Submitted by: Rae Carlton
Men may traditionally come to mind when one thinks of hunting, but a single gender doesn’t define the whole industry. In fact, since 2006 the female hunting population has been the fastest-growing demographic in the industry and continues to rise. I guess you could say more women are…giving it a shot.
Despite huntresses often being underrepresented, this is no new trend. Recent discoveries have even gone so far as to prove women have always hunted, meaning gear designed for women probably could have become mainstream much sooner than it did.
Nonetheless, the fact more women are spending time in blinds or tree stands—and sticking with it—is great for a variety reasons.
The Hunting Industry
Today, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) says women make up 22% percent of all hunters in the United States. On top of that, they’re also the fastest-growing demographic of hunters.
Hunting participation amongst females grew by nearly a million from 2007 to 2016. The 2,691,000 of huntresses in 2007 accounted for 13.3% of the hunting population, whereas the 3,675,000 in 2016 accounted for 20%. What makes these numbers even more fascinating, however, is knowing the hunting population overall has been experiencing a participation decline.
Hunting is a way of simultaneously boosting our economy and providing funding for conservation and wildlife management. Many people have been aging out of the sport over the last few decades and aren’t being replaced quickly enough, which is why recruiting new hunters is so pivotal for the longevity of the conservation initiatives and wildlife agencies.
Studies also show how, despite it being more likely for children to hunt if their father does, the numbers jump significantly when the mother hunts, even if just once. Many women have even reported the primary motivating factor for their participation in the sport is being able to spend time with family. This goes to show how the hunting industry is reliant on women to help keep these traditions going.
There are several different reasons women choose to start hunting. Some may be related to family, others to health, some because of increased accessibility, or even just for the time outdoors. Whether for preference or necessity, most hunters are just excited knowing this hobby will be passed down for generations to come.
Family-centric purposes compose a large majority of the intentions behind women getting started in hunting. In fact, women are three times more likely to hunt because of time with family and friends than men. This could be because of upbringing or a recent interest, but regardless of its origin, it helped to spark an interest.
Quality time is just one part of family being at the root for most women. Many also hunt to provide quality meat for their families. Instead of having to rely on a butcher or a grocery store, women are taking to the fields and finding comfort in knowing where their food is coming from.
There’s nothing more natural than harvesting dinner yourself. Plus, hunting is a great way to avoid the hormones that come from factory farm animals, and it’s a great way to know what you’re eating hasn’t been produced in unethical or unsanitary conditions. This, combined with the ability to spend time outside, shows why women are finding hunting gives them a chance to connect more closely to both nature and the food chain.
Many state departments have also started initiatives, including hosting workshops for ‘Becoming an Outdoors-Woman,’ also known as ‘BOW.’ These workshops offer instructions on different skills such as shotgun and rifle shooting and archery. In combination with that, many manufacturers and retailers are taking note on the splurge of female hunters, and their product lines are beginning to reflect it with an increase in product lines designated specifically for women.
As these companies realize women are a source of revenue, the huntress industry will continue to grow. After all, women deserve the clothing, boots, rifles, and bows designed to fit them just like their male counterparts. Between 2016 and 2019, women’s hunting gear at Orvis’ grew by 210%.
Having access to female lines of apparel and gear is helping to make the sport more appealing to the female audience. For so long, hunting was not considered feminine, but these products are helping to change those beliefs.
Additionally, the up-and-coming “hunstagrammers” are also largely changing the game. These hunting specific social-media influencers are bringing increasing attention to the world of women hunting. They are giving hunting a female face and fostering a sense of belonging and confidence in those interested in the industry but who’ve felt invisible in the public eye.
What They’re Hunting
The most common type of hunting for beginners and new hunters is white-tailed deer. It’s also the most common and hunted big game animal in North America. Thus, knowing approximately 60% of women hunt for white-tailed deer as opposed to any other animal doesn’t necessarily come as a shock.
With that being said, the deer blind isn’t the only place you’ll find a huntress. You can also find them hunting anything from elk to turkey, ducks or even pheasant.
There is no doubt there has previously been stigmas surrounding the idea of women in hunting, but fortunately, that’s changing. Women in hunting may not define the popular hunting narratives, but there is no reason why women can’t hunt. After all, each new hunter is contributing to both wildlife—and the hunting culture—as they begin their journey.