On any given weekend in the winter, you’ll likely find Taylor Dutka aiming for the button as a young accomplished curler. Come spring, however, the 17-year-old aims for another target as an avid archer and hunter.
While it was both parents who had an influence on her first passion of curling growing up, it was her father who introduced her to her second: the bow and arrow.
As a child, dad would set up targets on their property. “He would put out big balloons and they just started getting smaller and smaller,” said Dutka. “It was a good challenge, and I loved the challenge, going out and just popping the balloons.”
Her father, Oleh, is proud of how far his daughter has come in the 10 years since picking up the bow. He’s even more thrilled when he talks about how they like to engage in a friendly competition when out on the range or in a competition. “It’s a win-win. Being a coach or competing against each other. I mean, if she beats me...well, I just did good coaching,” he said.
The father-daughter duo recently took part in a 3-D event in Taylor with both finishing first — Oleh scored 923 points, while Taylor finished in her class with 893. The two were also at this past weekend’s Gum Boot Shoot in Fort St. John. While it was billed as a family-fun event, and no prizes were offered by the organizers, it was still a showdown of sorts, with the younger Dutka reminding her dad at the end of the match about the prized milkshake she was able to win.
Dutka’s love of archery, and later, hunting, grew at early age on a trip to an outdoor shoot in Grande Prairie. The South Peace Secondary student said it was really meant to be for fun, to see what it’s all about. It was there she had a chance meeting with Ralph and Vicki from the Archer’s Choice television show and she was hooked. “That really intrigued me. I always loved hunting. So I use my bow and just go out hunting. It just became a lifestyle.”
Dutka admits she doesn’t need to go too far to fulfill her passion for hunting. “We live on a quarter section and we’re really good friends with our neighbour... so we’re allowed to go on their (much larger) property too.” In fact, the high school senior recently brought down her first deer.
Aside from hunting, Dutka is quick to point out she’s competitive. While she plays sports like baseball and hockey more for enjoyment, curling is where her heart seems to be. “I love being out on the ice. It feels like home.” Since 2014, Dutka has led two teams to the Alberta under-18 Curling Provincials and moved to Edmonton for a couple months to see what curling at the university level might look like.
For now, though, any future goals in curling or archery will be need to be put on hold. “I am going to Prince George. I got into UNBC,” says Dutka. “I’m going for a Bachelor of Science.” Once complete, Dutka will likely have a third passion to fulfill as a wildlife and fisheries biologist. That passion begins this fall.