Over the past several years, the number of men participating in the sport of hunting has declined, while the number of women has increased. A 2009 report from the National Sporting Goods Association showed a 5.4 percent increase in hunting participation for women compared to 2008 numbers. Currently, women represent about 9 percent of the total number of hunters in the United States. The female huntress is no longer a mystery in our country. From bestselling author of Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time, Georgia Pellegrini to top country singer Miranda Lambert, women are coming out of the woodwork as proud huntresses.
Women entering a world once thought of as a man’s sport can be intimidating. If you haven’t participated in your first hunt, but are curious about it, one of the best places to start is an organization such as Diva Women Outdoors Worldwide. (DIVA WOW). The DIVA WOW organization encourages, teaches, and supports women participating in all outdoor sports from hunting to fishing to archery, and equestrian events, too. There is no better way to start your hunting journey than to embrace the advice of seasoned, experienced women who have a true passion and joy for the sport.
I asked DIVA WOW president, Linda Green, communications liaison Cheryl Long, and DIVA WOW member Carmele Porter women-specific hunting questions your man might not think to tell you.
Every DIVA related the importance of taking a hunter’s education class. The class teaches hunting safety, hunting laws for your state and game management. Another word of advice they all agreed upon was to not hunt alone. Listen and learn from those who are more experienced in hunting. Guided hunts are another great way to learn while doing.
If you have never shot a living thing in your life, one of your main concerns may be you will feel taking your first animal. Cheryl says that before you go to “know in your heart you’re gonna pull the trigger… you reconcile that I’m not a cold-blooded killer.” Hunting, except for varmints, comes down to providing food for your family. Linda agrees, “… for me hunting is about putting food on the table.”
Your First Hunt
I have to admit that the first time I saw an animal shot I had to look away. One of my biggest fears had always been, “What if my shot does not hit the animal in the right place?” Cheryl says, “If you don’t feel good about it, if you’re not sure, don’t pull the trigger.” The other DIVAs agree. Linda says, “If you cannot get a good shot. Let the deer go. There are other deer in the forest!” Carmele says the same thing, “Show respect for the animal and take only the best shot.” It is important not to get discouraged if you miss and understand there will be days you get nothing. Cheryl says it best, “That’s why it’s not called ‘killing’ it’s… ‘hunting’.” However, with practice you will become a better shot. Prior to Cheryl going hunting for the first time, she had already taken several lessons with her shotgun. Practice, practice, practice…
Even though our basic needs are no different from a man’s, there are unique concerns women may have regarding hunting that only another huntress can answer. You do not need to spend a lot of cash on specialized scent products. Cheryl says she uses unscented soap from the grocery store and perfumes and smelly lotions are out. As far as what you should wear, Carmele recommends dressing in layers. She went on to say that the most important gear is a good pair of boots built for the terrain and conditions you plan to encounter. Apparel manufacturers are paying close attention, too. There are now several quality options for women’s hunting clothes such as Prois, SHE Outdoor Apparel, and the new women’s hunting line from Under Armour.
During a discussion about hunting, a friend challenged that if you hunt, you must field dress your own game. That may be his opinion, but the DIVAs would disagree. The thought of field dressing your own game can be scary—especially if you are squeamish. If you do not know what you are doing, you run the risk of ruining the meat. The three DIVAs I interviewed had never field dressed their game. I like Cheryl’s advice, “You don’t necessarily have to field dress and don’t feel bad—don’t let it be the deciding factor if you go or not.” Since you will be hunting with someone who has more experience—or on a guided hunt—clear the fact that you are not ready to field dress your game before heading out.
My friend Sarah is not squeamish and was excited to field dress her first deer. She had assisted in field dressing before so she was familiar with the process. She suggests wearing gloves and having someone with experience at your side. Sarah says, “It is a lot harder than you think.” You must know how deep to cut so that you do not open the stomach or intestines. When Sarah and I were discussing the matter of field dressing she told me it wasn’t actually as bad as you might think. She was also extremely proud that she did it all herself.
For some, the first time an animal appears in your crosshair you might be nervous. Your adrenaline will pump and you will have to remember to breathe. However, Carmele recalled, “Believe it or not, but I wasn’t nervous when I saw my buck in my crosshairs. I ran through all the steps I was taught in my head and squeezed the trigger.” This is why being confident in your shot is important. Linda, on the other hand, stated, “I felt nervous and excited and my main concern was having a clean kill shot.”
The gun you use will depend on the game you plan to hunt. Cheryl primarily hunts birds, so she uses a
shotgun. Carmele and Linda are whitetail deer enthusiasts. Both use a .270 with a scope. Carmele gave this tip, “Make sure that whatever you use, you practice with it and know how to use it.”
The experienced huntresses I spoke with all believe the best part of hunting is being in nature and appreciating the outdoors.
Even if you don’t feel you’re quite ready yet to shoot your first game animal, tag along with someone you trust so you can watch, learn, and experience the hunt. Hunting builds confidence and a skill you will proud to have. If you don’t have someone to get you started, don’t go it alone. Contact the DIVAs—or another women-oriented hunting groups—their members will be more than capable and happy to help.
Are you a woman who hunts? I would love to hear your stories. Tell me about your first hunt in the comment section.