Hunting for all
Looking through some of the photos that have appeared during the recent hunting seasons at The Daily Sentinel was a reminder that hunting is no longer a male sport, if it ever was one.
It’s not unusual to see hunting photos submitted for the “You Saw It” section, and it’s less unusual to see a woman as the successful hunter.
Although men still account for the majority of the 13.7 million U.S. hunters, the number of women actively hunting is on the rise.
Recent numbers from the Census Bureau says the total number of female hunters surged by 25 percent between 2006 and 2011. Women made up 11 percent of all hunters in 2011.
According to Responsive Management, a survey firm specializing in outdoor issues, the number of female hunters has been rising since the 1980s.
A 2005 study said more than three million women across the United States identified themselves as hunters, compared to 1.2 million in 2001.
The reasons for the growth in participation are as varied as the women participating, said Kathleen Tadvick, Education Coordinator for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Northwest Region.
“Some of it’s for family purposes, to spend more time with their kids when they get old enough to hunt,” said Tadvick, who sees many novice hunters during her women-only workshops. “For a lot of them, when they were growing up the men would go out on these adventures and the women would never be invited.
“Now, a lot of women are branching out and looking for a group of ladies who are into it.”
Women who didn’t grow up hunting or fishing may learn to hunt or fish in order to spend more time with their boyfriend or husband, but it’s harder to learn from the spouse or boyfriend than it is from an experienced teacher.
With an eye on increasing interest in wildlife, habitat and the environment, as well as boosting license sales revenues, many state wildlife agencies, including Colorado Parks and Wildlife, host women-only outdoor education courses.
Among these are the popular Cast-and-Blast workshops from Parks and Wildlife and the Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) program, which is designed to make women feel more at home in the outdoors.
These hands-on courses, originated by Christine L. Thomas, dean of the College of Natural Resources at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, vary in length from one to three days, offering instruction in fly fishing, archery, shooting, wildlife habitat, photography and more.
Arguments about the rise of women in hunting range from an increased sense of independence to the very basics of life — procuring the next meal for the table and an outgrowth of the eat-local food movement.
In her book “Call of the Mild: Learning to Hunt My Own Dinner,” author Lily Raff McCaulou called hunting “the next frontier for local food.”
“Hunting’s a way to reclaim some closeness to the food chain,” says McCaulou, of Bend, Ore., in a recent article in National Geographic.
Tadvick agreed, saying she’s noticed a growth in the Roaring Fork Valley of the number of women taking hunter education courses and talking about sourcing their evening meals.
“It’s like a new trend,” she said. “A lot (of the women hunters) are completely organic and really interested in going out and harvesting their own animal, knowing where it came from and how it’s processed.”
“Hunting made me realize that there’s a lot that has to happen before that piece of meat gets to your plate,” chef and author Georgia Pellegrini told National Geographic. “As a chef, I wanted to participate in that process because it makes the experience more meaningful.”
Sometime the interest gets introduced early, such as youth big-game hunts offered by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
After his daughter, Jenna Lucas, harvested her first cow elk on a youth hunt, her father, Matt Lucas, a Senior Huntmaster volunteer with Parks and Wildlife, said the youth programs “give kids and parents the opportunity to get involved in a positive recreation activity and gives them something they can do together for the rest of their lives.”
That Responsive Management survey also indicated women might be less interested in the trophy aspects of hunting, preferring to hunt primarily for meat and to be close with family.
Not surprisingly, the number of women target shooters has also risen. The National Shooting Sports Foundation said that 37 percent of new target shooters are female.