Isn’t it interesting that women are the fastest-growing segment of hunters? Starting in 2020, over 1 million women hunters took to the field in deer season.
Cancer rates in men increased by 24 percent and those in women by 21 percent between 2010 and 2020. Within the same time frame, cancer deaths have increased by 15 percent for men and by 8 percent for women. Commercially raised livestock is the number one cause of diet-related cancers. “I wanted to know what I was feeding my family,” says Caroline Rather, a South Carolina-based hunter and angler when asked why she took up hunting. “Wild game is hormone, steroid and antibiotic-free, the healthiest meat you can eat. And the animal has lived a humane, free-range existence. Besides that, wild game just tastes better and I love the sustainability of the field to table process.”
In her book, Why Women Hunt, author and hunter K. J. Houtman interviews 18 women who hunt to explore their motivations for this most ancient of survival rituals, from the physical to the familial. “This fall, women will feed their families locally-sourced free-range meat,” says Houtman, “that has been foraging on natural grasses, leaves, nuts and berries—clean, delicious food without a trace of chemical additives.”
“But it goes beyond food for many women,” says Houtman. “For some it’s a sense of independence that comes from possessing the skills to hunt, the ability to provide food without having to rely on others. While many grew up in hunting families where they learned to hunt from a young age, an increasing number of adult women are becoming hunters through friends who hunt and by enrolling in programs that help teach women the skills to hunt and process their wild game.”
One such program, a non-profit called Becoming An Outdoors-Woman (BOW), was founded by Dr. Christine Thomas, Dean of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point College of Natural Resources.
“We’ve had more than 300,000 women go through our program since it was created in 1991,” says Thomas. “Women want to hunt for many of the same reasons that men do. They enjoy the time in nature and the unexpected things that occur and the wonderful interactions that happen with wildlife. They love the fellowship of the time with family and friends and they like providing wild and healthy food that they then turn into gourmet meals. Women also appreciate the self-reliance and self-confidence that comes with going safely and successfully afield and they love to share stories after.”
The BOW program was created following a conference that was held in 1990 to identify barriers to women getting involved in hunting. The majority of those barriers related to a lack of knowledge about how to go about hunting. “We felt if education was the main barrier,” says Thomas, “we could handle that, so BOW was born.”
With the current migration from cities in turmoil to small town and rural America, interest in programs introducing people—especially women—to hunting is on the rise. Hunting is seen as part of the larger “locavore” movement, a trend to source food—be it hunted or grown—from one’s own area. The genesis of the movement is about abandoning the large-scale commercial farm and supermarket supply chain.
For Mary Predovich, Secretary of Safari Club International’s Sables program, an effort to get both women and men involved in hunting, it’s all about family—spending time together in the field and around the dinner table, sharing elk steaks or pheasant kebobs and swapping stories from the hunt.
“Sables is about educating people about the role of hunting as part of the wise use of our wildlife resources and conservation,” says Predovich. “For me, mentoring other women into hunting is very rewarding—from the first shooting class to actually getting afield.”