At last month’s Vintage Cup World Side-by-Side Championship in
Queenstown, Maryland, the event was abuzz with questions about the
November/December issue of Shooting Sportsman magazine. Wing-
shooting aficionados all knew it was news that the 20-year-old
magazine had put a woman on its cover for the first time. And,
according to the magazine’s editor, Ralph Stuart, “The response was
Stuart said he was not surprised when sportsmen and women wanted
to know, “Is she legit? Is she actually a hunter?” While most of us
realize magazine covers in all areas of interest frequently feature
models who know nothing about the subjects they are representing,
“Sportsmen are more demanding,” Stuart said.
In the cover photo, hunter and model April Moritz is carrying four
mallard drakes and a Benelli Super Black Eagle II. Sportsmen and
women demanded to know, could she have taken the ducks herself?
Since she is outfitted entirely in Filson clothing and her cheeks are
almost too beautifully rosy to be true, many also asked if she’d been
made up for a fashion shoot to look flushed from the outdoor
Others wanted to know if Shooting Sportsman editors, who work
months in advance on each issue, were clairvoyant enough to know a
dark-haired woman hunter would make the ideal November cover
image even before the name of the maverick-vice presidential
candidate was announced.
According to photographer Lee Thomas Kjos, model April Moritz did
not shoot the particular mallards she is carrying in the cover photo, but
she did bring down some pheasants during the three-day, dark-to-dark
hunting trip—during which fellow hunters shot the ducks. And when
she strode through the grass at the edge of a prairie slough near
Veblen, South Dakota, her cheeks were flushed from the frigid
temperatures rather than from makeup. “It was raw, raw-boned chill out
there,” Kjos recalled. “That face and her lips and her chin—that’s not
makeup. That’s cold!”
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Because Kjos was doing some advertising photography for Filson during the three-day outing, the hunters in the group were wearing gear from
that company. But, in fact, the photo was not posed. Kjos snapped it from across the slough using a long telephoto lens, which he had set up to
focus on some men bringing in decoys and boats. “April just picked up that bird strap and started back toward the truck,” he said. “I saw her
coming through the grass” and just started taking the pictures.
Moritz recalled the hunting trip, too. “We didn’t have a makeup artist out there,” she laughed. “What you see is windburn. The wind chill was so
cold, I was hurting. My cheeks were flushed for a couple of days after that.”
Why did the editors of the world’s premier wingshooting magazine wait so long to feature a woman on their cover? Shooting Sportsman Art
Director Lynda Mills said she long had been open to considering a woman for the cover. After all, Mills hails from a traditional Maine hunting
family herself. She said she’d evaluated photos of women for this purpose before but that this image was the first that met all of her criteria for a
cover. “I chose this photo because of its vitality and the fact that I knew the subject was the real deal. I thought people might question the
authenticity, and I knew we had the facts to back it up.”
And here are the facts. Born and raised in rural Emily, Minnesota, Moritz grew up in a family of eight. Both of her parents hunt, with her mother
even more keen on the sport than her father. Moritz holds an MBA and a job in the field of financial management, and she sometimes models for
Kjos. But she sees herself as a genuine sportswoman first. Moritz is a professional snowmobile racer who also pursues motocross in the woods
around her home. Moritz is also a hunter whose first love is wingshooting.
She’s accustomed to receiving attention for her beauty but, she said, “People think because I’m a girl and I’m pretty, I might not be capable. Guys
all the time want to arm wrestle with me. When they see me hunting or on a dirt bike, it gets attention because they think it’s unique. I get
comments that start, “I didn’t expect….’ And I’m, like, ‘Well, yuh!’” It’s just obvious to her that plenty of women are capable at sports.
Moritz is not related to Sarah Palin. And Shooting Sportsman editors did not see Moritz in a crystal ball along with predictions of the vice-
presidential news. They did know something about the future, though.
“Women are the future of our sport,” Stuart said. “As overall hunter numbers have decreased in the past couple of decades, female participation
has increased. And when women become involved with the sport, they ensure that their families will take part as well. We’re proud to have a
woman on our cover who truly represents the face of hunting’s future.”
For further information:
Rosemary Herbert, Publicity Director