Answering America is an interview-style series highlighting the leaders supportingFriends of NRA,The NRA Foundationand the programs they fund. Learn about these high-profile influencers from the world of firearms and the shooting sports—in their own words. For this edition of the Q&A featuring Outdoorswoman Ashlee Lundvall.
Since a paralyzing ranching accident in 1999, Ashlee has been redefining her life. She is a champion for change in the many organizations she works with, encouraging everyone to live to the fullest. A natural outdoorswoman and adventurer with a powerful message of adaptability and perseverance, she energizes audiences around the country with her humor and authentic personal stories.
Out of all your life accomplishments, which one stands out the most to you? I’ve been blessed with so many amazing opportunities in my life, so it’s hard to narrow it down to one. But I was recently honored with a commission that really seems to identify everything I’ve been working towards over the last twenty years. In May of 2018, President Trump appointed me to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition. I’ve been given the chance to represent people with disabilities and effect real change on their behalf on a national platform, and I couldn’t be more excited. I am passionate about outdoor recreation and helping everyone to stay as independent as possible, so this new adventure is something that will always stand out to me as one of the best moments in my life.
What do you see for the future of shooting sports for those with disabilities? There has never been a better time to be living with a disability than right now, especially if you are interested in shooting sports and other adaptive recreational adventures. The NRA Adaptive Shooting Program was rebooted several years ago and is being led by Dr. Joe Logar. He is doing a phenomenal job providing education, resources, and leadership as the NRA seeks to better serve people with disabilities. Whether it’s through competitive shooting, hunting, or recreational firearms activities, if you have the desire to participate, a disability shouldn’t stand in your way. The future is bright, and the opportunities are endless.
What made you want to become a motivational speaker and do what you do to help others every day? I certainly never planned on making a living as a motivational speaker, but after winning the 2013 Ms. Wheelchair USA crown, I was given the chance to travel and speak during my reining year. I quickly remembered how much I enjoyed sharing my story with others, as well as explaining what I’ve learned along this incredible journey. I was given more and more opportunities, and before I knew it, I was doing it full time. Every time I speak, I get to meet new people, learn about their lives, and share my passion for redefining moments and lessons we take from those times. I’m incredibly fortunate that my job never feels like work.
What is your favorite quote and why? “Sometimes it takes more courage to let go of old dreams that you don’t even recognize anymore in order to move on to new dreams.” This is something that I had to learn at an early age, but it has helped me time and time again as I am faced with obstacles and changes in my life. Many people believe that if you don’t return to your life exactly as it was before a disability or major life change, future plans included, that your obstacle has somehow beaten you. I completely disagree with this. My life looks nothing like I had planned as a teenager, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
Share your first recollection of using a firearm. How old were you and who taught you how to shoot? I didn’t grow up around firearms. I knew that my Dad stored a few guns in his closet, but he never got them out or taught me about them. When I started dating a boy from Wyoming in 2005, Russ made it clear that he couldn’t marry me unless he knew I could shoot! Unfortunately, it wasn’t a very pleasant experience. Although we did get married in 2006, I learned that your spouse isn’t always the best person to introduce you to learning a new skill. Luckily, I was given another chance in 2013 when I drew my first bull elk tag. I knew I couldn’t use a bow as I had on previous hunts, so I ventured into the world of firearms once again. I’d shot since that first encounter, but nothing serious. This time around it was an amazing experience, and I’ve immersed myself in firearms ever since. Learning about guns in my late 20’s allowed me to appreciate them in a way I don’t think I would have if I grew up around them. Teaching others and making sure their first shooting experience is a pleasant one is a passion of mine that will never fade.
As an outdoors woman, what is your favorite outdoor activity and why? When my accident happened in 1999, I assumed, like many others, that people living with physical disabilities don’t go outdoors. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong about something! The outdoors doesn’t have to be a scary place, but you have to be brave enough to wheel outside of your comfort zone and venture out. Sometimes it takes a little bit of creativity, the right adaptive equipment, and the support of your friends and family, but in the end, it’s always worth it! My favorite outdoor activity is definitely hunting. I get to enjoy nature, challenge myself physically and mentally, provide an amazing source of organic protein for my family, and share in the joys of conservation efforts around the world. And every time I hunt, I learn something new, which makes me a better hunter and educator. I don’t know what I would do without hunting!
What is your favorite type of firearm to shoot? I love to hunt large game, so at the end of the day, I’m a rifle girl. Because of my wheelchair, I’m not the sneakiest hunter in the world, so I’ve worked hard to become proficient at shooting at longer distances. I always try to get as close as possible to whatever I’m pursuing, but if that’s not an option, I want to ensure I can still make an accurate, ethical shot from any distance. My new favorite firearm is my 6.5 Creedmoor Bolt-Action rifle topped with a NXS 5.5-22x56 scope. With a solid base, this flat shooting combination is a joy to shoot. I’ve spent hours at the range making sure I understand and trust every aspect of the setup, and I just took my first big game with it on a recent antelope hunt with my husband and daughter.