Having never pulled back a compound bow or fired a shotgun — "If somebody had told me I'd be doing it, I would never have believed them," she said — Kephart first joined her husband shortly after they got married.

Initially, it was just to watch.

"I sat in the tree stand getting cold and thought I might as well put a bow in my hands" she said.

It took Kephart into their second season together to take down her first whitetail, using a muzzleloader, and until her fourth to shoot one with a bow.

The feeling she had as an athlete quickly returned.

"It was amazing," she said. "I had been out so many times without seeing anything. I never imagined that it would be that exciting."

Kephart said that hunting brings back memories of when she was a high school and college athlete running cross country.

"When I ran cross country, I preferred being in the woods, being out there in the lead, no one could see me, being alone," she said. "It's the same kind of thing."

Like her husband, Kephart has started to combine her newfound passion with her profession as well. When she was finishing her master's degree in education at Salisbury, one of her prerequisites was to introduce a program into the school where she was student-teaching.

Kephart introduced the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) at Warwick Elementary. Now the vice principal at Maple Elementary, Kephart is in the process of introducing the program there as well. The program is geared for students who are not that interested in sports — or school — to give them an activity, Kephart said.

"A lot of the girls are excited when they find out that I hunt," said Kephart, who now takes her 4-year-old daughter, Brookelyn, and 11-year-old stepson Alex when she and Jason go hunting. "For a lot of the kids, it makes them want to be in school."

Kephart and her husband often videotape their hunts and post the footage on their website, chesapeakepursuits.com.

"It makes it more nerve-racking because if you more miss, it adds another element to it, it's on videotape," Kephart said. "If you're waiting for the perfect shot, you also have to make sure the person who is taking the pictures has the right angle, too."

Jason Kephart said his wife killed a second sika deer last year while being videotaped.

"She's really competitive," he said. "Most hunters who start out take what they can get. She set her standards pretty high."

don.markus@baltsun.com

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