She garnered respect from her male counterparts as a consistent and successful archer, paving the way for generations of women in what was a male-dominated sport.
“Carolyn was one of the finest,” said Stan Godfrey, a senior member of the Pope and Young Club, a North American bowhunting non-profit. “She was one of the best-known female archers in the country and one of the first.”
Mrs. Zanoni, who lived in Westchester, died Oct. 25 — a day before her 82nd birthday — after suffering from long-term rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and a stroke, according to her husband.
Mrs. Zanoni was a registered nurse in Downstate Quincy when she joined an archery club and started hunting to get outdoors more.
In 1961, on a bitter cold day in Illinois, she tagged her first record-book animal, a whitetail deer nicknamed “Buster,” which was mounted at the Pope and Young Club/St. Charles Museum of Bowhunting in Minnesota.
Mrs. Zanoni ventured cross country on adventurous hunting expeditions, but as a single woman, she had to really work at getting a spot at camp among the guys.
“This was a time when the mere handful of lady archers involved in bowhunting just didn’t go traipsing around the country on their own,” wrote M.R. James in his book, “45 Unforgettable Bowhunters,” which features Mrs. Zanoni. “Single women simply didn’t do the sort of thing that Carloyn Siebrasse [Zanoni] did.”
At first the men eyed her suspiciously, but, with her 40-pound recurve bow, she proved her ability, fearlessly stalking and collecting a variety of big game, including black bears, mule deer and antelope.
During a hunt in 1966 in Utah, Mrs. Zanoni chased a mountain lion until it climbed up a lofty Douglas fir. But that didn’t stop her. She climbed the adjacent tree roughly 30 yards in the air until she could face the snarling cat.
“With one leg around the tree, she had to clean the branches and lean way over and shoot it sideways,” said the man she ultimately married, George.
She knocked the animal off the tree with her first arrow and then fired a second that sliced through the falling lion’s chest.
“She said it was the best shot she ever had,” he said.
Mrs. Zanoni became a senior member of the Pope and Young Club, an honor that is awarded to a limited number of people who achieve a certain level of bowhunting success.
She became a mentor to many women, including Beth Nelson, a fellow bowhunter.
“I looked up to her,” Nelson said. “She went to camps by herself so it was kind of cool to listen to her stories. It was inspirational to me.”
Once arthritis set in, Mrs. Zanoni couldn’t make it to as many excursions. She passed along a good luck charm — a gold arrowhead necklace — to Nelson, who has worn it on many hunting trips so that a piece of Mrs. Zanoni is still present.
Mrs. Zanoni and her husband, who met on a ranch in Utah, were known as a very kind, caring and encouraging couple.
“I don’t know anybody who didn’t like Carolyn or George,” Godfrey said. “I’ve been in business all my life and I don’t know anybody quite like Carolyn and George, and not just in hunting. I’m talking about quality people.”
“Whenever we went to conventions, their hotel room was kind of like the social hour where people would come and go,” Nelson said. “They were just very open, fun and loving people.”
Mrs. Zanoni is also survived by many nieces and nephews.
Services have been held. - By Katie Drews, for ObituaryChicago.com