“You got to give it away to keep it,” says Amy Ray, founder of The Sisterhood Of The Outdoors. Amy is referring to hunting, and in these times of declining numbers of hunters, it is refreshing to see the optimism and positivity exuding from this go-getter. The WON will be partnering with The Sisterhood Of The Outdoors to bring you their stories this hunting season, and we thought you’d like to know the background of this exciting organization.
The WON: When someone asks you what you do, what do you say? (Elevator speech length)
Amy Ray: I work hard so I can hunt hard. As owner of The Sisterhood Of The Outdoors, I share my love and passion for hunting, fishing and shooting with others. There is nothing I like better than teaching someone to hunt, shoot or fish. Being there for someone’s first shot and sharing that success is what I live for.
The WON: Why do you do what you do?
Amy Ray: It’s truly a calling, with the love and support of my family, I am afforded the privilege to introduce women to the outdoors and my reward is the friendships and memories made afield. I never imagined in my life that I could ride a horse and chase elk in the high country or that I’d be thrilled to duck hunt every weekend and addicted to busting clays. I do it for the blessings. I live in a place of gratitude and have become fearless. The outdoors is what feeds my soul. I’ve been through a lot of tragedy in my life and having the knowledge and skills to go outdoors helps me heal. Sharing the outdoors with others has improved my life beyond measure. Creating a business that fits my love of the outdoors seemed like a natural trajectory.
The WON: What’s the history of The Sisterhood Of The Outdoors?
Amy Ray: I purchased Babes, Bullets and Broadheads from 3 very dear friends. I booked many hunts with them and came to realize they had started a very special business for women wanting to hunt, shoot and fish together. When they offered to sell it to me, I jumped at the chance and began a new vision for the future of the company.
The WON: Why the name change?
Amy Ray: The first year I owned the business, the name remained unchanged, but we used the hashtag “sisterhoodoftheoutdoors.” As a brand that’s truly what we are – a sisterhood. It was easy to change the name and redesign the logo. I spent a day with a very dear friend and mentor on her hunting lease on the cabin porch and we brainstormed and started building the business plan, beginning with a name that should display what you are about. If you see a sign that says “Mike’s Pizza,” you know Mike sells pizza. Our name is what we are, The Sisterhood Of The Outdoors. We connect women who share a passion for hunting shooting and fishing.
The WON: Please tell us about your staff. Who are they and how do they contribute to the mission?
Amy Ray: Many of our staff have been with us since the beginning in 2010. I can’t say enough about the class, integrity and willingness to mentor these ladies exhibit. We have young and old, new hunters and experienced hunters. We have champion callers, licensed guides, outfitters and certified instructors. Together, they offer more than 400 years of combined hunting experience among the group. These ladies give of themselves on a daily basis as digital mentors, guides, instructors and are active with conservation organizations. The staff members host our hunts and become support persons from the beginning of the booking process to the end of the hunt. We measure our impact monthly and we are on track to have more than 2000 one-on-one encounters this year. That number doesn’t include the guests we take afield, or our trade show and social media reach. I don’t brag enough about the impact these ladies have on a local level. We are part of the solution to declining hunting numbers and I’m proud to be their leader. We are filling in gaps in some states and looking for qualified and credentialed ladies to join us.
The WON: What’s exciting about this year’s lineup of hunts?
Amy Ray: This year is the largest line up we’ve ever had. We have some awesome big game hunts out West, including cow elk, mule deer and a youth antelope hunt. I’m very excited about the archery whitetail and turkey combo hunt in northern Missouri. Monster Whitetails has graciously put together an amazing package for us. And we have so many waterfowl hunts planned. I’m just sad I can’t make it to all of them. There is a ladies hunt at Reelfoot Lake with TJ Petty Guide Service. TJ has been guiding the ladies for 6 years now. The 5th annual Shoot Like A Girl/Sisterhood Outdoors Bust-A-Duck Hunt is scheduled for Dec. 28 and I always go to that one. Then in January, we have the Women’s Waterfowl Weekend in Maryland and Delaware.
All of our hunts are open to new hunters. Each hunt has a staff host who is the organizer and the mentor for the event. We make sure our guests are prepared and ready for the time of their lives. We have 2 pheasant shoots and plan to have another fly-fishing trip in November. Always check the webpage for new hunts. In 2019, we have a bear hunt in Canada and we are working on a long range shooting school and more fly fishing. We are even planning to go to Africa.
The WON: The Youth Antelope Hunt … what’s going on there?
Amy Ray: Last year Shantane Stroschein, our Wyoming staff member and owner of Crazy Horn Outfitters, launched the very first youth ladies antelope hunt. The program is designed to take young ladies on a spot-and-stalk big game hunt and mentor them in the field. We invite the youth to bring a mentor along – either a parent or other adult they choose. We have managed to grow the program to include guest speakers/mentors Ashlee Lundvall and Kinlee Denny. We have a youth-sponsored antelope hunt and mentored by Pass It On! Outdoors. These young ladies are nominated by staff and the youth write an essay about why they want to hunt. This year, the ladies are from Colorado, Michigan, Kansas and Minnesota. Each one is between the ages of 12 and 18 and all will be first-time antelope hunters.
We couldn’t do it without our partners and this year’s line up is amazing. The Georgia Chapter Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) gave us a grant for the hunt. Weatherby is our big game rifle sponsor this year and we will be shooting the Camilla rifle. Leupold is our scope sponsor and Kifaru sent packs and water bottles for the girls. Many local businesses in Gillette will provide meals, meat processing and taxidermy. Our jewelry partner, Spent Rounds Designs, will be sending a gift for the ladies. There is still time to get involved, we are always adding to the program.
The best part of the event is the families. We let the parent or mentor go on the stalk with the guide and we have a professional photographer, Glenn Connely of Connely Wildlife Photography, follow along and shoot the entire event. Each parent/mentor gets to experience the entire hunt from beginning to end. We finish our day afield with family style dinners and group activities.
The WON: Your partnerships — it sounds as though you have some really great relationships developed and in the works.
Amy Ray: The support of the industry means so much to me personally. Having the right gear, clothes, guns, etc., is important to a fun and successful hunt. We look for strategic partners that create a mutually beneficial business relationship. We are more than brand champions; we are influencers. Having a great product in the field for our guest and a great discount program for our members is our ultimate goal. We are so blessed to have the support of Weatherby this year as our big game rifle sponsor. Having the Camilla to share with my guest and show them the level of accuracy, fit and feel of a rifle made for women will surely be a game changer. I’ve already been asked how can I buy one after the hunt. And what makes it even more exciting is these rifles will be outfitted with Leupold Scopes. What girl doesn’t love gold rings?
Another partner, the hunting app called onXMaps is another great tool that we can’t live without. OnX has been a supporter for a couple of years. Many of my staff use it to find new landowners and we always use it to determine boundary lines while hunting both public and private lands. And now with the NWTF Turkey layer and the new RMEF Elk layer, they have taken it to the next level. OnX is a company that builds tools and content that benefits everyone outdoors. I have countless examples afield where I was happy to have my onX app along. It’s a perfect partner when you are taking others hunting and need to know exactly where you are at all times.
I’m also really proud of our partnership with Powderhook. Powderhook is the front door to the outdoors. It’s an app to connect on a local level. Powderhook and The Sisterhood Of The Outdoors share a mutual mission to improve hunting numbers. We believe that will be done by us. We use the hashtag #hunterswill, because we, the hunters, will be the ones to save hunting.
I have a saying I use often: you got to give it away to keep it. Mentoring others and empowering the next generation lady hunter is our mission. Powderhook helps us connect locally with other women hunters. Our partnership is a boots on the ground effort. Watch for more exciting news from this partnership.
This year we had the pleasure of being the guest of Lynne Green with Syren USA at the Seminole Classic. We shot Syren and FABARM shotguns and we were hooked. Syren is a supporter and we look forward to more projects with them in the future, including a duck hunt in Arkansas in December.
RMEF Georgia Chapter has been a leader on the youth hunt the last 2 years. We feel like teaching spot-and-stalk antelope hunting is a gateway hunt to bigger game and will increase the skills of the youth hunters for future adventures elk hunting. And of course, we support RMEF as committee members at local banquets and I’m a life member … because we believe hunting is conservation and can’t imagine the fate of elk without the support of hunters.
Orca Coolers has been a longtime supporter since the beginning. Made in the USA and built to last, the Orca Coolers and drinkware can be seen on many of our events. We take them on the road all year long. We even use the Pod for trade shows. It’s a long walk from the parking lots and the back-pack straps make it easy to carry our drinks. Orca is another example of a great outdoor product we can really use in the field.
Another long-term sponsor is Spent Rounds Designs. You’ll see us wearing all kinds of bullet jewelry. Our staff and guests love being able to send in a spent round from a special hunt and have it made into a pendant for a necklace. I have my first elk round. That kind of personal service is so meaningful.
Kifaru International is supporting the youth hunt. We need gear that we only have to buy once. These packs will last a lifetime. We look forward to trying out more Kifaru products in the future.
We are always working to improve our sponsorship and partners. There is no lack of support for women hunters in the marketplace today and we hope we helped make that possible in some small way. I’m amazed at the offerings for women hunters today compared to 8 years ago. We have a unique program to reach not only the experienced hunter, but also the new hunter. This creates new customers for the outdoor industry. In our last survey, we found that women hunters spend between $500 and $2000 per year on gear and clothing. When Mom hunts, the entire household hunts. Our reach to the women’s outdoor market is growing and we are proud to have our partners share in our success.
The WON: What does the future hold?
Amy Ray: We stay true to our mission to create opportunities for women to hunt, shoot and fish. The future will include many more exciting hunts with some great outfitters. Our calendar for 2019 is already being planned. Our goal is to be the leader in providing women a place to connect, learn and take an adventure together. We look forward to growing our membership program and having an impact on creating more new hunters and sharing that success with our sponsors.
The WON: Anything else?
Amy Ray: Sixty-eight percent of our guests are on their very first guided hunts. That means more new customers for outfitters. I know my first guided hunt away from home was amazing and opened up a whole new world to me.
We are always looking for great outfitters. Our past guests either recommend or return to our outfitters of choice 68% of the time. We are good for business.
We will continue to develops our programs and find ways to measure our impact on improving hunting numbers. And we plan to have so much fun outdoors while doing it.
Ladies want to join in on the fun, so we established a membership program. Our members enjoy early bookings and some members only hunts not advertised to the public. We also enjoy having outfitters send us open dates from cancellations and unsold spots and we pass those along to members. We share our discount programs with members when possible. Our partners also enjoy direct access to our members for marketing and field testing. Annual membership is $45 a year. The program is growing and we are excited to see where it takes us. Our members are serious hunters who share the same passion we do for mentoring others in the field.
Publisher/Editor Barbara Baird is a freelance writer in hunting, shooting and outdoor markets. She is a contributing editor at "SHOT Business," and her bylines are found at several top hunting and shooting publications. She also is a travel writer, and you can follow her at ozarkian.com. View all posts by Barbara Baird