” For those who haven’t given bowfishing a try, what are the top three reasons they should do so.
Beka: First, it’s FUN! I like to fish, and I like to bowhunt, so I found a sport that combined the two. Second, it’s actually good for the rivers and the ecosystem. Many people don’t realize how destructive carp and other rough fish can be, both to other fish and waters in general. Third, a reason most people don’t realize, is that some of the fish are good eating! I still have yet to try carp besides smoked, but gar is very good.
DM: In addition to bowfishing, you also love pursuing whitetails with archery gear. But this year you’re increasing the “degree a difficulty” a bunch with your choice of bow. Tell us about it.
Beka: When I picked up a recurve, I expected to be awful shooting it. But, since I am an avid bowfisher, I shoot instinctive all the time, and it came naturally. I still practiced A LOT to be comfortable this deer season. I had a custom bow made for me by Wolf Paw custom bows last spring. The main reason being that I’m smaller of stature, and have a shorter draw length than a guy does. Wanting a hunting bow, I didn’t want to be carrying around a bow as tall as myself, and be struggling to get 40 pounds at full draw. My bow is a recurve/long bow hybrid, and its 40 pounds at my specific draw, so it meets the minimum requirements in Ohio. I can’t shoot as far as with a compound – it simply doesn’t have the same power, but I wanted a challenge. I bowhunted with a compound for 11 years and felt ready to take the next step. I will be truly ecstatic if I take a deer with it this year.
DM: I noticed a cool DIY mount of a wild turkey on your FB page. How long did it take you, and was it a difficult project?
Beka: Turkey fans are one of my absolute favorite projects to do over the summer. They are a little time-consuming, but are actually pretty easy. I remove the tail and wings from the turkey by cutting them off at the base. I then use a sharp knife to remove all excess meat. Then I use push pins to spread them out on a large piece of cardboard until they are positioned how I want them to dry. Then I cover them with Borax and let them dry in a cool dry place for about a month. I’ll change the Borax if needed, but usually once is enough. I bought a wood plaque to mount it on this year, and it came out gorgeous.
DM: I won’t ask you “Trump vs. Hillary” because I think I already know your answer. How about Mossy Oak vs. Realtree?
Beka: I have always been a HUGE fan of Mossy Oak, simply because I love what they stand for and their brand image. But when it comes down to it, I will wear Realtree, Mossy Oak, or Under Armour Ridge Reaper and be happy as long as I’m hunting.
DM: Your posts about concealed carry are quite popular on your page. How long have you been carrying, and what is your favorite concealed carry handgun and holster?
Beka: I’ve been carrying since April. I started working at a gun shop last November, and I learned A LOT about firearms. I took my concealed carry course and bought a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield. I currently have two favorite conceal carry holsters, depending where I’m going and what I’m doing. I own a CrossBreed appendix holster that I carry at a slight cross draw, and I recently purchased a DeSantis body band holster that fits around my torso and holds the gun a bit better if I’m active. It’s definitely a challenge trying to find a good holster, especially being a woman with a small frame. I try to pass on any good reviews as I go, because I know I’m not the only one out there who struggles.
DM: Sadly, jealously sometimes rears its ugly head in the hunting industry. Care to comment?
Beka: Jealousy is an awful thing, and yes it rears its ugly head very often in this industry. I hate how some people just want to continuously make hunting a competition instead of enjoying it and remembering WHY we hunt in the first place. The grass isn’t always greener.
DM: I think a big reason for the success of your FB page is your short-and-sweet fun text and fun photography. The pic/caption below is one of my favorites. Which is harder; shooting engaging pics, or coming up with clever copy?
Beka: Fun fact that almost NO ONE knows besides my family: I actually have an associate degree in photography. I have never done anything with my degree, but I do still love photography. I know it may seem narcissistic to some, because I do take quite a few photos of myself with a self-timer, but I like sharing my adventures in photos, and I like to get creative. Some days I won’t take any photos, and others I’ll take a dozen and post them scattered throughout the week, depending on my creativity. Sometimes I get ideas from other’s photos and then add my own twist to them . . . but coming up with captions can be a challenge. I love when I can share a story with the photo as opposed to a clever caption.
DM: Butchering game and preparing healthy food are important to you. Give us one kitchen accessory that many hunters don’t own but should, and one quick recipe.
Beka: I’ll be honest – I’m going to have to share a few here! The most important thing when it comes to butchering deer is a good set of knives. A good fillet knife is one of the most important things in my kitchen, and it has to be SHARP. Trust me, it’s worth the money to get a good one. Get a good cutting board and save your counters. And one of the best gifts I have ever received is a meat grinder. I don’t make a whole lot of ground meat because I love steak, but I’m not a fan of ground meat from a butcher, even if it’s venison (too much gets added). I grind venison and a bit of deer fat, no additives or other meat. Always grind it twice!
Some deer hunters don’t know that even the toughest cuts can be delicious. Like I said, the key is owning a meat grinder! I recently ground up the last of the shanks and neck meat, then made BBQ Venison Meatballs in the crockpot.
BBQ Venison Meatballs recipe: 1 lb of venison, ground twice; 1/4 c of breadcrumbs; 1/4 c of parmesan cheese; 3 cloves of minced garlic; 3 tbsp minced onion; 1 egg; salt and pepper to taste. Combine ingredients thoroughly, form into meatballs. I like to brown in olive oil in a frying pan before placing in the crockpot, but it’s not necessary. Place meatballs in crockpot, then add 1 bottle of BBQ sauce, and one jar of grape jelly. Cook on low 5-6 hours. Awesome!
Dave: Final question – If you could take part in only one more outdoor adventure, where would you go, what would you do, and who would join you?
Beka: I would go on an archery elk hunt in Colorado – something I have always wanted to do! I would bring my dad and my husband; I love hunting with them.
Editor’s note: Check out the original “Women Who“ series on CarbonTV that explores a woman’s take on typically male-dominated pursuits. Whether it’s shooting, hunting or farming, these women make no apology for who they are and aim to inspire the same passion in others.