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Women outpace men as new hunters

More women than men took up hunting last year, according to new net figures from the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA).

While the total number of hunters in the United States decreased slightly (.05 percent) between 2008 and 2009, the number of female hunters increased by 5.4 percent, netting 163,000 new participants. Growth areas for women included muzzleloading (up 134.6 percent), bowhunting (up 30.7 percent), and hunting with firearms (up 3.5 percent).

Data also shows that women outpaced men among net newcomers to target shooting with a rifle, where female participation grew by 4.1 percent.

Participation statistics are from the NSGA report, “Sports Participation in 2009-Shooting Sports.”

Unsurprised at the number of female hunters and shooters are the women Olympians of the USA Shooting Team, whose ever-increasing visibility has made them effective ambassadors, role models and recruiters of women to traditional outdoor sports.

“Shooting is one of the most fun and empowering things you can teach a young girl or a grown woman,” said Corey Cogdell, 23, a lifelong hunter and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in trap shooting. “Most men are surprised to find out that I am an avid outdoors woman and are often intrigued to learn how they can get females in their own lives involved in hunting and shooting.”

Connie Smotek, 45, a two-time Olympic skeet shooter, bronze medalist in the 2009 World Cup, and an avid bird and big-game hunter, added, “Shooting and hunting are activities which a woman can enjoy for a lifetime.”

Cogdell and Smotek are among the many USA Shooting Team members who parlayed early interests in hunting into international success in shooting sports—an opportunity that didn’t exist for women until relatively recently. Women’s shooting wasn’t officially added as an Olympic sport until 1984 (although U.S. rifle shooter Margaret Murdock won a medal competing against men in the 1976 games). Since then, U.S. women have won 10 Olympic medals in shooting.

Four of those 10 medals were won in the past four Olympics by Kim Rhode, a double-trap and skeet shooter now among the most elite and enduring athletes in all of sports. Rhode has embraced her Olympic success as a platform to encourage new shooters, including many young women. She has appeared at NRA’s International Youth Hunter Education Challenge, where she has signed autographs, posed for pictures, and given the young participants the thrill of holding her Olympic medals.

NRA programs have played a key role in making it easier for women to break into hunting and shooting. Since its start in the year 2000, NRA’s Women On Target program has introduced almost 52,000 women to the shooting sports through women-only instructional shooting clinics. The number of clinics has increased substantially over that time, from 13 clinics reaching 496 women in 2000 to 290 clinics reaching 9,014 women in 2009. NRA has already scheduled 295 instructional clinics for 2010.

In addition, NRA’s Women’s Programs offers a slate of women’s hunting excursions each year that allow women of all skill levels to hunt and enjoy the outdoors in the company of other women. Ten women’s hunts are on the books for 2010 and early 2011, including hunts for black bears in Alaska, ducks in Michigan, pheasants in Nebraska, and deer in Texas.

Spots still remain for several of NRA’s 2010 women’s hunts. To view the full schedule and sign-up for a hunt, visit www.nrahq.org/women/hunting/index.asp or contact Ann Marie Foster, NRA Women’s Hunting Programs coordinator, at 703-267-1413 or womenontargethunts@nrahq.org.

To find a Women On Target Instructional Shooting Clinic near you, visit www.nrahq.org/women/isc/clinics.asp.

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    The Women's Outdoor News, aka The WON, features news, reviews and stories about women who are shooting, hunting, fishing and actively engaging in outdoor adventure. With a band of columnists and reviewers, photographers and female reporters, The WON engages its readers through a blog format and we invite you to talk to us. Thank you for reading!