Faith, Family, and the Great Outdoors

Walking along the paths cut through her family’s land, Rebecca Stevens reflects on how lucky she was. Raised in a beautiful home with scenic land on a quite road in Overbrook, Okla., she grew up with an appreciation for all things outdoors. Hunting, fishing, and camping are just a few of the things the 21-year-old nursing student enjoys, and she has spent her life becoming a good steward of the land and its inhabitants.

Her faith in God is also of utmost importance. “Church is a particularly important aspect of our lives, and I was raised going to church every Sunday. The few times we missed was because of hunting,” she said with a laugh.

“It was a wonderful way to grow up,” she recalled. “My sister and I would come out and spend the days here in the woods playing. We had all this room to run and play and hide. I was pretty much raised hunting, fishing, and camping.”

At first glance, Rebecca doesn’t appear to be the outdoors’ type, if there is such a thing. Tall and lean, she looks more apt to be in the pages of a magazine than in a deer blind. Those assumptions are quickly belied by a deep knowledge, love, and appreciation for nature.

Getting Started

Rebecca comes by her love of wildlife honestly. Her father, Russell Stevens, has been a strategic consultation manager and a wildlife and range consultant in the producer relations program at the Noble Research Institute for more than 30 years. Her grandfather Larry Stevens, affectionately nicknamed Papa, built recurve bows for years. “Papa built recurves, and then my dad started building longbows,” Rebecca shared. “We will go to traditional archery tournaments around McAlester and Stratford and practice all year long to get ready for hunting season. My mom is an English teacher, but she enjoys it, too.”

Rebecca reminisces about the first time her father let her sit in a deer stand by herself; a morning that was memorable for a couple reasons. “I was eight or nine. It was awesome. He walked me to my stand and set me up there and made sure I was good. He walked across the property to sit in a different stand, so I wasn’t totally by myself. I felt pretty independent.” She laughed and added, “I just remember shooting a doe and losing a tooth the same morning.”

While Rebecca doesn’t build the bows herself, she still regularly finds herself partaking in the process. “It’s pretty neat to watch. Dad will bring the bows in the house and show us them throughout the process. He’ll show us different woods for limbs and risers and see what combinations look good to us, and it’s pretty fun,” she shared.

While many people enjoy hunting with a compound bow, Stevens enjoys the challenge of the longbow, which is basically, “Just a stick and string,” she said with a laugh. “When you’re pulling back that weight, you have to hold it the whole time, and you don’t have any sites.”

Rebecca has taken several deer with the longbow, but there are a few that stick out in her mind. Most memorable, perhaps, was her first deer taken with the longbow at age 15. She was on her grandmother Jeanette’s property, while her father was away on a hunt in McAlester. “It’s kind of hard to describe, but I can remember it happening and was over in just a couple minutes. It is so vivid in my mind,” she shared. “He came in kind of back behind me to my left and was only about 10 yards away. He only had three points on one side, and a spike on the other. He was kind of cutting across angling away from me. I remember placing the arrow right at the last rib, and angling it forward.”

After releasing the arrow, she knew she’d taken a good shot, but because of the deep brush she quickly lost sight of the buck. “I remember calling my dad, and he told me he just knew that my first deer I shot with a recurve was going to be when he was away. It was his last day there, though, so he told me to just wait and he’d come home to help me track it,” she said. “I went back to my grandma’s house and sat there and waited what seemed like forever. We were both really excited. After I shot him, I had to sit down because I was shaking so hard. I couldn’t believe it happened.”

Hunting is a big part of Rebecca’s life, but it is not just about sport. “Some of the best memories I have had with my dad have been in the outdoors. It’s always been a special time for us to bond,” she said. “Not just that, but hunters are the biggest conservation team in the United States, and so we can manage the deer, and wildlife in general, by hunting. It’s very important to control the population.”

In addition, the Stevens family gets to enjoy the bounty of food that comes from hunting. “We hardly waste an ounce of meat,” Rebecca shared. “We actually process all of our animals ourselves, and my dad has taught me a lot about how to do that. We use as much as we can.”

Choosing Nursing

With her passion for the outdoors, Rebecca had planned to find a career that would foster that love, even working several summers at the Noble Research Institute as a hand. “I just mowed, painted fence, hauled hay, and did anything to do with keeping the outside running,” she recalled.

Those plans changed her senior year, when Russell became very sick. “He was diagnosed with cancer, and I’ll never forget those nurses and how well they took care of my dad and my family and how they advocated for him. We also had a nurse in our family, Michelle, who I think help saved his life. My mom had been on the phone with her asking about what could possibly be wrong with him,” Rebecca explained. “Michelle was the one who got in touch with the oncologist at Mercy OKC, who was on vacation at the time, but went ahead and ordered blood work for dad and reviewed it while on vacation. Michelle told us tog et our bags packed because the city would be calling to tell us we needed to get up there quickly.”

“I figured I would really enjoy being in that profession and possibly saving lives. Those great nurses made a lasting impression on me,” she said.

The nursing program at East Central University is top-notch, and the end of school is in sight for Rebecca, who is set to graduate at the end of the spring semester in 2021. “When COVID-19 hit, we had to stop right after spring break, adjust, and do our school and clinicals online. They did the best they could to get experience for us, but this semester we’re pretty limited to the places that will allow students. Still, they are working to make sure we get our experience which will allow us to graduate on time,” she explained.

In addition to school, Rebecca works as a nurse’s aid at Mercy in Ardmore. “We don’t have as many aids right now because of COVID-19, so I stay pretty busy,” she said. “I haven’t decided on a specific direction I want to go with nursing, but I’m excited to be in a field with so many options.”

Walking along the paths cut through her family’s land, Rebecca Stevens reflects on how lucky she was. Raised in a beautiful home with scenic land on a quite road in Overbrook, Okla., she grew up with an appreciation for all things outdoors. Hunting, fishing, and camping are just a few of the things the 21-year-old nursing student enjoys, and she has spent her life becoming a good steward of the land and its inhabitants.

Her faith in God is also of utmost importance. “Church is a particularly important aspect of our lives, and I was raised going to church every Sunday. The few times we missed was because of hunting,” she said with a laugh.

“It was a wonderful way to grow up,” she recalled. “My sister and I would come out and spend the days here in the woods playing. We had all this room to run and play and hide. I was pretty much raised hunting, fishing, and camping.”

At first glance, Rebecca doesn’t appear to be the outdoors’ type, if there is such a thing. Tall and lean, she looks more apt to be in the pages of a magazine than in a deer blind. Those assumptions are quickly belied by a deep knowledge, love, and appreciation for nature.

Getting Started

Rebecca comes by her love of wildlife honestly. Her father, Russell Stevens, has been a strategic consultation manager and a wildlife and range consultant in the producer relations program at the Noble Research Institute for more than 30 years. Her grandfather Larry Stevens, affectionately nicknamed Papa, built recurve bows for years. “Papa built recurves, and then my dad started building longbows,” Rebecca shared. “We will go to traditional archery tournaments around McAlester and Stratford and practice all year long to get ready for hunting season. My mom is an English teacher, but she enjoys it, too.”

Rebecca reminisces about the first time her father let her sit in a deer stand by herself; a morning that was memorable for a couple reasons. “I was eight or nine. It was awesome. He walked me to my stand and set me up there and made sure I was good. He walked across the property to sit in a different stand, so I wasn’t totally by myself. I felt pretty independent.” She laughed and added, “I just remember shooting a doe and losing a tooth the same morning.”

While Rebecca doesn’t build the bows herself, she still regularly finds herself partaking in the process. “It’s pretty neat to watch. Dad will bring the bows in the house and show us them throughout the process. He’ll show us different woods for limbs and risers and see what combinations look good to us, and it’s pretty fun,” she shared.

While many people enjoy hunting with a compound bow, Stevens enjoys the challenge of the longbow, which is basically, “Just a stick and string,” she said with a laugh. “When you’re pulling back that weight, you have to hold it the whole time, and you don’t have any sites.”

Rebecca has taken several deer with the longbow, but there are a few that stick out in her mind. Most memorable, perhaps, was her first deer taken with the longbow at age 15. She was on her grandmother Jeanette’s property, while her father was away on a hunt in McAlester. “It’s kind of hard to describe, but I can remember it happening and was over in just a couple minutes. It is so vivid in my mind,” she shared. “He came in kind of back behind me to my left and was only about 10 yards away. He only had three points on one side, and a spike on the other. He was kind of cutting across angling away from me. I remember placing the arrow right at the last rib, and angling it forward.”

After releasing the arrow, she knew she’d taken a good shot, but because of the deep brush she quickly lost sight of the buck. “I remember calling my dad, and he told me he just knew that my first deer I shot with a recurve was going to be when he was away. It was his last day there, though, so he told me to just wait and he’d come home to help me track it,” she said. “I went back to my grandma’s house and sat there and waited what seemed like forever. We were both really excited. After I shot him, I had to sit down because I was shaking so hard. I couldn’t believe it happened.”

Hunting is a big part of Rebecca’s life, but it is not just about sport. “Some of the best memories I have had with my dad have been in the outdoors. It’s always been a special time for us to bond,” she said. “Not just that, but hunters are the biggest conservation team in the United States, and so we can manage the deer, and wildlife in general, by hunting. It’s very important to control the population.”

In addition, the Stevens family gets to enjoy the bounty of food that comes from hunting. “We hardly waste an ounce of meat,” Rebecca shared. “We actually process all of our animals ourselves, and my dad has taught me a lot about how to do that. We use as much as we can.”

Choosing Nursing

With her passion for the outdoors, Rebecca had planned to find a career that would foster that love, even working several summers at the Noble Research Institute as a hand. “I just mowed, painted fence, hauled hay, and did anything to do with keeping the outside running,” she recalled.

Those plans changed her senior year, when Russell became very sick. “He was diagnosed with cancer, and I’ll never forget those nurses and how well they took care of my dad and my family and how they advocated for him. We also had a nurse in our family, Michelle, who I think help saved his life. My mom had been on the phone with her asking about what could possibly be wrong with him,” Rebecca explained. “Michelle was the one who got in touch with the oncologist at Mercy OKC, who was on vacation at the time, but went ahead and ordered blood work for dad and reviewed it while on vacation. Michelle told us tog et our bags packed because the city would be calling to tell us we needed to get up there quickly.”

“I figured I would really enjoy being in that profession and possibly saving lives. Those great nurses made a lasting impression on me,” she said.

The nursing program at East Central University is top-notch, and the end of school is in sight for Rebecca, who is set to graduate at the end of the spring semester in 2021. “When COVID-19 hit, we had to stop right after spring break, adjust, and do our school and clinicals online. They did the best they could to get experience for us, but this semester we’re pretty limited to the places that will allow students. Still, they are working to make sure we get our experience which will allow us to graduate on time,” she explained.

In addition to school, Rebecca works as a nurse’s aid at Mercy in Ardmore. “We don’t have as many aids right now because of COVID-19, so I stay pretty busy,” she said. “I haven’t decided on a specific direction I want to go with nursing, but I’m excited to be in a field with so many options.”

Read more about Rebecca in the November 2020 issue of Oklahoma Farm & Ranch.