Drive off the blacktop, down a gravel road, turn onto a long lane that winds — watch the little goats that scurry along — to a house on a wooded ridge.
That’s where you find two young sisters who would rather be bundled up in the cold woods than sleeping in on a Saturday morning.
They hunt. And they love all that that means. The early rise, solitude, the song of birds, nature’s colors, breath in the air. Their dogs.
“Killing the animal isn’t the fun part,” said Madeline Funk, 12, a seventh-grader.
“Like our dad said, if you like killing animals — there’s something wrong with you,” added Elizabeth Funk, 15, a sophomore at McLouth High School.
These two know guns, but don’t spend a lot of time talking about them. They like their dogs more. Long guns get heavy when you lug them 10 miles a day over rough terrain.
For them, a gun is merely a tool. They hunt for purpose. Parents Jason and Christine Funk say 90 percent of the meat consumed in the home comes from hunting. It’s a tradition for a family that has been in this rural area of Leavenworth County three generations.
“A lot of boys in my class hunt, but not many girls,” Elizabeth said.
Madeline nodded in agreement. “Some don’t understand because they’ve never done it. With us, it’s probably how we were raised. We grew up in the woods.”
For fowl, Elizabeth uses a Remington 870 pump .20 gauge shotgun.
Madeline has a side-by-side .28 gauge. When reminded it was her grandmother’s, she nodded that it’s kind of cool that it’s been handed down generations.
But for them, again, it’s what the gun puts in the freezer, and the joy of time in the woods.
“You’re out there all alone,” Elizabeth said. “I like sitting out there, thinking about things, listening to birds, no telling what will walk by.”
“A possum walks by or an owl might land 10 yards away,” Madeline said.
Elizabeth was not really into it at first.
“But then I got a dog,” she said.
In a contest essay on hunting she wrote: “There are no cars, no talking, just the hunter, his dog, and his prey. No distractions, no other people telling you what to do, just you and nature. The hunter uses his dog, and can sense what his dog is trying to tell him, if a bird is about to pop up or if it’s already gone. Hunting is a magical experience between dog and man, as they communicate to each other without words. You never feel closer to your dog than you do when you are hunting.”
Elizabeth and Madeline both credit their dad for the passion of hunting. Elizabeth said he pushed his daughters because he didn’t have any boys to push.
Jason Funk took exception to “push.” He doesn’t even like “encourage.”
“I exposed them to hunting,” he said. “They liked it. They were always outside girls anyway. They took to it and they do it right.”
“Like never shoot a bird the dog hasn’t pointed,” Elizabeth said.
Jason nodded. “That’s not the law, but it is family law.”
The family, which includes another daughter, Sarah, lives on 53 acres. They have goats, horses and dogs. Those are the tame animals.
“No telling what kind of wild life might come down a trail,” Christine said.
The girls make good grades. It’s expected. Both are involved in lots of extracurricular activities. And they’ve both taken several gun safety courses.
And they think maybe the country could do with a refresher course.
As for gun violence, Elizabeth thinks people should respect guns more, particularly the damage and pain they can cause.
“And I think the government should monitor who should be allowed to buy a gun,” she said. “Some people shouldn’t have a gun.”
Madeline agreed. “Like the guy in Las Vegas. He should not have owned a gun. It should be regulated — not just who can buy one but what kind of gun.”
Firearm-wise beyond their years, but only recently has Jason allowed them to go hunting alone.
“We respect guns,” Elizabeth said. “Safety on, finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.”
Madeline gets the final word: “We don’t do anything stupid. It’s a gun.”
Donald Bradley: 816-234-4182