In almost any small town across the US, there are a few things you can count on. Neighbors help each other. You will almost always meet someone you know at the grocery store. Lots of guys hunt. And many of their wives or girlfriends don’t.
I have often wondered if this gender gap is a holdover from our prehistoric hunter-gatherer days when physically stronger men did the majority of hunting, or if women in general find the testosterone fueled stereotype of hunting distasteful.
Whatever the cause, there is no shortage of “significant others” who stay home and disapprove of their guy disappearing each fall to hunt. But I am not one of them – I’m part of a small but growing number of women who refuse to become hunting widows, because we take to the field with, and without, our men.
While recent studies show the overall number of hunters in America is holding relatively steady, the percentage of new hunters that are women is increasing, and sporting journals are filled with speculation on the reasons behind this demographic shift.
While I don’t speak for everyone of my gender, I’d like to share a few reasons why I hunt:
- I did not grow up in a hunting family; in fact, I didn’t begin hunting until I was in my mid-30’s. As an adult, I started finding out more about factory farming and the conditions animals are raised in, which encouraged me to become personally responsible for my own meat. I value the knowledge that it has lived a natural life, is always taken under fair chase conditions, and is treated as respectfully as possible.
- You can’t beat wild game if you are looking for lean, truly organic meat. With the growing awareness of genetically modified food, and the secondary effects of commercial food additives, I prefer to know that the meat I eat is free of these types of concerns. Additionally, being a successful hunter here in the Rocky Mountain west means I’m going to be hiking multi-day backpack trips at high elevations, and that’s a pretty good incentive to eat healthy and stay fit year round.
- I’m not embarrassed to say I love the great hunting clothes available to women these days. There was a time when any camouflage clothing that fit the female figure wasn’t designed for rigorous in-the-field use; that level of performance could only be found in gear designed for a man’s body shape. Happily, the days of rolling up the cuffs on your husband’s or brother’s hand-me-downs are over. Today, clothing companies are making camouflage specifically for us, providing both the fit and functionality we need. And the fact they look great doesn’t hurt.
- There is so much more to hunting than the split second it takes to fire a rifle or release an arrow. There’s an entire spectrum of mutual experiences that bring my husband and I closer – the anticipation of drawing tags, the planning and preparation, and the days spent together in nature away from cell phones and email. To me, the most significant moments aren’t the ones captured in the “hero shots” of a successful hunt. They are the nights spent on a mountaintop in a tiny tent during a spectacular thunderstorm, the delight in stumbling across a patch of ripe wild raspberries and sharing the quiet, unrivalled beauty of a sunrise with the most important person in my life.
Ladies, if you have never hunted, keep this in mind – women today can and do hunt without having to become “one of the guys.” Whether you have the opportunity to take to the field with your husband as I do, or whether you join one of the many women’s hunting groups that are springing up across the country, don’t mentally write hunting off as a “guy’s only” activity; to do so is to shortchange yourself some of the great personal rewards and satisfaction that come with it.
Guest blogger Catherine Thagard is the wife and hunting partner of TRCP’s Western Outreach Director Neil Thagard.