'This Is My Heritage'
Charisa Argys and her father, Mark Jimerson, pose with her mountain lion kill in 2012 that recently brought her death threats. (Courtesy Charisa Argys)
Second of two articles on one woman hunter’s efforts to end attacks from animal rights activists.
Click here to read Part I
Charisa Argys was ecstatic she finally made her family’s hunting Wall of Fame. It came after a grueling hunt for a mountain lion, but she experienced that personal thrill of victory.
Animal rights activists then tried to ruin it for her, but she wants no part in any agony of defeat. She’s fighting back, just like her family has fought to survive for generations in the wilds of Colorado.
“That’s what I want portrayed,” she said. “I want everyone to understand I’m an avid hunter. I love hunting, I love fishing. This is my right, this is my heritage. It will always be here. I’ll do my part by donating as much money as I can.”
Click image to view photos of Argys' Family Hunting Heritage
The Rocky Mountain Elk Federation is among the conservation organizations she donates to, knowing it works to benefit her. Like most every hunter, she also knows fees for fishing and hunting licenses support wildlife and conservation.
But the attackers, Argys said, appear to be targeting women in attempts to raise money. She researched several of the groups critical of her and found them to by hypercritical -- they aren’t putting their money where their mouths are. What has made her angry is the unscrupulous groups are using her and other women as a rallying point to coerce others to their beliefs.
“I wanted to do my own thing; live and let live,” Argys said. “If you don’t agree with hunting, I can respect that -- until I became a target. What have I done to deserve this? I consider myself an ethical hunter. I don’t want to live with the prospect that I have a wounded animal. I don’t want to see them tortured. I don’t want to see any animal suffer. I want to see more conservation.”
Silvia Wadhwa, a financial journalist in Frankfurt, Germany, found a photo of Argys’ lion kill and posted it to sites where vitriol began flowing. Wadhwa later commented on the USSA story on antis targeting women hunters and tried to explain that wasn’t her beef.
“Just for the record: hunting for food or defense, when REALLY necessary, population management are not the target of my or our criticism. Killing as a pastime and for a trophy on the wall is.”
Argys said while she’s wanted to kill a mountain lion since she was very young, it was not a trophy hunt. She wants people to know that most hunters eat everything they kill, and others will donate meat to charity. She’s particularly disturbed that non-hunters think there are animal bodies lying all over the woods.
“This is not a trophy kill. We eat them. Mountain lion tastes like pork – it’s a white meat. So to say we hunt them and leave the carcass, that’s just wrong,” she said. “A lot of people don’t understand that. I wouldn’t do that. It is for game management. I’m completely legal and I’m helping manage game populations in Colorado.”
After many hunters rallied behind her, many of the initial posts against Argys were removed. Wadhwa wrote a personal note to Argys, apologizing for starting such a “s*#&storm,” but not for her disdane of trophy killing.
“But I do not and will not ever condone or encourage insults, threats or death wishes. And in our group that fights trophy hunting globally we have clear ‘rules of engagement’ about such conduct.”
Argys said she finds any attacks on her hunting heritage deplorable. Her father, Mark Jimerson, took her hunting when she was a toddler. Argys still has the blood-stained Smurf shoes she wore on their first deer hunt. He was taught to hunt by his father, John, who learned from his father, Otis.
Otis starts an article Mark wrote on the Jimersons. His grandfather survived during the Depression mostly by living off the land, trapping and selling furs to Sears and Roebuck. He carried a hammer and would throw it or Vicks jars filled with sand to take down small game for dinner. He also shoveled coal and cut cedar timbers before saving enough money to buy a .22 rifle.
The family tradition will be passed down by Argys, who has already taken her children hunting. Her daughter screamed with joy when mom killed an antelope, and she isn’t happy if anybody goes hunting without her.
“This isn’t just a sport. It’s a way of life. This is who I am,” Argys said. “It’s hard to describe how important hunting is to our family, just to spend this time together.”
She was rankled when her hunt that made dad’s Wall of Fame was disrespected. His wall commemorates remarkable hunts with photos of his dad, her brother, cousins and friends, but Argys never made it even though she killed her fair share of game before the 2012 mountain lion.
“This was huge for me. I will never, ever to able to top this hunt,” she said. “I learned so much about who I am.”
Recently diagnosed and weakened by fibromyalgia, Argys took the call to go after a lion. It was a grueling tromp, 2 miles through deep snow up crazy terrain, over a rock slide and through thick brush.
“My muscles were not working. I could not get them to go. Legs were giving out,” she said, “but I just knew I had to get to this lion. And it was mind over matter. It was my mind overcoming my physical limitations. I’m going to do this. I’m going to make it. I don’t care what’s in my way. I’m going to get there.
“I was so excited. I knew I was going to cherish every agonizing moments of that hunt because it was the most amazing moment of my life. As far as hunting, this was my time, my chance to be a hunter.”
She said her father and the guide never gave up on her despite her struggles, just continued to push. She said her father was so proud of her that he put the hunt on the wall.
“In my dad’s mind, the trophy is in the hunting, not in the kill,” she said. “I had never been in anything that was worth telling about until the lion hunt. And this is the hunt which defines our hunting experiences from here on out -- the fact that I got to do this with my father.”
While Argys wishes the negative comments never sullied her experience, she wants to work so it doesn’t happen to anyone else. She says now when she sees any trophy shot, she wonders. “Are you next?” She knows she and most animal rights activists have polar philosophies – they probably can’t be convinced hunting is a valid lifestyle and she’s not about to give it up.
‘Why can’t we agree to disagree and work toward a common goal,” she said. “All the time they are time spending to do this, if they were spending the time and money to actually conserve animals, maybe we can get somewhere.”