Amanda Shadrick met Drew Benton two days before Christmas 2009 when she was singing in a karaoke competition at Rack Em pool hall in Lynn Haven, Fla.
The song that won her the contest that night was the country hit “I Wanna Fall in Love” by Lila McCann.
Amanda and Drew did eventually fall in love, marry and start a family, but there was more to their romance than Amanda’s award-winning voice. Turns out that what prompted Drew to reach out to Amanda initially was a picture she posted on her Facebook page.
“He commented on one of my hunting pictures,” Amanda said. “I think it was one of me coming out of a deer stand. You know how girls are, always taking selfies. He saw it and asked me if I wanted to have dinner with him. I kind of put it off for a while, but I told him if he wanted to meet me, I’d be singing in this karaoke contest … And that was pretty much all she wrote.
“The pictures on someone’s Facebook page tell you a lot about them, and his were all fishing and hunting,” she said. “I mean from the get-go, we both knew what we were getting into.”
Amanda and Drew both attended Mosley High School in Lynn Haven, but Drew was a grade ahead of her and they didn’t meet until two years after she graduated. Their first real date was for dinner and a movie, but by the time spring rolled around, they were spending a lot of time in Drew’s bass boat out on Grand Deer Lake and Econfina Creek. Drew was trying to get his professional bass fishing career off the ground by that time, and Amanda got a bird’s eye view of the process from the back of his boat.
“I grew up bream fishing, so I was used to having a worm or cricket under something, and catching fish immediately,” she said. “Bass fishing was completely different. I had never been taught, and I didn’t have the patience for it. I could throw a buzzbait because that’s just throw it and reel it in, but Drew taught me how to throw a frog and a crankbait. That’s what I’ve always caught my best fish on.”
Amanda had ample opportunity as a child to polish her outdoors skillset. Maternal grandparents Fred and Wilma Richardson had been commercial shrimpers in the Panama City area, and Amanda said word in her family is that she was fishing from her grandparents’ johnboat from the start.
“My mom says they’d take my car seat and sit it on the bottom of their boat,” Amanda said. “My grandma stuck a 6 1/2-foot Bream Buster in my hands, and I’d fish out of that car seat.”
Some of Amanda’s fondest memories are of spending time at the Richardsons’ hunting and fishing camp on the Apalachicola River in the Florida Panhandle. It was there young Amanda learned to hunt behind beagles and walkers that would flush deer from nearby woods.
“When I met Drew, he got me into still hunting,” she said. “I had always preferred the excitement of riding in the truck and turning the dogs out. Still hunting was boring to me the first couple times. I enjoy it more now, but it took some time.”
When Amanda and Drew first began hunting together in late 2010, she was shooting a .223 rifle that had belonged to her dad. But Drew bought her a .243 bolt-action rifle for their first Christmas together, and she bagged a doe with it a few days later on Drew’s family lease in Kinard, Fla.
“We had been waiting for a buck and it just never came around,” she said. “We’d been seeing a bunch of does, so finally he said, ‘Why don’t you shoot one of those?’ So I took the shot and I knew I hit it, but Drew said ‘I think you missed it.’ He was messing with me and he already had found it. Then he came over, and I had no idea there was this tradition to wipe the blood on your face. So he smeared it on me and some of it got in my mouth and I started coughing and gagging. It was a crazy day.”
Amanda and Drew’s first child, Cade, was born in September 2014 and Amanda killed her first buck a few months later.
“Drew’s mom babysat Cade so we could go out,” she said. “That was a cull buck I shot that day, but it could have been a 12-point for all I cared. I had buck fever really bad. My heart was racing so fast. It was only an 8-pointer, but it was an incredible moment.”
Now, the Bentons outdoors dates are often a party of three.
“I didn’t do a lot of hunting for the past few years when Cade was little,” Amanda said. “He’s just now getting to the age where he can sit still long enough for us to hunt. He just loves being outdoors. When Drew goes to fill the feeders or to check a trail camera, Cade wants to be there. He’s ate up with it.”
Well, now make that a party of four. Amanda recently gave birth to baby Colt during a postponed day of the Elite at the St. Johns River. She realized she might not get to hunt much while he is an infant, so she was enjoying as much outdoors time as possible before Colt arrived. That included helping Drew recover a buck he shot a few weeks ago deep inside their 62-acre farm in Blakely, Ga.
“He wanted me to film the recovery,” Amanda said. “So here I am, seven months pregnant, walking around in the woods, in the dark, looking for a blood trail. My legs got torn up from briars, and it took us 1 hour and 58 minutes with headlights to finally find it.
“I was walking around in leggings, cowboy boots, a T-shirt and a jacket I threw on. And I’m not gonna’ lie. Those woods back there are thick. Really thick.
“But this is the stuff we do together, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”