Deer hunter Virginia Dunning bags another at age 94

John Christensen and Charlie Spacek, The Chronicle-Express
Virginia Dunning, 94, with her great-grandchildren and the deer she shot Sept. 13 in Torrey.

TORREY – Daryl and Betty Daggett took Betty’s mom, 94-year-old Virginia Dunning, hunting Sept. 13 in their hopyard for the new, brief, antlerless season Sept. 11-19, and with the help of a human tripod,  and Virgina shot a doe!

Betty says Virginia has been hunting deer for about 55 years and has taken around 30 in that time, mostly bucks.

“She was absolutely thrilled,” says Betty. “She told everyone she called, ‘I am 94 and I’ve still got it!’”

The following is a article by the late Chronicle-Express outdoor sports writer Charlie Spacek, originally published in 2014 when he considered it remarkable that Virginia was still hunting deer and turkeys and fishing regularly nearing the age of 87. 

More comfortable in a tree stand than a rocking chair, local hunting and fishing inspiration and outdoorswoman Virginia Dunning turns 87 in July.

When one thinks of a reason to stay in a warm house, instead of going out to pursue big game or spend hours on the the Finger Lakes fishing, I will think of my friend Virginia “Gin” Dunning, who will be turning 87 in July 2014. Yes, you read that right. She is 86, and still enjoys the outdoors as much as a 40-year-old would.

When I arrived for my interview with Gin recently, I was greeted by her daughter, Betty Daggett. Entering the house I expected to find a frail women there. When I laid eyes on Gin, I thought it to be a women in her 50s. She was scurrying around and greeted me with a huge smile. I was taken aback by how active she was.

Virginia “Gin” Dunning was born July 25, 1927 in the town of Jerusalem. She is sole remaining of 16 siblings. She has 21 great-grandchildren and is waiting to count more. Gin has loved to hunt and fish since she was 12 years old. Although she has given up bow hunting, she is very active in hunting for whitetail deer and our local turkey population.

I am not to worried about her going up and down the stairs at her house because she still will hike into the woods on opening day of deer season and climb up into her tree stand. These days her tree stand is heated and closed in for comfort. I think she deserves that.

Gin got a huge smile on her face when the subject turned to turkey hunting. She loves to hunt turkeys. During turkey season, Gin will take out as many of the hunting youth as she can. She guides them and helps them understand the sport and the reason for safe and humane harvest. She takes all of this time to help the youth in our community, never expecting praise or some award. She just loves the sport and the kids very much, and it shows in her ongoing love for the outdoors.

She recalls a Georgia deer hunt she was on as a younger woman in her 70s. She was put in a tree stand that was very hard to get to, but she managed to pull herself up into it. She just sat down and thought how nice and peaceful it was, when out of the corner of her eye a huge six-point buck made a mistake. The deer gave Gin a great shot, and she dropped him where he stood. 

Virginia Dunning pictured in 2014 at the age of almost 87 with one of the many bucks she harvested in her years of hunting.

These days, although she still cleans all of her game including the fish she catches, her kids and grandkids field dress her whitetails now. She smiles and says “It’s good for them to learn how to do that!” The other hunters got nothing that day, and she thought that was nice of them to drag the buck out for her, she laughs.

Gin also is very active in hunting snow geese. She recalls when she and Jim Dunning were hunting geese, Jim made her lay on the cold ground so he could “kick” the geese to her. It seems the ground got colder and the geese never came. But Jim had an encounter with fire ants. Gin tells the tale with a smile that on that day she caught a cold, had no geese to show and Jim got a real bad case of fire ant bites. Gin got over her cold, they eventually got some geese, but, oh, Jim never stopped getting reminded of the fire ants!

I thought I could snag Gin on a turkey question, but she was as quick to respond as she is to harvest game. I asked her what kind of call she uses to call in turkey. Gin said she has the best luck with a box call. Her biggest turkey was a 22 pounder with 10-inch beard She said that is was a great call to mimic the turkey mating. I should have known better than try to give her a trick question. Since Gin’s beloved husband, Bob, has been gone for many years now, it was up to her to take the kids and grandkids hunting and fishing. She has instilled the true meaning into her family of why we hunt and fish. To preserve our heritage and values.

As with every great hunter, Gin has her favorite weapon, and still uses a 12 or 20 gauge shotgun for her many harvests. Gin tends to use the 20 gauge more than the 12 gauge as she had a rotator cuff surgery some time ago. She also enjoys deer hunting with her muzzle loader, and has harvested many whitetail with it.(I know what you’re thinking out there. I am just amazed with her too!)

Gin really enjoys fishing on our local lakes. As our conversation turned to fishing, I just had to ask her if she ever was in the Seneca Lake Trout Derby.In the 2013 Seneca Lake Trout Derby, Virginia “Gin” Dunning, placed second in the seniors division with a huge, 14 1/2 lb. lake trout. Not only did she receive a placque for her efforts, but also a hefty cash award.

Instead of keeping the money for herself. Gin bought folks who needed hunting and fishing items the gear they needed. (If you are not inspired by now, you never will be.) She said the trout put up a good half-hour fight - but we know who won in the end. “It was enough trout to feed an army!” she says with a smile. One of the biggest perch she caught was a 4 1/2 pounder, and she loves to make her family perch dinners.

At 86, Gin still loves to travel and makes an Alaska trip for King Salmon about every two or three years. One last note about Gin’s fishing. She loves to ice fish — a lot. She has not been out this season and is just waiting for someone to take her out on the ice. If that someone is you, give her a call. Who knows, you may learn something about the sport.

Gin Dunning is more than a great hunter, great fishing woman, and inspiration to all who love the outdoors. She is a person who is genuine in every sense of the word, and counts her years by her many friends and family along the way.

Gin, truly knows that if she wants to see what is in the horizon, she has to get off the shore.

Do you have something in your life that you are in love with, passionate about, something good that you can not stop doing? Never stop, it may give you a life time of enjoyment!

Sportsmen and women; if you get a chance, take a youngster hunting or fishing!