Toby and Samantha Gangler
Everyone, meet Toby and Samantha Gangler! These two are elk hunting obsessed and have figured out a way to raise kids simultaneously. I met Sam last summer at Ladies Hunting Camp and I was drawn to her humor and genuine spirit from the start. These two share three kids and are making sure they are raising them in the outdoors, just as they were. I hope you enjoy reading about some of their experiences and feel inspired to take a kid out hunting. Enjoy!
A little background...
Sam - What did your introduction to hunting look like?
I started hunting with my dad when I was just a little girl. Some of my earliest memories of hunting start at age six. My dad started me out with squirrels, rabbits and then coyotes. When he realized just how much I loved being in the outdoors, he took me to hunters safety and started preparing me to harvest big game. I successfully harvested my first elk at 13 and my first deer at 14. I was so excited and proud, I knew that hunting would be more than just a hobby for me. It really has become a way of life and a part of who I am.
Toby - What did your introduction to hunting look like?
I started running around the woods with my dad when I was just four years old and I was pretty much hooked after that. Our family relied on wild game to supplement our food every year, so growing up that way made it a lifestyle and a necessity. When I turned 12, I harvested my first deer and my first elk was soon to follow. Everyday I spent in the field with my dad, I was a sponge. To this day, there is no place I'd rather be than in the woods.
It's about the kids...
Have any of your kids had their first harvests yet?
Our oldest daughter harvested a deer and elk with her rifle when she began hunting at age 12. Our youngest, who are six and ten, haven’t had their first harvests yet. We are going to try to get our daughter, Gracie, a mentored youth doe tag this year. She is very excited!
We’ve tried to include the children in many of our outdoor adventures since they could walk! Even simple things like checking trail cameras, picking huckleberries, mushrooms, sheds, and camping give them confidence and experience in the outdoors. Their favorite thing to do with us is archery elk hunt. Gracie has been apart of some great call in's, with her earliest at age four. All of our kids have been able to help us on elk recoveries. They are always excited to learn and help and we are proud to pass these traditions down to them.
What is your favorite hunting memory with your kids?
The first time we called an elk in for Gracie has to be one of them. Another great experience happened two years ago when Gracie was able to call in an elk to my Dad by just cow calling with her mouth. It was really funny because she told my Dad an elk was coming and he didn't believe her… then he saw a little five point right in front of him! She loves to tease her PaPa about that!
Gabe is just now able to walk far enough that he has a good chance of being part of a successful hunt. He keeps us laughing though! He's such a busy body that can't hold still but that's ok because he is having fun and making memories with us!
What do you believe is the greatest benefit children can gain from spending time in the outdoors?
Spending time in the outdoors as a child helped me build confidence in myself. It was time away from everyday life with my Dad. No electronics, no distractions, just quality time where I learned about nature and the animals I have grown to respect so much. I can only hope that my children will also gain confidence in themselves, and a great amount of knowledge and respect for the outdoors that they can continue to pass down for generations to come.
What is the hardest part about hunting and parenting? How do you do it all?! Do you have any tips or tricks for other parents?
The hardest part for us has always been juggling work, daycare, hunting, and kids! Both of us prefer to take a minimum of two weeks off work in September to hunt. We literally save all our vacation time for archery season. Because school starts in September we have to arrange their absences with the school in advance. Then we have to find a daycare provider to help during the hours their grandparents are at work. Since we have to come back to town to check on the kids frequently it usually costs about $2,000 a season in just gas and gas station snacks! We always save our money pre-season in anticipation.
I remember Gabe was less than three months old during September of 2011. We had to make sure he got all of Mom's milk so I had to pump between hunts, keep the milk cold and drive it to town every night. With Gracie, I was 5-6 months pregnant during the season, and I went out every day my entire vacation.
I guess my advice is, if you want it bad enough, you can make it happen! There isn't anything easy about dedicating that much time to hunting when you have a family and both parents hunt, but the memories we make during each season are so worth it!
Toby - Recently you participated alongside Elk 101 and Hunt of a Lifetime in successfully guiding, 14 year old cancer patient, Austin, into a public land 7x8 bull elk. What was your biggest takeaway from that experience?
When I had the opportunity to be a part of this hunt, it was a no brainer for me. Austin was a super awesome young man with the same passion for hunting as all of us. With everything he had gone through, it meant the world to me to help make his dream of hunting elk come true. That kid had drive like nothing I had ever seen before and he pushed himself beyond his limits each and every hunt. His appreciation of just being there in the elk woods was something I wish every hunter could experience. Seeing Austin smiling through all of his pain was the best part of that hunt. I made me realize that the things I complain about on a daily basis are insignificant in comparison to what many other people go through. I was blessed to have met Austin.