More women are participating in fishing and hunting. As these pastimes become more popular among American women, it’s worth noting these trends and celebrating them — not dismissing those who partake in them.
Actress and singer Hilary Duff recently posted a picture of herself spearfishing in Hawaii. However, the picture was met with scorn from some of her fans.
One Facebook commenter wrote, “I can’t even look at someone who can smile, after having tortured lives. I don’t care that they don’t walk on twos and talk like you. I can no longer respect you. In fact, I was a fan, nope not anymore.”
Female hunter and Cabela’s pro-staffer Eva Shockey-Brent has also been subjected to countless attacks for ethically hunting wild game—most notably for hunting a black bear in November 2014. Recently, she posted some Facebook messages she received including one that reads, “Please kill yourself. Thanks. No really, kill yourself.”
These attacks notwithstanding, female anglers and hunters aren’t impeding conservation efforts— they’re bolstering them.
Although women comprise roughly 11 percent of hunters, their numbers are steadily improving. Similarly for fishing, female participation has steadily grown over the years—with women comprising roughly 27 percent of all anglers per the 2014 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.
“Over the years we’ve begun to see a significant increase in the number of women embracing wildlife conservation. With expanded experiences in hunting, shooting and other outdoor endeavors, women are now taking charge in these efforts,” said Mia Anstine, hunting guide and MAC Outdoors owner.
Anstine graced the cover of Field & Stream earlier this year and was listed as one of 11 game changers in the outdoor industry. She is also an archery instructor, writer, podcast contributor, speaker, hunter and active conservationist.
She added, “This movement is significant because of the nature of women to teach and share via empathy and compassion. Through this form of instructing, knowledge is transmitted in a more positive way. These women are attracting others to learn and embrace their origins. Ultimately, this will lead to wildlife preservation for future generations to enjoy.”
Barbara Baird, publisher of Women’s Outdoor News, also notes the positive impact outdoor women are having on the industry through public policy and public relations.
“Throughout the various wildlife agencies, we are seeing more and more female boots on the ground, not only in science-related positions — such as biologists and ecologists — but also in marketing and public relations,” said Baird. “We’re observing a movement in the industry where women are assuming leadership roles in outdoor-related businesses. We suspect that these women aren’t pushing, necessarily, female-driven agendas first and foremost, but we believe that their influences include opening doors to hunting, fishing, shooting and other outdoor activities to a more diverse group of people.”
Women contribute an average of $117 million each year to wildlife and habitat programs, per the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Moreover, female hunters are also responsible for an economic output of $5.9 billion each year, according to their 2012 report.
This has led to the rise of new groups and outfitter companies, including groups like Huntress View. Billed as “a place where women hunters, whether they be experienced or beginners, can go to gain insight on hunting and shooting from a woman’s point of view,” founder Andrea Haas believes more women will continue to take up shooting sports and hunting.
“I can think of so many reasons that women hunting is a positive thing, but what stands out to me the most is that women have broken the stereotype of what a hunter should look like, or be,” Haas said. “Hunting is no longer primarily a “man’s sport” and is now more welcoming to new hunters. It opens up the door for more and more people to get involved in hunting and preserving our outdoor heritage, which is the ultimate goal.”
In 2013, National Geographic noted how women are seeking alternatives to processed food through hunting, which provides free-range and organic meat free of hormones and additives. The magazine also noted that hunting allows participants to develop “a sense of intimacy and respect for both the animals and their habitats.”
Learning where your food comes from and is sourced from isn’t a radical notion; it should become the norm.
Women — myself included —have opted to participate in hunting and fishing for various reasons. Thanks to education and positive marketing campaigns, true conservation methods through hunting and fishing will continue to spread with the help of women.