You’ve heard of youth hunts? Hunting programs designed to increase the number of youths participating in wildlife and hunting activities? The general goal is to pass on the traditions of hunting, which in turn promotes conservation efforts across the board.
According to the United States Census Bureau, 23.5% of the population is under the age of 18. This represents a substantial pool from which to draw future hunters.
Interested in tapping into an even larger pool? Ask a woman to hunt.
Women make up just over 50% of the U.S. population. That equals well over 150 million potential hunters.
I was forty-one years old before I ever picked up a gun. Interested in challenging myself to try something completely out of the ordinary (for me), I drove out to the local Izaak Walton league on a Wednesday evening to attend an indoor air rifle event. I was the only woman in a group of older gentlemen, several children, and a couple of male instructors. After a couple of sessions, I signed up for the range safety course (again, the only woman) and eventually took an online hunter safety education course.
Fast forward one year and I am hunting in western Nebraska. I take my first deer, a beautiful mule deer doe, and I stock my freezer with wholesome meat for my family.
Fast-forward another year. This time I am hunting in Wyoming as part of the First Annual Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt. Besides being the hunt of a lifetime for over 30 ladies, this event provided an opportunity for us to share our own journeys into the hunting realm.
I remember one woman’s story vividly: She is in her sixties. She grew up in a family who hunted. She married a man who hunted. She had sons who hunted. And what did she do during hunting season? She baked cookies for the men to take with them on their hunts. She prepared warm meals for them to come home to after their hunts.
I mean to take nothing away from the joy a woman feels in providing comfort for loved ones. This woman delighted in caring for her father, her brothers, her husband, and her sons. She told me it never crossed her mind to hunt with them.
Not until this year when her husband heard about the Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt. He asked her to hunt!
And she did. Her husband provided a rifle for her, sent her out to buy ammunition, arranged for shooting practice, and waved goodbye as she drove off to the hunt. Her first hunt ever resulted in the harvest of an antelope. But more than that, it resulted in a sense of inclusion into the hunting world, a world she knew only from the peripheries.
This was not the only version of this story I heard. Time and again, I heard women tell me that their fathers, brothers, and husbands hunted and had never asked them to come along.
Don’t mistake our willingness to bake you cookies and fill your thermoses for an unwillingness to hunt. Most women won’t ask to join you! Maybe it’s never crossed our minds to hunt. Just as likely, we don’t want to intrude on your “guy time,” we don’t want to seem unknowledgeable in the ways of hunting, we don’t want you to see our nervousness at holding a gun for the first time, or our reaction when we make our first kill, or – even worse – our reaction when we miss.
I listened to this story and many others, and I noticed the women on this hunt (for many, their first hunt) generally fell into three categories:
- 1. A few women were introduced to hunting as children.
- 2. Several, like me, came into hunting later in life through personal choice.
- 3. Many grew up in hunting families and were never asked to join in the hunt!
No matter which category each woman fell into, we shared one thing in common: Someone mentored each one of us!
I am asking you to do this: be that mentor. Recruit a new hunter. Not every woman in your life will say yes, but there are 150 million of us in the U.S. There may be one just waiting for you to include her in the hunt.