It does not matter how old one is, becoming a hunter is a priceless experience for all.
Marissa Jensen is the Education and Outreach Program Manager with Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. A Nebraska native, passionate upland hunter, and devoted conservationist. Experience her story over a German Shorthaired Pointer hunting for ring-necked pheasant and bobwhite quail.
“I was actually pretty opposed to hunting growing up. I didn’t understand the connection to food and the outdoors. Once someone made that apparent for me that changed everything.”Marissa Jensen – Never Too Late
Passion for the Uplands – Winter 2019 Issue
Here is an excerpt from Project Upland Magazine Winter 2019 Issue. For the full story subscribe to the quarterly publication.
Moving through the Nebraska prairie, the grass tugging lightly at her pantlegs, no sound can be heard but the breeze, rustling grasses, and that of a bird dog happily searching for the quarry. Suddenly, the German shorthair pointer’s body language shifts from one of a searching dog to one that’s caught wind of a sure thing. The dog’s body slams on point and locks eyes with her hunting companion who moves in for the flush. The rooster erupts out of its hiding place and takes to the air in a flurry of feathers. A single shot rings out, breaking the silence, and the bird crumples. After the bird is secure in her game pouch the hunt moves on, no sound but the dog and the wind, not another hunter in sight. A smile breaks across her face. This is how she prefers to spend her time, in the uplands.
Some might call Marissa Jensen a late bloomer when it comes to hunting. Ask her and she’ll tell you she got into it at just the right time.
“If I looked back a few years ago, the fact that I hunt and that it completely changed my life . . . my family is just blown away by it,” Marissa says. “If you would have asked them when I was a kid they would have laughed hysterically and said there’s no way this person is going to hunt, there’s no way they are going to do this for a living. It’s so different from what anybody thought I would do, including myself.”
Born and raised in Nebraska, Marissa didn’t grow up in a family of hunters. However, she was always interested in conservation, wildlife and the outdoors, and spent her time camping, hiking, and fishing. She had never hunted and even admits that until her cousin took her on her first turkey hunt at 30 years old, she was actually kind of opposed to the idea.
“I ate meat, but never thought I could kill an animal,” she recalls. “I was always interested in conservation, but didn’t understand the conservation of hunting. I later learned about that aspect of hunting and what individuals do to make public land opportunities, and that kind of grabbed me. I ran with it and never looked back.”
Years prior to her foray into the uplands, Marissa had an unpleasant introductory experience with shooting a shotgun, which she remarks kind of turned her off of firearms. So, when she first started on her journey into hunting, she bought a bow, taught herself to shoot, and assumed she’d be a bowhunter for life. That is until the same cousin recommended giving upland hunting a shot.
“He said, ‘You know, as much as you like hiking, the outdoors, and working dogs, you need to try upland hunting,’” Marissa recalls. “It made the connection for me and that’s just been the biggest passion of mine. It has completely taken over my life! It has definitely been an experience and life changing.”
Marissa’s passion for nature and the outdoors has been a part of her since she was a kid and can be seen throughout her career path, as well. Before joining Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever last year, she worked in aquatic education at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and then as a veterinary technician for several years.
Now, in her role as Education and Outreach Program Manager with Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, Marissa is responsible for introducing new audiences of outdoorsmen and women and youth to the organization’s hunting heritage, habitat education, shooting sports and conservation leadership programs. And that’s in addition to acting as the lead advisor for the National Youth Leadership Council.
“In my role, I have the incredible opportunity to help a diverse audience find their place in the uplands. It’s an exciting way for me to pay it forward with my passion,” Marissa says. “It’s just icing on the cake that I know how much of an impact this has for habitat and conservation, as well. It truly is a dream job where I feel like I can help make a difference, and that means a lot to me.”
To Read the full story subscribe to Project Upland Magazine and get the Winter 2019 Issue in print!
A.J. DeRosa founded Project Upland in 2014 as an excuse to go hunting more often (and it worked). A New England native, he grew up hunting and has spent over 30 years in pursuit of big and small game species across three continents. He started collecting guns on his 18th birthday and eventually found his passion for side-by-side shotguns, inspiring him to travel the world to meet the people and places from which they come. Looking to turn his passion into inspiration for others, AJ was first published in 2004 and went on to write his first book The Urban Deer Complex in 2014. He soon discovered a love for filmmaking, particularly the challenge of capturing ruffed grouse with a camera, which led to the award-winning Project Upland film series. AJ's love for all things wild has caused him to advocate on the federal and state levels to promote and expand conservation policy, habitat funding, and upland game bird awareness. He currently serves as the Strafford County New Hampshire Fish & Game Commissioner in order to give back to his community and to further the mission of the agency. When those hunting excuses are in play, you can find him wandering behind his Wirehaired Pointing Griffon in the mountains of New England and anywhere else the birds take them.