Hunting and Outdoors

An Introduction to Hunting for Women by Women

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.

The NRA Women on Target program provides guided hunts exclusively for women.

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Comments (7)

  1. This article gives me a little hope. It affirms many aspects I’ve thought about. I’ve been interested in hunting all of my adult life, but even though I grew up in the rural mountains of Colorado, my dad did not hunt and I have no brothers. How does a girl take up hunting? Is the only way for a girl like me to get into hunting is to be the girlfriend of a hunter?
    Unfortunately, my experience this past weekend participating in Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) officially sanctioned Women Afield Program left me profoundly discouraged. The message I got from my 3 days in the CPW’s Women Afield program is that: Hunting is A Boys’ Club.
    I’m a very accurate shot. I’m an outdoors person. I know where the game are and understand their habits. I’ve expressed my interest in hunting to dozens of friends and acquaintances over the years who are hunters, but guys just are not willing to share this activity with girls unless they get some intimate involvement in exchange. Unfortunately, I’m not too interested in intimate involvement with your typical hunter – you know the type…the ones that are white and were born in America, but barely read or speak English, and maybe have a high school diploma at best – I’m not compatible with that type of guy.
    As you stated in this article, a person shouldn’t go it alone. I’ve felt, as you say, I shouldn’t field dress an animal if I don’t know what I’m doing. It would be terrible to waste the meat of an animal. How do I learn this critical skill?
    I thought my salvation had come when I applied for and was accepted into Colorado Parks and Wildlife Women Afield Program, which sells itself as an opportunity for a woman to learn hunting among other women and providing a comprehensive hunting experience. I carved out a lot of time preparing for this program. I accumulated a lot of necessary costs and committed to the 8 hour drive to their designated hunting area, the Purgatoire Ranch in southeastern Colorado. It turned out, I was sent out to “hunt” with an employed guide of the Purgatoire Ranch, who brought his small child along on our “hunt”. For 3 days, we drove around and the activity was entertaining this child, not hunting. The guide accompanied me to 12 different mule deer and whitetail deer, eligible for my tag, that were perfect less-than 100-yard shots, but the guide would not let me take any of them, citing that those deer were reserved for “paying hunters”, who also happen to be all men. The real reason he would not let me take an animal is because it was impossible to deal with his kid at the same time. Would he have dared to bring his child along with a guy? The truth is Colorado’s Women Afield Program = Typical Women’s Activities: Childcare + Viewing the Cute Deer that are for the Real Hunters Who are Men, not Women. I left there feeling sick at what a waste of my time and money Colorado Parks and Wildlife has been. I sure wish CPW would have warned me that is was actually going to be childcare and looking at deer, not hunting BEFORE I spent all that money and time.
    Ladies: try another state besides Colorado for hunting opportunities that respect women’s real interest in hunting.

    1. That’s a bummer. You might check out the Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt for a hunt with women and awesome guides. or on Facebook. Scholarships are available, or you can be (or a find) a sponsor. Check it out – and good luck!

  2. Great article read hunting for first time alone in deer stand. Got a few questions though, thought y’all would know best. I keep my hair braided when I hunt but leave it hanging out my beanie is this ok? I use scent block shampoo. Also I hear guys telling me that if it’s that time of mo I shouldn’t cover up the smell. Any truth to this? Thanks!

  3. I used to hunt a lot in Europe, back in the Nineties, when we still could.

    Nowadays, there is hardly any legislation allowing the hunt for big game. Faisants still can be hunted upon.
    Early 2000’s we could no longer hunt wild hogs. Now they are overpopulated again.

    My ex-girlfriend and her mother taught me how to hunt.

    I remember my first buck, in ’93. There were 2 bucks fighting and I took my first shot, one got hit at the back, but went up and down like a rodeo. The other one ran in our direction. I shot him too, and I was lucky to get him. My ex-girlfriend and I closed in on him, he was wounded, but not dead, so I shot another time into the skull (I shouldn’t have, I know, but it was instant death). The other one was still going like a rodeo. Marjorie wondered where he was, we just had to follow the noise he was making. Later we found him, lying on his belly, still grunting. I didn’t shoot him anymore, because he looked exhausted. We wanted to load them on the pick up truck, so we first went for the other. It was a hell of a job to get this cadaver on it. With the second, Marjorie immediately spotted that the bullet had went through his leather pouch, shredding his right ball, and she said this could have been the reason for his excessive behaviour. I don’t know, maybe. Anyway, she and her mother always hunted bucks or bulls, because according to her they could be wasted having no value . And they had the advantage to be gutted more easily, her mother claimed.She always gutted the ‘boys’ as she called them. She put a small cut in his upper thigh, put a compressor in and blew him up. First his front legs opened, than his belly blew up, and when his pouch had bloated,she stopped blowing and pulled out the compressor. Than she planted a knife in his seem between the balls and let all the air out, she said it to be the best way. From there on she cut until the stern bone and he was open.
    Of course, the one I had shot couldn’t be done that way, because he lost his air through the hole, so she didn’t blow him up.
    She always said the meat was much fresher when air had seperated it from the flesh.

    I don’t know how you do it, but that’s how I learned it.

    Now they might give us back the wild hogs… We’ll see in September.


  4. Great article!! My first hunt was great but we did not see a single bird. I still had a great time sitting by the river with my brother and father! Then we went on guided hunt and I had a beautiful shot but I was so excited I forgot to take of my safety! The next bird I saw I felt was too low and close to the dogs so I did not take the shot. I much rather be safe than have a bird! The experience is great and I am so glad my brother got me into hunting!

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