“Why Do Women Hunt?” That was the sexist headline in a recent news story. I’ll bet you’ve seen others like:
“Women: Fastest Growing Demographic in Hunting”
“Women’s Hunting Clothing is Booming Business”
“More Women Hunters Crowd the Woods”
“Women in Hunting Camp: The Glass Ceiling Broken”
“Women And Blood Sports Collide”
“From Nurturers to Murderers”
Women, women, women. Why has the hunting industry suddenly focused on women?
Probably because they represent a seller’s market. Face it, manufacturers of hunting gear might love to hunt, might love wildlife and wild places, might contribute significant dollars toward conservation, might respect and appreciate women — but they’re still in business to make money. And right now women hunt — and they are dribbling dollars from their camouflaged pockets like rain. Maybe not a downpour, but at least a steady drizzle.
And that’s okay. Women deserve effective clothing, boots, bows, and rifles that fit them. I’m sure they send the appreciation to manufacturers who are producing these products. Brands like Prois, Sauer, Kenetrek, Mossberg, and many more are engineering gear to better fit and perform for women. But that’s all detail stuff. The real question for most journalists writing “Women Hunter” headlines seems to be the philosophical one, one their urban minds can’t quite grasp: why would women, classic nurturers, want to become killers? Why would any 21st century woman want to hunt?
Because she’s human.
Personally, I’m a bit offended by these clueless reporters asking sexist questions. Women hunt because they want to hunt. They feel the pull of the wild. It’s in their mitochondrial DNA. They are humans sprung from a long, ancient line of Homo sapien hunter-gatherers. Their maternal ancestors pursued everything from grass seeds and grasshoppers to gophers and giraffes for as long as men did. And often more effectively.
And what’s more nurturing than finding food for your offspring? It’s standard and acceptable procedure for female owls, eagles, foxes, bobcats, wolves, robins, and lions to hunt, kill, and drag home meat for their young. Why does our culture want to corral women in the vegetable garden?
It has been suggested by anthropologists that women, small, nimble, and quick, may have contributed more small game meat to ancient larders than did their burly male counterparts contribute mammoth steaks. Sounds reasonable. Big game comes and goes, but small birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects are usually ubiquitous and abundant. Perhaps while the men searched high and low for migrating herds, the women kept everyone in the tribe fat and sassy — or at least alive — by hunting up locusts, rabbits, and fledgling birds. Meat’s meat and starvation is a poor substitute.
Of course today anti-hunters press the “supermarket” argument. Mamma, don’t let your babies grow up to be hunters. Let ‘em be shoppers and diners and such. Blood on their hands is asking too much. It’s the molly coddler melody. Not exactly an anthem for self-sufficient do-it-yourselfers. And that’s why I find the question “Why do Women Hunt?” condescending and blatantly sexist. “Why dirty your pretty fingernails in the mud and the blood and the gear when you can let someone else do the dirty work? Wash your hands of this dirty business. Join PETA and protest the evil, heartless killers. Embrace your nurturing nature.”
To PETAS’s vexation, more and more women are rejecting their call. Instead of unthinkingly accepting gender role stereotypes, girls, girlfriends, coeds, wives, mothers, aunts, grandmas — any and all women from cage fighters and secretaries to CEOs and scientists — are pulling their camouflage pants on, painting their faces camouflage green and brown, grabbing their bows and arrows and guns and cartridges and hitting the wilds in search of nurturing duck, deer, and elk meat.
The women hunters I know hunt because they feel the same passion for the wild as do male hunters. They thrill to the distant barking of migrating geese, the haunting whistle of elk, the subtle crunch of a whitetail tiptoeing past their treestand. Women marvel at the same sunsets as male hunters. They feel the same urge to spot and stalk free-range, all-organic, hormone-free, sustainable venison. They thrill to that first snowfall of autumn, to the bloodcurdling screams of an owl-caught rabbit, the high-mountain challenge to reach those distant rams. They feel the adrenaline rush when a bull moose rocks his six-foot antlers toward their grunting calls.
I’m betting women ache with the bittersweet fall of scarlet, gold, and burnt-umber leaves in the October grouse woods the same as male hunters. I’m betting they feel equally fortunate to interact with Nature not as casual spectators, but as functioning parts of the glorious whole. Hunters are hunters regardless of their sex. Thus it has always been. Thus it always shall be.
Yes, Virginia, women hunt. And I’m glad they do.
During more than 50 seasons afield, Ron Spomer has had the pleasure of hunting with many women, some of whom were better shots, better hunters, and smarter woodsmen, er, woodswomen, than he.