“Explore Bowhunting” & NASP Coordinator – Jill Trunko – Finding her Way
Megan Plete Postol 03.18.21
While many women hunters are introduced to the sport through their male family connections, that wasn’t the story for avid outdoorswoman Jill Trunko. While she always loved being outdoors hiking and camping while growing up, she found her passion for bowhunting on her own. The first time she remembers shooting a bow was during college at a local Women in Nature one-day workshop. The workshop was held by the Onondaga County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs in Central New York. She loved the way it felt to shoot the bow and she was hooked. Her interest in the outdoors flourished when she took up archery. She received a bow as a graduation gift and has dedicated herself to it ever since.
She credits the Girl Scouts and camping trips with her dad for her earliest immersions in nature. Trunko’s other outdoor activities include hiking with her Siberian husky Taiga, fly fishing, and biking. She and Taiga have hiked trails and mountains all over the state, including the Adirondacks and Catskills. Their favorite hikes include some sort of river or waterhole so that Taiga can cool off and splash around.
These days Trunko works for the Department of Conservation as the New York State National Archery in the Schools Program Coordinator and New York Explore Bowhunting Coordinator. She is also a certified Hunter education and Bowhunting instructor. With NASP Trunko works to train teachers across the state that are interested in teaching archery in their curriculum. The state has certain requirements for teachers that want to include archery in their classes. Trunko is a NASP certified basic archery trainer specialist. She conducts the training for the teachers so that they can become certified to teach their students.
“I really enjoy traveling around New York meeting the teachers that I’m working with,” Trunko said. “There are so many parts of New York. I’ve been able to meet teachers from all different size schools in all different areas across the state. It’s been really rewarding.”
Another facet of her role with DEC is to coordinate the Explore Bowhunting program within the state. The program is education that is specifically targeted towards youth ages 11 through 17. The program is designed for instructors to use to educate youth about all aspects of bowhunting. It includes lessons covering scouting, tracking, hunting preparation, setting up blinds, hunting attire, field dressing, and more. She coordinates with other instructors to provide them with these supplemental tools and training. They can then use as much of it as they prefer when providing instruction to youth during scout programs, after school programs, or related activities.
“The program is very comprehensive,” Trunko said. “Instructors can use one or two lessons out of the program or they can use all of them.”
Additionally, Trunko is also involved with the NYS DEC Becoming an Outdoorswoman (BOW) program as an instructor. Trunko’s background is in environmental education and she has a passion for archery, and her role and DEC blends these.
“I’ve always felt connected to the outdoors,” Trunko said. “I really liked the idea of outreach and environmental education. Combining science and teaching seemed like the perfect fit for me.”
Trunko received her undergrad in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Communication, Culture, and Writing from SUNY ESF and her masters in Environmental Studies from Green Mountain College. For Trunko, the appeal of archery comes from both the challenge and the benefit.
“I really like the way it requires strength and concentration,” Trunko said. “As much of a sport as it is, it is relaxing. You have to be calm to be able to really get your shot. The method of nocking the arrow, pulling back and releasing, and then reflecting on that, is a stress reliever.”
Teachers are also relaying this message back to Trunko. Many students are finding archery to be an effective way to focus and channel energy.
“The more I’ve been teaching it and hearing success stories from teachers about students, it reaffirms that a lot of people are experiencing this.”
Another thing that teachers are excited about is how adaptable archery is for students of all abilities. The equipment can be adapted for students with visual impairments, hearing impairments, low mobility, and other issues.
“An archer can be anybody,” Trunko said. “It really is adaptable to all abilities. Archery is a lifelong sport. The hope is that these students can carry this on.”
For women interested in starting out, Trunko suggests attending a workshop (such as the DEC BOW program), utilizing online resources (such as Hunters Connect), connecting with other women to practice, and visiting a local archery shop to get fitted for the proper equipment. Connecting with other women can take some pressure off, while visiting local experts ensures that the beginner will receive the skilled knowledge and the correct equipment that can be extremely helpful when starting out.