In How to Give Hunting a Brighter Future — Part II, we looked into the proper time to introduce kids to hunting. We'll now look at the latest numbers on women hunters.
With a 25 percent jump from 2006 to 2011— the latest period for which data are available from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service — the number of women hunters is definitely on the rise. And that's encouraging for the future of hunting.
As a young woman who enjoys the outdoors, it thrills me to hear other ladies are increasingly becoming interested in the lifestyle I love. With more females hunting, more whole families are likely to get involved.
I grew up hunting in my home state of Illinois, and our family vacations consisted of hunting trips across the U.S. Our weekends were spent in the deer woods or the turkey blind. We created memories I'll never forget. These experiences have instilled in me a great passion for the outdoors, one that will be passed on to future generations.
Women want to get into hunting for many reasons. For some, their families already hunt and they've been invited to join them in the woods. Others are drawn to the parts of nature that hunting allows us to view.
Or maybe they've seen something online or on television that sparked an interest. But no matter the reason, hunting has countless benefits, both mental and physical. The lessons nature teaches us are endless.
Outdoor writer Brenda Potts is happy to share what hunting means to her.
"Hunting teaches me all the same things it teaches my male counterparts: what the natural world is really like, plus ethics, responsibility, appreciation, stewardship, conservation and much more," she explains. "As a woman, hunting taught me that I can do whatever I set my mind to do, regardless of any preconceived perceptions."
What has hunting taught Tammi Arnold of Dressed to Kill TV?
"Respect!" she replies. "As a hunter, it may seem weird to a non-hunter when I say I love animals. I love watching them, their behaviors, how they interact and how they survive. Hunting is so much more than killing. All the amazing things you get to see and experience, but the hunt makes you respect the kill. Our freezer is full of the animals we kill, and it's so satisfying to grill an elk steak for dinner. The kill is just the end result of hard work, patience and lots of hunting!
"I have been so lucky to have found hunting and made it my life," Tammi continues. "Things change in a lifetime that make you pause, pray, grieve and smile. However, my passion has always been there. It's formed relationships, found me friends, showed me patience, taught me respect, made me stronger, tested my will and helped form who I am: a hunter."
With the growth in female participation, companies are realizing we're now our own market segment.
"The number of women who own guns has drastically increased over the past three years," says Karen Skolnick, Director of Marketing at Huntworth Gear. "You see more women out hunting and at the shooting range."
Hunting itself involves many accessories — and speaking from a woman''s point of view, we love to accessorize. There are guns and bows now available in beautiful colors, guns with shorter stocks, and bows made specifically for a woman's stature.
There's fitted camouflaged clothing for a woman's body, with various girly flares such as pink trim, a ponytail hole in a cap or face mask, and women's hunting boots. All are nice touches multiple companies have added to their lines. There are also multiple scent-free brands of women's cosmetics and body-care products.
Female hunters definitely shake up the average non-hunter's viewpoint. Although we take hunting seriously, we generally don't take it as personally as some males do. On multiple hunting trips I've even heard from guides that they'd rather hunt with women.
They've told me women don't have the egos men have; nor do they mind taking advice from others. They've also told me women tend to have more patience during the hunt. This in particular is key. We know successes can be few and far between.
Tammi has shared the deer woods with many other women and girls over the years. "I've been fortunate to meet and get to hunt with some very talented, honestly addicted female hunters," she notes. "It's taught me the lighter side of hunting, for sure, and I've made a few forever friends along the way.
"A women's spin on hunting tactics is something everyone could learn from," Tammi adds. "It makes every aspect of hunting funnier. Two girls hanging tree stands: funny. Two girls quartering and carrying out a deer: hilarious! Two girls filming and killing a Boone & Crockett buck: the bomb!"
As women who hunt while enjoying the outdoors, it's our responsibility to be welcoming, supportive and inviting to other females who are interested. Getting started in hunting can be intimidating to someone who's never been.
It's hard to figure out which gear to buy, which gun or bow to use, which ammunition works best, where to hunt and how to field-dress game. If there's no one to help you, it gets discouraging.
The best way to learn is from a mentor. Although I started hunting with my dad, my mentor in the hunting industry has been Brenda. She and her husband, Stan, have many years of personal experience in the outdoors and professionally in the hunting industry.
"There are several wonderful organizations working to get more women involved in hunting," Brenda points out. "Each one approaches the challenge in its own unique and effective way. And if it's working, that's great. We need that variety, because what appeals to one might not work for another.
"From my experience, women feel more comfortable trying hunting when they see other woman doing it in a positive and non-threatening manner," she says. "The mentality of 'If she can do it, I can do it' is very powerful. That message instills confidence to step outside your comfort zone and try something new. With that in mind, I think it's important for women who do hunt to share that message. Whether through social media, television, personal appearances, blogs or whatever, don't be shy.
"I'd encourage the hunting industry to promote real-world role models other women can relate to, instead of a Supergirl persona," Brenda continues. "Hunting is a lifestyle and heritage that flows through the very fabric and history of our nation. Today many people have lost touch with, or been fed a rose-colored version of, the reality of the natural world. History teaches us that when people don't engage in an activity, it matters less to them — and when you don't care about something, that something suffers.
"Hunters are conservationists," she notes. "Our dollars do more for wildlife and habitat than any other group. Therefore, we need more hunters. If more women get involved in hunting, the family's more likely to be involved in hunting and therefore to care more about the hunting lifestyle and all the positive aspects that result."
Tammi adds why it's crucial to get more women involved. "Hunting is our heritage," she says. "It's nature's way. It's a way of life, too. I love that my son and my daughter both are crazy about hunting. I hope they both can involve their kids in hunting someday. My daughter has had to defend her love of hunting already in two school situations, and it shouldn't have to be that way.
"I think a female perspective softens the harshness often attached to hunting," she adds. "We can be good educators for the sport, because we prove wrong the stereotypical hunter profile."
Hunting might not be for everyone, and it should never be forced. Everyone enjoys different things. Even if a woman or girl decides not to become a hunter, she can still have a positive hunting experience.If someone who already is a hunter will take someone who's never been, that will give her the opportunity to make up her own mind about hunting.
If it's enjoyable, this could be enough to at least keep her from being against hunting. After all, a person who supports hunters is better than an anti-hunter. A good experience could keep a neutral person open-minded when it came time to vote on hunting-related issues.
"The benefits of more women entering the hunting scene are many," Brenda claims. "But one that stands out for me is their ability to shape the perception of hunting. Anything we can do to project a positive perception of hunting will help keep the lifestyle secure for future generations."
Surveys have shown whitetails are the most popular game animal with women in the U.S., as is true with men. That's the case for a variety of reasons.
"I think whitetail hunting is most popular because any skill level of hunter can do it," Tammi says. "There are a lot of states with a good population of deer, and you can hunt with a little gear to a lot of gear and have success either way. I think it's an enjoyable hunt for most women because you can usually see deer, which keeps you coming back."
Brenda knows the appeal as well, "The animal is beautiful, fascinating, smart, challenging and often plentiful," she says. "Second, there are several ways to hunt them. Third, they provide delicious, nutritious venison. And don't even get me started on antlers — like snowflakes, no two are alike.
"The whitetail's popularity with women has to do partly with opportunity and challenge," Brenda adds. "The animal can be found throughout a wide range, seasons are long, and in some states you can fill more than one tag. You also can hunt in a variety of terrain and weather conditions that meet or challenge your personal abilities."
Whitetail hunting also is one of my favorites and what I've done the most of. I enjoy deer hunting largely because, as Brenda points out, each buck is unique. Hunting whitetails can be challenging, and there's no better feeling of accomplishment than shooting that big buck you've been after all fall.
Here in Illinois I'm able to hunt deer from Oct. 1 to the middle of January with my bow, which is my favorite hunting tool. Although I hunt out of a tree stand, there are other ways to hunt. These include hunting from a blind and spotting and stalking. In some states, you even can run deer with dogs.
For men and women alike, successful whitetail hunting often takes hard work and determination. It doesn't always come easy, but that's one of the beautiful things about it. The amount of work you put in makes success that much sweeter.
I think we women enjoy all of the rewarding feelings hunting brings. It's a peaceful time in the outdoors and lets us be one with nature. There's no better way to de-stress. Once whole families get involved, it's likely to be passed on for years to come.
This is exactly what families need today. So if you know a woman or girl who's never been hunting, I strongly encourage you to take her. It just might become her new favorite thing. No doubt it's mine!