When she’s not posing with drivers in Victory Lane, NASCAR’s newest Miss Sprint Cup, Paige Duke, is chasing deer and ducks across the Southland. This self-proclaimed “country girl,” from the little town of Lancaster, South Carolina, holds an Animal Science degree from Clemson University. She put aside plans for veterinary school to model fulltime. Paige is a former Hawaiian Tropics girl and mighty deadly with a .270. OUTDOOR LIFE: How did you get started in the outdoors?
DUKE: My dad. When I was little we always went out fishing. You have to make your own fun in Lancaster so we went out fishing on nearby ponds and lakes, and then we started deep-sea fishing. He took me dove hunting, too and then at Clemson I took a class on shot gunning. I wanted to get more into it, so last year I went deer hunting for the first time. And I went duck hunting – I got a really nice wood duck I’m going to get mounted — and this Sunday I’m going on my first turkey hunt.
OL: Do you have a favorite thing to hunt?
DUKE: Well all of them are a different kind of excitement. Dove hunting is fun. You just shoot and shoot. But deer hunting, gosh, my legs were shaking so bad I could hardly get out of the stand. It’s all a different kind of feeling.
OL: Tell me about that first deer hunt.
DUKE: It was in Rock Hill, South Carolina. I was using a .270. I just got in the stand and a doe and two babies came out. But I couldn’t do it! I love deer meat, so I wanted it processed, but I still couldn’t do it. I sat and waited for a buck. Then about 10 minutes later a 6-point buck came out. I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ I got ready. He was about 50 or 60 yards out and stopped. I pulled the trigger and got him. He ran about 100, 125 yards and went down. I couldn’t believe it.
OL: Who makes the .270? How’d it handle?
DUKE: It was a Winchester and, you know, they told me, ‘It’s going to kick its going to be loud.’ But you don’t hear it or feel it when you pull the trigger. I was so excited. I put it right behind the shoulder and I don’t even remember pulling the trigger. And it was perfect. A clean shot and I don’t remember it kicking or hearing it or anything. At the range I’ve thought, ‘Oh god this is going to be loud,’ but out hunting I don’t even remember it. I was so excited.
OL: Do you have a dream hunt? If you could hunt anything, what would it be?
DUKE: I think I’d like to try bear hunting or moose hunting. I’d really like to try that. I’ve never seen a bear in the wild or a moose in the wild. And I can’t imagine the challenge of trying to get one.
OL: Do you still fish?
DUKE: I love to fish. Deep-sea fishing is probably my favorite. I just caught a nice amber jack on our last trip. We caught some king mackerel and Spanish mackerel, but nothing put up a fight like that jack.
OL: How long did it take you to land it?
DUKE: It probably took me 15 to 20 minutes, maybe longer. Someone in the boat already reeled one in so we knew they were biting. We could see them coming up and on. They told me it was the hardest fighting fish pound for pound in the ocean. It was a fight. They were holding the belt that the fishing pole goes in so I wouldn’t fall in. We were at Myrtle Beach, maybe 10 miles offshore last August.
OL: Have you talked with any of the drivers about the outdoors?
DUKE: Ryan Newman is a big fisherman. He’s always fishing, going to bass tournaments and the like. They have a big one in Daytona, on a lake right in the middle of the track, but he didn’t get anything this year. I told him I fish so now he picks on me, tells me I don’t bait my own hook so it doesn’t count. I told him about my amber jack and he said, ‘Whatever anyone can do that …’
OL: Of all the drivers who’s the most knowledgeable about the outdoors?
DUKE: Of the one’s I know, probably Ryan. He’s the most into it out of the ones I’ve talked too.
OL: If you could go fishing with any driver who would it be?
DUKE: Probably Ryan. I want to show him I can bait my own hook!
OL: If you could go out for a beer with any driver who would it be?
DUKE: I don’t know. I don’t have a favorite. My grandpa would like me to go have a beer with Dale Jr. He’s a big fan, but I don’t have a favorite.
OL: What’s your drink of choice?
DUKE: Hmm … Blue Moon. I can always go for a Blue Moon with an orange in it.
OL: About the men in your life, do you look for an outdoorsman?
DUKE: Well I don’t have a boyfriend or anything, my two pit bulls keep me busy enough. But I’d like some one I can go out with, go hunting and fishing with. I like competition, so yeah, I like an outdoorsy man.
OL: With your busy NASCAR schedule, how do you find time to hunt and fish?
DUKE: I started in February so the duck and deer seasons were over. Now its turkeys, but we work two weekends on and a weekend off, which is usually a Wednesday to Wednesday. So on my off weekend that’s what I like to do. I’m going turkey hunting next weekend.
OL: Do you have a dream fishing trip? Where would you like to go?
DUKE: I want to go sword fishing. That would be a cool fish to catch. Maybe on the Gulf Coast.
OL: Do you eat everything you catch or kill?
DUKE: Yes, at least I try it. Amber jack isn’t the best tasting fish, but I looked up some recipes. We also caught a little dog shark and we cooked that, which was great. It makes me feel better about it if I eat it. I like to try game animals and there are a lot of good recipes out there.
OL: Do you have any favorite recipes?
DUKE: I cooked an apple cedar venison tender loin. That was really good. I don’t have it memorized, but basically you marinate it in apple cedar and brown sugar for a few hours. My mom doesn’t like the taste of venison, she says it’s really gamey, but she liked this. [She took a second and found the recipe.] Pour ½ cup of apple cedar over the venison, let it sit in the refrigerator for two hours, add a barbeque sauce of your choice and refrigerate for two or three more hours, after remove the meat, wrap each chunk in a slice of bacon and grill it. It was good! If you don’t like the gamey taste, that’s what you do.
OL: What’s your favorite wild game?
DUKE: I had elk. My uncle cooked it for me and that was really good. But I’ve never been elk hunting. Not yet … And I like jerky. Any kind of jerky!
OL: Do you have any advice for other “country girls” out there fishing and hunting?
DUKE: Don’t be scared to go out and try it and don’t worry about missing or anything. Everything takes practice. I’ve taken girlfriends out and they’re all, ‘Oh no, I can’t do it,’ but you can with practice. All it takes is practice.