Can Women Save Hunting?

Posted on April 9, 2019

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“[Hunting] was going to be entirely different from anything I had tried before. It would be an experience, an insight into a man’s world and why many husbands spend autumn week-ends away from home.” – Courtney Borden

 

 

Maybe I’ve really stepped in it this time; any which way you slice this pie it isn’t going to be favorable. As I thought about the possible ramifications in broaching such a potentially controversial issue as to whether women can save hunting, I quickly realized that I ran the risk of either being criticized by my fellow male participants or be deemed a chauvinist by the huntresses of the sport. Hopefully, for my sake, neither will be the case.

Some cold hard facts must be addressed regarding the question above while I still have both my wits and body parts still intact, at least for now. Like it or not, hunter’s, male and female alike, are in the vast minority in today’s society. In an article appearing in Deer & Deer Hunting magazine, Rob Wegner refers to American deer hunters as a “shaky coalition of special-interest groups that are predisposed to finding fault with each other’s favorite hunting methods.” On an even more somber note, the deer historian writes: “As we look toward the future, we must remember that we find ourselves as deer hunters increasingly in an ever-growing, aging, non-hunting, minority-enriched urban public that could be swayed to ban deer hunting or restrict it to very small areas.”

On speculating about the future of deer hunting, Jody Enck of the Human Dimensions Research Unit at Cornell University voiced this concern, “The future of deer hunting looks bleak, given prevailing social values coupled with recent and projected trends in American demographics.” She goes on to say, “Nearly every published report of hunting trends indicates that the number of participants has declined…and forecasts continue this decline into the future.”

 

 

Here is the situation: the current population of the United States is approximately 325 million people, of which 11.5 million are deer hunters. That is a 16% loss, or 2.2 million less hunters than in 2011. That means out of our total population, less than 5% hunt. Of the 11 million deer hunters, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, “1.2 million women hunt in America. They account for 9 percent of the total hunting population. The number of male hunters is falling, while the number of women who hunt is stable and actually rising.”

So, let me ask, in light of these stark, but very real figures, do you think women can or will be the saving force of deer hunting? Can their numerical rise in participation make enough of a significant increase over the ongoing male decline?

You may have noticed, when you turn your TV on to watch the hunting shows you regularly see pretty blonds and brunettes shooting bucks of immense proportions. Bucks the likes of which most of us can only dream about. I say bravo. It’s great for the sport, great for engaging other women. However, have you ever given any consideration as to the sudden rise in these female hunting celebrities? What exactly is the genesis behind the upsurge of feminine presence within the hunting programming? Is it indeed to garner future female recruits, demonstrate that the sport of deer hunting is no longer male exclusive, or could it possibly be clever marketing to entice more male viewers to specific programs? I don’t pretend to know the mind of any producer, so to make a guess on their motivations would only be speculative on my part.

 

 

Interestingly enough, in a feature done by long-time guru in the deer hunting industry, Craig Dougherty, titled, It’s Good to Be Tiffany, writes, “Looking at hunting celebrity Tiffany Lakosky’s rapid rise to stardom through the lens of a longtime industry leader, it’s not hard to be more than a little bit curious and maybe even a bit cynical. Young, super attractive, blond and bubbly, how could this hunting TV phenom have climbed to the top of the hunting celebrity heap in a few short years?…The bottom line is it usually takes years of hunting experience, tons of exposure, and list of credentials a mile long to even get noticed in this industry. Becoming an industry “rock star” is even tougher.”

And the answer to the question you’ve all read this far to find out, can women save hunting? My response is an unequivocal no, they cannot. Before my male comrades jump up with exhilarated fist pumping and my female readers throw the magazine into the fire pit with absolute disgust, allow me to finish my argument.

 

 

In order for hunting to remain a viable sporting recreation, all of us, all 11.5 million of us, must do our part. No one entity of the sport can do it; not traditionalist, not archers, not crossbows, not trackers, stump sitters or women alone, it must be a concerted effort. I love the fact that women are engaged in deer hunting. I encourage more to follow suit. I like and endorse the companies that have risen to accommodate the need for clothing and equipment specifically designed for lady hunters. Shoot, I don’t personally know a guy that doesn’t like seeing a woman dressed in camo, especially if she drags her own deer out.

The stereotypical stigma of deer hunting being a man’s sport has long since been dissolved and the industry itself has made great strides in accommodating that end. Without boring you with historically cultural reasoning’s as to why men hunted and women gathered, suffice it to say that men and women were indeed created equal with varying degrees of different roles to play. Because hunting no longer plays a vital role in our economy, as there are grocery stores around every corner, and given the fact that we have more disposable time to pursue recreational interests, it only makes sense that ladies would be drawn to an activity they have clearly seen their husbands, boyfriends, fathers, uncles and brothers so excited over.

 

 

In a remarkable Facebook post by John Horrigan next to a hero photo of his wife and her prize writes:
“My wife with her first bull elk with a black powder rifle. What a fantastic hunt. I couldn’t be more proud of this amazing woman. She never complained about my cooking, never said it was too cold, too rainy. Some mornings were in the 20s. She continues to bless me each and every day. Love you to the moon and back Donna Horrigan. You had me from hello.”

The issues resulting in hunters being a minority group are many. Some of what we will have to contend with in the days ahead are access, costs, time and most importantly, how best to convince a youngster that going deer hunting is as much fun as an Xbox, Wii, cell phone, internet or any other device that comes at them in 8-second sound-bytes.

I watched an episode of Jim Shockey’s Hunting Adventure recently where he was on a bear hunt with his daughter Eva. Although watching them stalk bears on Vancouver Island certainly had my attention, the hunt held much more significance, at least to me, than their methodology of going after the game. I observed the expressions and attitudes of a dad out doing what he loves with his little girl. After several failed attempts to get Eva lined up on a bear Jim uttered these words (I paraphrase): “The longer it takes for Eva to shoot a bear just means more time I get to spend with her out here in the wild.” Selfish on his part, perhaps, but I can assure you, daughter or not, he was working hard to get her into position each time.

 

Finally, at long last Eva shot her bear, at which time the camera lens pulled in tight to Jim hugging his daughter; he didn’t need to say a word, the look in his face and his moistened eyes said it all. This was indeed a proud dad happy to share the experience with his little girl.

 

 

That, my friends, is priceless. It is the true blessing of the hunt, and that is the very thing that will ultimately save our sport. And now you, sisters of the hunt, know why we the huntsmen have spent so many autumn days away from home – because it engenders these priceless experiences!

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Posted in: Whitetail Deer