It started with a couple of photos of a freshly killed, 510-pound North Carolina black bear.
Several days and 50,000 heated Facebook comments later, Eva Shockey — the goldilocked huntress who co-hosts an Outdoor Channel show about killing animals with her father, Jim Shockey — is still defending her decision to slay the bear and post photos of the animal online.
“I believe with every part of me that what I’m doing is right, so there’s nothing that I’m apologizing for,” she told Fox News, noting that in North Carolina, the bear population is rising rapidly. “Obviously we’re not gonna get rid of the humans. … You have to keep the bear population in check.”
Some people remain thoroughly unconvinced and have taken to social media to tell Shockey as much.
So who is Eva Shockey and why does anyone care about her hunting photos?
Outdoor Channel refers to her as the “princess” of its “royal hunting family.” The 26-year-old Canadian holds the distinction of being the first woman in almost four decades to appear alone on the cover of Field & Stream magazine, according to the publication. The last was an actual royal: Queen Elizabeth, who made an appearance with her hunting hounds back in 1976.
“It’s a huge, huge honor,” Shockey told the Outdoor Channel when she was featured on the cover. “It’s really amazing. It doesn’t even really feel real. She’s a really important woman.”
Shockey wasn’t always an avid hinter. Although she grew up with a professional hunter for a father, Shockey says she didn’t realize she could retain her femininity with a hunting rifle in her hand.
“I took dancing and did all the girl stuff,” she told Women’s Outdoor News. “When I was 20, I was old enough to realize that you can go hunting in the woods and put on camo and get dirty, and then you can shower and put on a dress and still be a lady.”
Current enthusiasm aside, her first kill left Shockey in tears.
Six years later, her kills tend to generate tons of controversy. “Some days I’ll wake up and I’ll literally have — I’ve had 5,000-plus death threats in one day,” she told the Blaze.
In a separate interview with Field & Stream, she called the critical comments “pure hatred, and hatred mostly comes from fear of the unknown. These people don’t know anything about hunting. What’s sad is that they don’t know all the good things hunting does for conservation, the economy, and our culture.”
She added: “My dad warned me before I even got involved with the show that I was going to have to deal with anti-hunters. I’m a huge target for them because I’m a smiley young woman, and I’m different than who they’re used to dealing with.”
Female participation in hunting increased by 10 percent between 2008 and 2012, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Shockey says she embodies the new wave of female hunters. Her fans see her as the anti-Kim Kardashian –a gritty, self-reliant woman who doesn’t need to flaunt her sex appeal. It’s an image Shockey (who is engaged to a professional hockey player) tries to cultivate on social media.
“Compared to just last year, the number of women I meet — young girls, teenagers, moms with babies, older women — who tell me they hunt or are taking up hunting is incredible,” she told Field & Stream earlier this year. “Bass Pro Shops owner Johnny Morris recently told me that the sale of women’s products was just 3 percent of his business 10 years ago, and now it’s 30 percent.”
As for her critics, the hunter told the Blaze that she plans to follow the advice of her father. “What he’s always showed me, and what I really try to live by every day, is just rise above,” she said. “You don’t need to go down to what they’re doing. … And the best thing to do is, if anything, to just educate them. Show them you’re not this redneck who drinks beer and shoots animals illegally.”
As for the bear she killed: Field & Stream reports that its meat was given “to the guides and their families.” The bear will be mounted and eventually displayed in a nature museum that Jim Shockey is opening.