Jen “TheArcher” Cordaro – Academian and Bowhunter: Part One
Editor’s Note: “I wanted to take a wild hog with a bow and arrow,” anthropologist and advocate today for hunting, Jen Cordaro said. Little did she know where this one thought would take her or how seemingly impossible that task might be. Cordaro was a vegetarian for 10 years, didn’t grow up hunting, didn’t have any friends who hunted and never had shot a bow. She just had this deep-seated urge to take a wild hog with a bow.
When I decided I wanted to take a wild hog with a bow, I didn’t know where to go, who to see, how to find out what I needed to do to hunt a wild pig, or what I should learn about shooting a bow. I never had owned or shot a bow in my life, and I possessed all the reasons for not becoming a bowhunter. However, taking a wild hog with a bow was a dream of mine. I was conflicted, because I basically was a city girl. I didn’t have any friends who hunted. I had all the stereotypical reasons for my subconscious to tell me this was something I couldn’t do, even though it was something I wanted to do.
I read that there was an archery class being taught in San Diego. Just to see if I could shoot a recurve bow, I took the class. I met a sales associate at the archery shop and explained to him. “I don’t know what type of equipment I need, and I don’t know what I need to learn to hunt and take a wild pig with a bow, but this is something I want to do.” I told him this before I ever had taken an archery lesson or held a bow in my hand. He said, “I’ve never had anyone come into the shop who’d never shot a bow and never gone hunting who had as much passion to shoot the bow and become a hunter as you. I’ll try to help you make your dream come true.”
I took the recurve class, and within 2 weeks I bought my first compound bow. Within the first month of buying my compound bow, I shot my first archery tournament at the San Diego Archers Club in San Diego, California. I took first place in woman’s hunter free style shooting 3D targets. After that first tournament, I was hooked on shooting tournament archery. I’m a member of the Pendleton Sportsman Club on the Camp Pendleton military base, and I shoot in all their tournaments. I have shot at Riverside Archers Tournaments and Oranco Tournaments. I shoot a minimum of one tournament per month, and I’ve done well in all the tournaments I’ve shot. But as much as I enjoyed tournament archery, I still wanted to take a pig with my bow. I felt proficient enough with a bow to know that if I had the opportunity I could deliver the arrow to harvest a pig efficiently
Seeing my enthusiasm for shooting the bow and for wanting to take a hog, the sales associate invited me to go on an archery hog hunt in central California. I actually didn’t harvest a pig with my bow, but I saw the sales associate take a pig with his bow, and someone else on the hunt bagged a turkey. This was my first experience being in the woods and actually hunting. I was hooked!! I sat in the tree stand for hours waiting on the pigs to show up, but I didn’t see any pigs. On the trail camera the next morning, I saw that the pigs showed up 30 minutes after I left my stand. While I sat in the tree stand, I began to think about what hunting was. I decided, for me, hunting provided a link – or a connection – to legacy, history and American tradition.
After the hunt, my friends, who knew my passion for hunting and for shooting the bow, recommended me to Lonnie Workman, the PSE rep for the far West. He asked me to join the PSE Pro Staff, and I was really excited to represent a company like PSE. Now I had a platform to promote PSE, bowhunting, women’s archery and hunting as a part of our culture and history – all the things my ancestors decided they wanted to be a part of, when they left their homeland in Sicily and came to America. For me, the idea of hunting was and still is about carrying on the American tradition that’s so intertwined with the roots of this country. I believe that hunting allows me to embrace and be a part of a tradition and a legacy that’s such a part of America that I want it to continue and pass it on to others. For my family, hunting was a part of the American dream. They were willing to give up the history and legacy of their roots in Sicily to come to this country and put in new roots and inherit a new history and legacy. Putting myself inside American history and memory through the act of hunting has become very important to me. I like the act of hunting, being successful and being a part of nature. Keeping the hunting legacy and the sport of hunting alive and well is a cause I want to help champion.
I’m working on my PhD degree in public policy and social change. I have a master’s degree in social and cultural anthropology, a master’s degree in human rights advocacy and non-profit management and a bachelor’s degree in geography. Some would call me an academian, but I see myself as a bowhunter and an advocate for hunting. I’m a post-colonial anthropologist. This means I study from World War II until the present. I’m interested in people who are alive today.
I live with the constant knowledge that everything we do, everything we think, and every idea we develop aren’t original thoughts. Most likely, the thoughts that we perceive to be as original probably have come from our memories of things that have happened in the past. Many of the thoughts that we have are created by what’s known as culture. I think of myself as a culture keeper of the sport of hunting. Even though I haven’t grown up with or in a hunting culture, I feel that hunting is a part of our cultural history that we may be in danger of losing. I believe that everyone making sure that the hunting culture stays alive and well and that memories of hunting have a place to live in all of us, whether we have successful or unsuccessful hunts, is very important. I’m an advocate of the fact that hunting needs to be celebrated, held onto and cherished. In the outdoor industry, especially recently, I think we’re seeing more and more women embracing the hunting culture and getting involved with hunting. For me, bowhunting is not only an activity of the present as well as the future – it’s an activity that connects me to the American culture and our hunting forefathers – something that’s very important to me!
I came into the sport of hunting, especially bowhunting, about as backwards as any person possibly can to become a hunter. I was strictly a city girl growing up in Oceanside, California, and later I moved away to go to school and travel all over the world. When I was in high school, my high school had Future Farmers of America (FFA) as a part of the curriculum, and I got stuck taking the FFA class. I was really mad about having to take an FFA class, but all the classes I wanted to take were full, and no other classes I needed were open. So, my counselor put me in the FFA class. I was just about as mad as a young girl could get.
But in my freshmen year of high school, during the second semester, I fell in love with Future Farmers of America. I raised veal calves, pigs, lambs, steers, chickens and all types of critters that were being produced for the meat market. I became president of my Future Farmers of America’s chapter and also a sectional leader in the FFA, and I completed the FFA program and got my state FFA degree. I got a ton of awards and was very involved in FFA – all because I got stuck in that dumb class that I didn’t want to take.
I’m from southern California, which is often a very-liberal part of the country. Even though there are numbers of FFA chapters in California, very-few people know about the work of the FFA in our state. And my being a city girl, the FFA was definitely not where I saw myself. When I told people that I was in the FFA and raised veal cattle, they looked at me like I had two heads. I’d be at the beach wearing my flip flops and bathing suit, working on my tan and driving a little Volkswagen Beetle. My friends would say, “You’re in the FFA – say what?”
The FFA is where I first fell in love with animals, meat production and agriculture. I thought for sure when I went to college I would go into animal husbandry and agriculture. I saw myself raising pigs and making wine. I was torn between animal husbandry, agriculture and forestry as a major in college, because I also wanted to be a forest ranger. I applied to and was accepted to Humboldt State in northern California which most people know as a very, very liberal college. It’s often classified as a hippie school. Humboldt is located in northern California just before you reach the Oregon border. If you look out the front side of the college, you’ll see the ocean. If you look out the backside of the school you’ll see the redwood forest. I’ve always liked hiking and being in the outdoors as well as going to the beach. I’d pretty much settled on being a forest ranger. At that time, Humboldt State was one of the best educational places in the nation for natural resources planning and interpretation.
After a rich career in the Future Farmers of America and raising animals to go to the market, I actually became a vegetarian and remained a vegetarian for almost a decade. Now when I tell people that I’m a hunter, and I eat the animals that I harvest, I’m pretty sure they think once again I have two heads. I became a vegetarian not because I was an animal rights person, but because I wanted a closer relationship to the food I ate and the ground in which it was grown. Then, I became a hunter and ate the meat that I took with my bow. I decided I would really get some interesting responses from the people I’d known who had known me for a long time when I told them I was a bowhunter. I learned after harvesting game, field dressing it, cutting up the meat, and then eating it that I had a much-closer connection to the food I was eating than I did when I ate a hamburger at McDonald’s and believed that the hamburger came from the grocery store and nowhere else.
Right now, I buy very-little meat from the grocery store. I eat the meat I take when I’m hunting, and I like to raise my own vegetables. I think this is the natural order of how food should come to the table. By being a bowhunter, I connect with finding the food. I learn how to hunt the animal, harvest the animal, prepare the meat and then eat the meat. I think hunting represents a major part of the history of food gathering, and I want to be a part of that history and that legacy as a hunter.
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