By Bethany Beathard
Tess Maune is an award-winning news anchor and outdoor reporter for News On 6 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She has a passion for journalism and has blended that with her love for the outdoors. Tess hosts a daily “Outdoor Adventures with Tess” segment and additionally features hunting and fishing pictures submitted by viewers. When Tess is not on TV, she is in the woods or on the water. In addition to her show, on social media, she shares her personal journey and adventures with her husband Matt, who is a Sr. Wildlife Biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Many Oklahomans have dubbed her “Oklahoma’s Noodlin’ Queen.” Read on to get to know her story more:
How did you get into hunting and fishing?
Love and noodling (aka hand-fishing for catfish). That’s probably not a typical answer, at least the noodling part, but I met my husband on a noodling trip. He was the “guide,” and unbeknownst to me, we were being set up. I guess you could say I not only “got bit” by a catfish that day but also the love bug. That was 11 years ago, we’ve been together ever since, and I still call him my best catch. My husband, Matt, is also a senior wildlife biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation who grew up hunting, fishing, and noodling, so introducing me to the outdoors only made sense. I asked if he’d teach me to hunt. Within a few months of us meeting, I was up high in a hickory tree with Matt and a muzzleloader for my first deer hunt, where I harvested my first deer. Then later that evening, I ate venison for the first time with the deer I got. The pride and accomplishment I felt in being able to provide for myself and others in that way was something I had never experienced. And the process of scouting, setting up stands, and being in the woods showed me what peacefulness really feels like (yes, there’s even peace in the hard work of setting up a hunting spot). It opened a new and wonderful world for me, and I’ve been making up for lost time in the outdoors ever since, spending every free minute I have doing something related to hunting, fishing, or noodling.
What is your favorite hunting season?
Don’t make me choose!! There’s something special and unique for every season, so I always say my favorite is whatever season we’re in!
How has the love of sharing the outdoors changed your life?
The biggest life-changer was meeting my husband, of course, the outdoors is intertwined throughout our life and love story. The outdoors has taught me about patience, peace, challenges, friendships, failure, success, and lessons (LOTS of lessons). It introduced me to wonderful and inspiring outdoorsmen and women who I would have never met otherwise, people who I now call friends. It’s allowed me to help represent something bigger than myself – through both my personal life and professional life. I feel very fortunate that the things I’m most passionate about when I’m not on TV are topics I get to cover for work. Getting to showcase the outdoors, educate about wildlife conservation and introduce others to hunting and fishing through my reporting and social media is one of the greatest and most unexpected honors of my life.
Favorite hunt story?
My favorite hunting story that I’ve covered for work took me to Osage County with a 93-year-old man named Wilson Cole. It was a piece about Oklahoma’s hunting history from the perspective of a man who hunted in the 1920s as the only option to feed his family. With a cane in one hand and a shotgun in the other, Wilson slowly walked to his hunting spot on the edge of an open hay field. We sat down, he loaded his slug into his shotgun, that had no sights or scope, and no more than 2 minutes later, a doe stepped out and bang! Wilson got a deer. It happened so fast; I wasn’t sure the photographer even had time to push the record (he did). It’s the quickest hunt I’ve ever been on and one of the most special. Wilson passed away a few years later, and I believe that was his last ever hunt. It’s an honor I got to share that with him.
My favorite personal hunting story happened on a fall day during gun season. My husband and I were moving our tree stands in the middle of the afternoon after a morning hunt. I was up in a stand, making sure the shooting lanes were clear, when all of a sudden, I saw a big buck step out of the woods, hoofing it across an open pasture. I didn’t have a gun with me up there, so I got my husband’s attention to let him know he needed to hurry and get set up down below. I sat still in the stand and watched as he put a perfect shot on the deer… one we’d named “Sneak,” and both were after. I love that story so much because even though he pulled the trigger, we both feel like it was a shared harvest and a perfect example of the teamwork it sometimes takes.
But the best deer hunt I’ve ever been on ended with no deer at all. Instead, I left with a diamond ring. Yep! My husband asked me to marry him while we were in a tree stand on a bow hunt. He even got down on one knee. I had no idea he was going to propose, but I’m sure glad he did. I said yes. Haha!
What would be your dream hunt?
A moose hunt with my husband and hunting legend, Jim Shockey.
What is something you wish people knew about noodling?
I’ve never grabbed anything but a catfish – and the chances of coming across a snake, beaver, or snapping turtle inside a catfish hole is very unlikely when you’re noodling safely. In other words, it’s not as scary as it seems.
Do you have a wild game recipe to share?
My husband and I eat meat from animals we’ve harvested several times a week, year around. My favorites are chicken fried deer steaks and fried wild turkey, but those recipes are well-known and basic, so I’m going to share our favorite way to eat crappie… and no, it’s not fried!
“Baked Parmesan Crappie”
1 or 2 eggs
¾ cup Panko Italian or any breadcrumbs
¼ cup Parmesan cheese (the Kraft kind, like you’d put on pizza)
¼ teaspoon ground dried thyme
¼ cup melted butter
Step 1: Preheat oven to 500 degrees
Step 2: In a small bowl, prepare the egg wash. In a separate bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and thyme. Dip the filets in the egg wash and then press into the crumb mixture to coat. Place fillets in a glass baking dish, and drizzle with melted butter.
Step 3: Bake on the top rack of the preheated oven until the fish flakes easily, about 15 minutes.