A passion for the great outdoors courses through Laura Schara’s veins. Quite truly, it’s in her blood. She got it from her dad, consummate outdoorsman and Minnesota Bound host Ron Schara.
“I always tell people I was pretty much born with a fishing pole in my hand,” she says. “But it wasn’t just about hunting or fishing in our family; my dad was always teaching us about the circle of life. My sister and I were fortunate to have such a great teacher who instilled in us the importance of spending time in the outdoors and how that reconnects you to something greater than yourself.”
After college, Laura strayed from the family business and forayed into fashion, producing shows for Marshall Field’s then Macy’s. But the call of the wild always rang out to her. “When I worked in the high-paced fashion world, going back to nature would ground me,” she explains. “I have always appreciated returning to something that brings me back down to earth in a really good way.”
She started appearing on Minnesota Bound, which ultimately led to more television gigs. Today, she’s a regular on the Outdoor Channel, Fox Sports North and the like. Laura’s passion for fashion certainly hasn’t faded, and she still produces shows (like the Mall of America’s Curated Style show earlier this fall). And most of her efforts — including her blog, Wildly Living — bring together those two worlds.
When she gets the opportunity to go hunting or fishing these days, it’s about much more than just the sport. “This past spring, I was turkey hunting with my dad,” she recalls. “And one morning, I missed a very easy shot. It was such a moment of defeat, and I realized I was in for a very long day. But I was lucky enough to get a second shot, a second chance, and I got that bird. There’s something really primal that comes over you when you are about to take an animal’s life for your own, to feed your soul and to feed your family.”
Among her favorite fall traditions? Pheasant hunting. “I love it for two reasons: One, pheasant is really good to eat, and two, there’s a lot of camaraderie in the field,” Laura explains. “A lot of hunting — deer hunting, for example — means you’re sitting there in solitude. You’re dead silent. But when you’re pheasant hunting, there could be five, 10, 15 of you. You’re walking through the fields, you’re out in the fresh air, the dogs are working, the sun is shining, you’re laughing because you’re missing birds (I’m a champion at missing pheasants). That’s why it’s such a fun sport.”
When it comes to cooking pheasant, Laura is totally game. “My mom is an amazing wild game cook, and we ate so much of it growing up,” she notes. “She was always experimenting, and I love to experiment when I’m in the kitchen. What it really comes down to is how you prep the bird before you cook it. Brining is key: It helps the meat retain moisture and also softens some of the muscle tissue. When you brine a bird, it can take out a lot of the game flavor because you can add in your favorite herbs and spices. I personally like a little smoked sea salt.”
Another tip: “Never fully cook your game on the stovetop,” she says. “Where people often go wrong is overcooking it. Instead, just sear in the juices on the stovetop — high heat, really quickly — then slow cook it in the oven to retain the moisture. But above all, with wild game, you have to be willing to give yourself a hall pass to experiment.”
Similarly, she encourages anyone who wants to try their hand at hunting but who might be intimidated — women especially — to pull the trigger. She suggests starting with gun safety (“hands down, the No. 1 thing you need to do”), finding a good coach (not necessarily your husband) and, once you’re in the field, not taking yourself too seriously.
“If you miss, who cares?” Laura says with a smile. “I call that ‘hunt and release.’ I have no problem watching a bird fly away; I’m still having as much fun. Don’t put that much pressure on yourself. As long as you’re safe and having a good time, that’s all that matters.”
Read this article as it appears in the magazine.