Every week, we feature a different one of our Legendary Whitetails Ambassadors. Each has their own unique experiences and expertise and they want to share it with you. Today, we talked to Stephanie Ray, one of our ambassadors who, does just about everything outdoors. From fishing to bowhunting, and everything else in between! Check her out on Instagram for great photos and tips for everything in the great outdoors. In love with Stephanie’s 1/4 zip in the photo above? Get yours here!
“Embrace the challenge of ice fishing!”
Legendary Whitetails: As a hunter, how do you like to use these winter months? Shed hunting? Scouting?
Stephanie Ray: During the winter, I enjoy rabbit and squirrel hunting, ice fishing, and I absolutely love putting in the miles shed hunting and scouting for the upcoming turkey and whitetail seasons! It is also my time to get back into the gym and relax in front of my wood burner.
LW: Ice fishing is a totally different experience. What do you find challenging about ice fishing vs. fishing during the rest of the year?
SR: Between dragging out and setting up all of the equipment, cold weather, and actually finding fish, I definitely embrace the challenge of ice fishing! I typically target panfish, as I love to eat what I catch. Putting in the work to find those honey holes has been so rewarding. Just about every time I’ve been out this year, we drilled new holes quite a few times trying to find fish. That’s a lot more work than casting over different water or moving the boat. One of the goals I set for myself this year was to catch a Michigan panfish limit of 25. And I was able to accomplish that in January!
LW: What is your favorite way to cook the fish you catch?
SR: The air fryer! I got an air fryer for my birthday last September, and it been a game changer for cooking fish and venison! When preparing fish, I like it best lightly battered with Lawry’s and Old Bay or a Drake’s and a Bearded Butcher Blend seasoning mix. Crank the air fryer up to 400 degrees and cook until done! I’ve also cooked salmon fillets in the air fryer, and they have came out perfect!
LW: What about other wild game? What’s your favorite recipe?
SR: My favorite cut of venison are the backstraps. I’ll cut the backstrap so it can be rolled out flat, season it, then roll up banana peppers and hot pepper cheese inside of it, like a pinwheel. Crank the air fryer up and wait for that meaty goodness to hit medium rare! You will not be disappointed!
*If you like Stephanie’s recipe, try out this Al Capone Venison Backstrap recipe!*
LW: If you could only go on one hunt this year, which would you choose?
SR: Our 3rd annual hog hunt this spring with Rut’n Strut’n Outdoors in Oklahoma. The first year we went down, it was honestly a shot in the dark. Since we made our initial connection through Instagram, we really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. Thankfully, the guys told us that was normal. We have a such a great time each year, and put down some serious hogs. So this would be a tough hunt to give up! I am able to hunt with several of my guns in Oklahoma that I cannot hunt with here in southern Michigan. Plus, it’s a long weekend down south of hunting, laughs, and good times when it’s cold back here in Michigan!
LW: Is there a particular hunting/outdoor topic that you feel very passionate about?
SR: I think that keeping the tradition of hunting alive is very important. Involving youth in the outdoor lifestyle teaches them respect, responsibility, hard work, dedication, and persistence. Educating those who do not believe in our lifestyle on the importance of conservation and the respect and admiration hunters have for the animals we harvest is crucial in keeping the heritage alive.
“Have fun and learn from your mistakes.”
LW: What is one piece of advice you would give young hunters/fishers?
SR: The fish won’t always be biting and every hunt won’t always be successful. Have fun and learn from your mistakes. Enjoy the people you are able to share these experiences with, and seek out others in which you can share your passions. Learn all you can from your friends, peers, and mentors, ask questions, and learn something from each hunt or fishing adventure.
LW: What’s your favorite fishing memory or story? A huge catch you didn’t expect, the first time you went with a certain group of people, etc?
SR: As a child, I grew up vacationing with my family on Devils Lake, which is ironically the lake I currently live on. I can remember those early and cool weekday summer mornings when my Dad would wake my brother and I up to fish. My parents’ speed boat was tied off away from the dock in the water. So my Dad would wade through the water and carry all the fishing gear into the boat. He’d then come back and carry my younger brother and I out to the boat so we didn’t have to get wet. We would bobber fish for gills, sunfish, and perch all morning. After, we’d return to the cottage and watch my Dad fillet what would be our dinner. I am grateful that my Dad brought me up around fishing.
LW: What is your favorite legendary product and what do you love about it?
SR: First off, this is not a fair question! I guess, the piece of clothing that I have worn the most is my Trail Guide Fleece Plaid Button Up (pictured above) as it is warm, fits perfectly, and can be worn with both jeans and leggings. I can wear it out, outside, or just to lounge around in the house. Explains why I had to buy all of the colors!