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Nagel embraces, teaches, shares outdoor lifestyle

Mary Nagel was exposed to an outdoor lifestyle when she 8 months old, and it's never escaped her.

This year, she's been hunting or fishing 43 days since April 12, according to her significant other Mark Koupal.

"She hunts and fishes more than any men I know," said Cathy Robertson, who's known Nagel since they were seventh graders at Mitchell Middle School.

Although Nagel, 43, of Mitchell, enjoys both, she makes it out to the water more often.

"As much as I fish, you'd think I'd catch something really big," she said, adding the largest walleye she's caught was six pounds.

She fishes all sorts of different kinds, but says paddlefish are the toughest to bring in.

"It's a great pastime and I love the nature part," said Nagel, adding she didn't want to give her fishing and hunting locations away, with good reason. "I love to fish on the Missouri River because it's where I started fishing.

"With hunting, sitting in the tree stand and seeing all the animals and creatures is relaxing. It's not all about killing."

Nagel has hunted a variety of animals, including geese, duck, turkey, antelope, deer, pheasant and elk. Two of her best shots are a 6x6 deer she shot with a rifle and she struck an 8x6 deer while bow hunting two years ago.

Being a woman, Nagel is a part of a small group nationwide when it comes to the outdoors.

According to an article by Barbara Baird, of Women's Outdoor News, nine percent of all hunters were female in 2012. In addition, nine percent of elk hunters that year were also females.

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Education Services Coordinator Maggie Lindsey said more women are starting to hunt and fish than any other group.

"It is the largest increasing segment in the United States," Lindsey said, adding the GF&P didn't have any hard numbers when comparing women to men.

Getting her start

Growing up, Nagel remembers being out on the Missouri River, camping and fishing with her family.

Nagel said her parents, Vic and Amie Honermann, got her interested in the outdoors as their family would camp every weekend on the river.

"My brother, Mike, would wake me up in the morning to tag along with him to bow fish carp," she said. " ... My brother and dad also got me into pheasant hunting when I was young."

Robertson said Nagel often hunted and fished with the boys during middle school.

"She's pheasant hunted for as long as I can remember and we road hunted together in high school," Robertson said. "We've had a lot of good times together."

Now, Nagel and Robertson have a 10- to 15-year tradition of deer hunting together on opening weekend.

"It's kind of a little holiday for us," Robertson said, recollecting one memory. "It was getting close to dark and Mary had to work that night. We sat out there all afternoon and I finally shot my deer. She had to change her clothes on the way back to Mitchell so she could work. She was so faithful to sit with me all afternoon, and I felt so bad knowing she'd have to work all night long."

Nagel also spends many hours with her family, a time they all look forward to.

"It's just a blast to enjoy that kind of experience," Koupal said. "We just want to be together and fishing is a good way to spend that time together."

Sharing her passion

Throughout the years, Nagel has introduced many to the water and woods.

She said she often takes her girlfriends out to fish and enjoys sharing her love for it with others.

"At first, I'd bait the hook and take the fish out if they caught any," Nagel said. "After that, I'd make them do it. I think I've gotten a lot of people interested. ... It makes you feel good that you can get somebody their first fish."

She's sprung interest on people of all ages, including her niece, Emmie Honermann. Honermann first went out with her aunt roughly six years ago.

For the past four years, the two turkey hunt every spring together. Honermann, 16, said there is never a dull moment during their hunts.

"When I shot my first one, (Mary) called them in and they all came running over the hill," Honermann said. "She yelled, 'Emmie, shoot! Shoot!' I remember shaking like crazy and then there was this huge bang.

"She kept yelling, 'Shoot again! Shoot again!' After they were gone, we looked up and she goes, 'You got one.' "

Honermann ended up shooting two turkeys that day and said hunting is something she'll continue to do.

"(Mary) thinks about everyone but herself and wants everyone to have fun around her," Honermann said.

Shooting cancer

Nagel was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago.

The then-35-year-old went through chemotherapy for four months, a time when she didn't work.

"During that time, I hunted and fished when I felt good," Nagel said, adding she went fishing roughly four times a week during the four-month span.

She said she went with Floyd Drew, 85, of Mitchell, to the Missouri River. She also hunted often but did this alone.

Nagel said she harvested three deer during that hunting season.

"There I was sitting up in the tree and I was completely bald with a crossbow," she said. "I should've been worried about dying and there I was sitting in this tree stand waiting for a deer."

She said the opportunity to be outdoors healed her as she made the best out of the worst situation.

"She's so much fun and is such a strong person," Robertson said. "She did it from knowing how much she'd miss the outdoors if she wasn't around to do it."

After undergoing surgery, Nagel's been cancer free.

"When I went through breast cancer, I know that having my love for the outdoors helped me heal," she said. "I fished and bow hunted every chance I had. I still fish and hunt every chance I get because you don't know when it might be your last day. We are not here for a long time, so we should have a great time while we are here."

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.