In November 2021, the day after Thanksgiving, I received the following email from NRA Women contributor—now NRA Women Golden Bullseye winner—Heidi Rao:
I'm headed out in an hour or so for my THIRD hunt I'm running this week … I'm taking a group of 8 on a waterfowl hunt - we're camping out tonite and hunting tomorrow morning. I'll be home mid-afternoon tomorrow and my "GOAL" is to get the rest of these articles I've started - finished - and sent your way by the end of the weekend.
We had a fantastic youth DOE hunt - 9 teens took 9 deer - and 4 were first time hunters! YAY
Then our pheasant hunt was spectacular! We had 20 in total hunting and everyone went home with birds - either to mount or eat :)
Hopefully the ducks will be flying tomorrow morning - we're hunting flooded timber so that will be fun - I'll get some great pix too!!
A few days later came this:
Just another update for you … My youngest and I are about to head out for our fourth hunt in 12 days! This is absolutely insane and I am exhausted but driven by the fun :-)
I have three more Christmas articles in the works and will try to work on them to finish them this weekend. Not sure how much cell service I will have. If not, I will have them to you hopefully by Monday. Just wanted to let you know that I’m always working for you and loving putting all this information out there and seeing it in print!
These are representative of the emails I received from Heidi throughout 2021, never telling me she was too busy or couldn’t do something, always asking how she could help even more. “Driven by the fun,” she says. In a few words, that seems to be what keeps Heidi Rao going, never stopping, rarely sleeping, always promoting the goals and mission of the NRA, and always finding ways to share her knowledge and experience with those whom have been put in her charge. Always with a smile, and always with kindness.
Most recently, Heidi was a critical “boots on the ground” point of contact for the 4th Annual NRA Ladies Pistol Project held in Houston, Texas, Heidi’s home town. Heidi performed the first site visit to identify the most ideal range for our event, meeting with representatives at Athena Gun Club, arranging logistics and connecting me with their staff. But no task was too big or too small for Heidi. When my early flight to Houston was cancelled on the critical setup day for the event, Heidi stepped in to yet again provide a huge assist by performing the Herculean task of a Costco run so that our group could be fueled for their long day ahead, and also performing the final pre-check at the gun club. When I was concerned we wouldn’t have enough eye protection for each participant, Heidi ran to the closest outdoor retailer to purchase extras. Most importantly, when some participants unexpectedly dropped out, Heidi reached out on very little notice to recruit a group of ladies in her community to help fill the empty seats. On the day of the event, Heidi served as an instructor and Range Safety Officer. It’s fair to say that without Heidi’s unflappable nature and unwavering support as our Houston point of contact, LPP4 may have been once again postponed.
But Heidi is no stranger to challenges and solutions. Introduced to us in 2014 with this NRA Women New Energy video, Heidi’s passion for sharing her love and respect for the shooting sports and the outdoors to future generations is apparent. Her accomplishments have only gained more traction as she continues to dedicate her career and personal life to educating as many people as possible on every aspect of the outdoor lifestyle. Here’s a little more about Heidi’s accomplishments:
Through her small business, North American Outdoors, Heidi’s goal is to introduce the outdoors to everyone through activities like hunting and shooting. Through quality training, articles and products, she strives to make outdoor experiences safe, fun and memorable for all. Her seven published books feature the common theme of recruiting more women and kids to hunting, firearms safety and the shooting sports, while keeping safe when in the vicinity of where predators roam. Heidi is into the third year of her podcast, North American Outdoors, where topics and interviews revolve around women, youth, firearm safety, hunting and all things outdoors.
As an NRA Life member, Heidi is committed to advancing the goals of the association, becoming a certified Range Safety Officer, Rifle, Pistol and Shotgun Instructor in 2005, and a Level I Shotgun Coach—primarily to keep the shooting ranges open during Boy Scout campouts. Heidi and her (retired) Texas Game Warden husband, John, went on to become NRA Training Counselors, and are now able to teach all firearm disciplines, certify new NRA Instructors including Boy Scout Leaders, and mentor other firearm enthusiasts. Together they have taught more than 200 NRA and firearm safety classes, which translates to more than 2,000 students. Heidi notes that recent classes have been comprised of mostly women, the largest growing segment of the population seeking knowledge, skills and training in firearms.
More recently, Heidi became a contributing writer to NRA Women and NRA Hunter's Leadership Forum. Her prolific body of work (nearly 40 articles in less than one year) can be found here. She has served on the NRA Youth Programs Committee and currently works with the NRA Women’s Leadership Forum.
The Raos have immersed their four boys—all NRA Life Members—in the outdoors and through the Scouting program. Two Eagle Scouts down and two to go, their boys are carrying on these outdoor values and traditions, while continuing our hunting heritage.
In 2018 Heidi started a one-of-a-kind Boy Scout Venture Crew, Hunting Crew .30-06, a co-ed Scouting Unit. This multi-year program gives members many opportunities to experience various hunting and shooting opportunities. The Crew is an NRA Affiliated Club, and all are NRA members. Crew members are Apprentice, Assistant, or full Instructors certified as Rifle, Pistol, Shotgun, and adults are all Range Safety Officers. The Crew works the monthly Junior’s Program, held at a 100 percent NRA Affiliated Club, PSC Shooting Club. The coordinators of this event have attested many times that this program could not exist without the help and support of the youth from Crew .30-06. Crew youth have all earned their NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program Award as a Distinguished Expert in Hunting, using a Pistol, Rifle, Shotgun—or all three!
Chartered by the American Legion Post 490 in Houston, the Post Commander plans to model Hunting Crew .30-06 across all Legion Posts. This model is based on recruiting young members of a supporting organization who believe in their Second Amendment rights, while learning about wildlife conservation, range management, and landowner relationships through hunting opportunities.
Oh, and did we mention Heidi also has a “real" job? Since 1998, Heidi has worked for the Texas Parks and Wildlife as the Hunter Education Specialist for Southeast Texas, as well as the statewide Becoming an Outdoors Woman coordinator. For nearly 25 years, she has recruited, trained, and certified instructors in Hunter Education, as well as recruiting more women and youth to the outdoors through hunting and the shooting sports. Heidi’s philosophy has always been, “When you teach the mom, you hook the entire family.” It seems Heidi is the surrogate mom for an entire generation of future outdoor enthusiasts.
It’s been said that you can really only enjoy life when you’re extremely busy. If that is true, Heidi Rao must really be enjoying life, and is the envy of NRA Women everywhere.
Congratulations to NRA Women contributor Heidi Rao for receiving the 2022 Golden Bullseye for “NRA Women Industry Woman of the Year.”