Whitetail Women

Why More Females Are Hitting the Hunting Grounds

By Jayme Cook

Once as rare as the melanistic deer they now stalk, female hunters are increasing in numbers. Just last year, Texan Brooke Bateman harvested an extremely rare black whitetail at the age of only 14. A cynic might see this as a fad, perhaps caused by a certain fictional archer who goes by the name Everdeen, but a closer look reveals a more profound reasoning behind why more women are taking rifle (not bow) in hand and heading into the woods, and why more females are interested in learning how to hunt.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife data from 2001 indicates 9.2 percent of hunters with registered licenses were women, while in 2011, women account for 11 percent of hunters. It may not seem like huge growth at first glance, but the numbers are more dramatic when viewed on a state-by-state basis. Pennsylvania, for instance, issued around 67,000 hunting licenses to females in the 2009-2010 hunting season, states the Pennsylvania Game Commission, then more to 90,000 in just the first half of the 2014-2015 hunting season.

The reasons behind the surge in interest are varied. Some women hunters report that hunting is the only way to ensure that the food they bring home to their families is truly free-range and unaltered by growth hormones and harmful additives. While others claim to feel more connected to the food they eat, better understanding their place on the food chain, and claim that grasping the gravity of what is required to get a meal from the wild to the dining room table makes them more appreciative and grateful for the meals they hunt and prepare themselves.

While the growing interest is good for both equality and equity, some women hunters have voiced displeasure with the lack of functional attire, coats and gloves, in women's sizes, opting to either buy extra large sizes in the youth department or extra small sizes in the men's, to which the industry has responded to promptly, now offering full lines of women's hunting clothing for the discerning huntress.

Turns out, when ladies have the proper gear and attire, they are pretty good at deer hunting. A few male hunters are willing to admit that women, on average, are more cautious hunters, more analytical, and possess a faster learning curve than many huntsmen.

For women interested in pursuing hunting, there are several steps necessary to take before you go grabbing your buckshot and run bellowing into the forest.

1. Most experienced hunters recommend that greenhorns take a hunter's safety course. They are offered through nearly every state branch of the Wildlife Game and Fish Department.

2. Acquire a license. Many state licenses can be purchased online at site like ReserveAmerica.

3. After becoming educated and licensed, the next step is to find yourself a mentor. You want someone who will allow you to tag along and watch. Since the majority of hunting time is spent sitting and standing and waiting, that time can yield a wealth of knowledge and experience through casual (and quiet) conversation. The kinds of tips you don't learn from books.

4. Learn the law. Familiarize yourself with the local and state regulations concerning gaming law, and do your best to stay on the good side of the game warden.

5. Practice. Practice shooting, practice stance, practice waiting. You may want to borrow a firearm before you buy one, to get a feel for how different pieces handle. Visit the shooting range. Become well-versed in your weapon before ever setting foot in the field.

6. Start small. Though whitetail deer may seem like small game, deer hunting is complex and requires experience. Many veteran hunters take their fledglings out on squirrel hunts to start. The same principles are applied but the shots are less risky, and you'll no doubt see a lot more action.

Becoming a huntress isn't for every girl. It means long waits, cold toes and urinating outside (but luckily, there's even a garment with a clever solution for that). If you've got the time and ambition, you, too, can become a whitetail woman.

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