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A Middlesex Girl Loves Hunting, Outdoor Living

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by Vicky Tebbetts

Jenna Jerome. Photo by Sherry Jerome.
Jenna Jerome. Photo by Sherry Jerome.

There is plenty to do at age 14 in Middlesex. You can go hunting with Dad, ride your four-wheeler through the trails (cut by none other than Dad), and travel the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers network on Mom’s snowmobile toward Calais and Cabot — or Camel’s Hump. In warmer weather, you can cool off at Bolton Potholes or Curtis Pond. And in every season, you take to the roads on a run that averages three to six miles daily.

Hunting season is the most golden of all. Tracking, chasing and taking aim… it’s all part of being outside. It is part of being where you are most comfortable – especially if you’ve been playing in the mud since you were a kid.

For two years, Jenna Jerome was a camper at Buck Lake Green Mountain Conservation Camp in Woodbury. There she set her sights on clay pigeons, skinned a beaver, threw knives at a target, and earned a trapper’s license. The following autumn, she shot her first deer. Jenna was hooked. “Being outside, sneaking up on it, there’s this rush. You get all this energy.”

Hunters were the original conservationists, and deer hunting is part of the Jerome’s heritage. “I’ve been around it since I was little,” she observes. She was about eight years old when she first peeked in to see her father dressing a deer. “I just stood there watching it,” she recalls. Now, she skins her own deer, but leaves the gutting to Dad.

Jenna’s father, Paul, is an avid hunter. The youngest of eight, Paul has been hunting in Vermont for almost four decades. When she shot her first buck, Jenna and her family were visiting Paul’s parents in East Montpelier. It was youth hunting weekend, the days before rifle season opens to all in November.

Jenna and her father, Paul, enjoy the outdoors on snowmobiles.  Photo by Sherry Jerome
Jenna and her father, Paul, enjoy the outdoors on snowmobiles.
Photo by Sherry Jerome

Jerome’s mother, Sherry, describes the moment from Paul’s father’s perspective: “It was almost time for them to come out of the woods. We heard the shot and Papa waited for her to come back.” The rack of the 150-pound deer now hangs in the Jeromes’ living room beside other trophies from Paul’s bounty. The tanned hide is warm beside the hearth, a Vermont-style version of the proverbial bear rug. The sausage, smoked quarters, tips, and other portions of the venison became food for the Jeromes. The prestige of bagging a buck lives on.

Running also feeds Jenna’s love for the outdoors, from the U-32 cross-country team in the fall, indoor and outdoor track in the winter and spring, to training with the Nordic team in the summer. It all began five years ago with “Girls on the Run,” an elementary school program that inspires confidence and a love of fitness; prior to that Jenna says that she would complain about walking 10 feet. Now, it’s a different story. “People think I’m kinda crazy, because I run all the time,” Jenna chuckled. She especially looks forward to meets and the opportunity to get to know new people and try to beat her own personal best race times.

High school can be tough, but she makes it work. “Most of my friends do this stuff right along with me,” she says, reclining against a plush coyote pelt thrown over the arm of the couch. Flipping through photos from a friend’s coming-of-age celebration at the Capitol Plaza the night before, she is radiant in an empire-waist, strapless gown. From camo to cosmetics, Jenna’s clearly got it covered.

Target practice, and an interest in bow hunting for a longer season and more hunting opportunities, fill most of her spare time. When not on the hunt or the run, Jenna plays guitar and chronicles her days in photos. On summer nights, you may find her at Barre’s Thunder Road with her parents, soaking up the sights and sounds under the smoky haze of burned rubber. In the late summer, “deer rides” with her father to scope out the habitat present great photo ops, mostly of the natural environment, and … deer. Her growing portfolio of wildlife and the natural environment is headlined by bucks and does.

A passion for the outdoors defines Jenna, now and forever. What’s next for this high school freshman? Working with children or becoming a game warden, she says. “Helping animals, being outside, making it better for people. Because that’s what I like to do.” A girl on the land, immersed in the Vermont experience: “livin’ the 802,” as they say.

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