The number of women hunters continues to grow, in part because women excel at building communities and sharing stories that bring awareness to the positive force of hunting in our lives. A mother who hunts with her kids takes it as an opportunity to instill the hunting values of compassion, ethics and sustainability in her family, along with providing them with healthy food. Her children are self-sufficient, confident and connected to the outdoor world. Women hunters demonstrate the benefits of sound game management, conservation and community to a wider audience than ever before. All of this is why I believe women are the future of hunting.
There are more gateways to participation than ever. If you yet haven’t hunted and want to give it a try, here are 5 ways to get started:
Take a Hunter Safety Course
Most states require completion of a hunter education course before you can legally hunt, and education certificate requirements vary from state to state. As a basic hunter education instructor, I can attest that these courses provide essential training in firearms safety and wildlife conservation, as well as foster respect for our natural resources, landowners and fellow hunters.
Attend a Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Workshop
Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) is a national program that offers outdoor skills workshops to women. These hands-on workshops teach adults wilderness skills while building confidence in our ability to explore and safely enjoy the outdoors. BOW helps women grow and become more confident by offering classes in an encouraging, non-competitive learning environment. BOW offers a wide range of classes, including courses in hunting, shooting, fishing, camping and more.
Join Conservation Organizations
Most conservation organizations offer programs for women to take part in outdoor events and workshops. The Women in the Outdoors program is home to a growing number of outdoor enthusiasts who participate in events hosted throughout the United States and Canada. Get involved in your local chapter of Delta Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Pheasants Forever, Safari Club International, the Mule Deer Foundation, the National Wild Turkey Federation or a similar group; each organization offers many opportunities to participate in outdoor events and programs.
Make Connections at Ranges and Other Venues
Practicing to shoot a gun or bow is essential for hunting, and ranges often offer more than just a practical venue to learn. People who engage in various shooting disciplines are always looking for new recruits; you can expect to meet like-minded people willing to provide you with ideas about how to transition your shooting skills from the range to the field.
Link Up with Others Online
It’s never been easier to obtain information or make connections than it has been since the advent of social media. Many organizations have websites, forums or online groups that are meant to provide women hunters with an opportunity to connect with each other and provide support and resources. Women’s Outdoor News is an online resource for women outdoor enthusiasts, but there are many specific to the hunting pursuit you want to pursue that are only a Google search away.
I began hunting as an adult, when I was invited on a duck hunt by my best friend, who wanted to return to the sport after spending a career away from it. I learned to shoot at a nearby gun club and became involved in my local conservation organizations. I remember the misery of that first day in the field. It was like nothing I had ever experienced. The nearest escape from the damp cobwebs and the flesh of rotting salmon was a 400-yard crawl away. Mascara dripped into my eyes as the sky opened up with rain. As I crawled through the marsh, each forward movement was a decision to not stand up and leave. When I reached the edge of the pond, 2 widgeon glanced at me from the sides of their heads. Their bodies broke from the surface, shedding pond water and lifting into the rain-filled sky.
A voice behind me told me to shoot, and I pulled the trigger without fully mounting the gun. I watched the pair of widgeon fly into the distant clouds. Beside me, a spent 12-gauge shell lay in the marsh. My friend picked up the shell and held it up to his nose. “This is what fall smells like to me,” he said.
The hunting experience offers rewards on so many levels. If none of the above ideas work for you, and you still want to hunt, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will help you find a way. It’s worth it.
Christine Cunningham is a lifelong Alaskan, author and outdoor columnist known for her contributions to outdoor magazines and her commitment to creating opportunities for women to connect and share their stories. Her first book, “Women Hunting Alaska,” profiles some of Alaska’s most outstanding female hunters. View all posts by Christine Cunningham