Photograph by William Albert Allard, National Geographic
Published November 3, 2013
In recent years, American women are spending more time in tree stands and deer blinds—and putting fresh meat on the table. Although men still account for the majority of the 13.7 million U.S. hunters, the number of women actively hunting is on the rise.
The total number of women hunters surged by 25 percent between 2006 and 2011, after holding steady for a decade, according to Census Bureau statistics. At last count, 11 percent of all U.S. hunters were women, compared to 9 percent in 2006.
Many state departments of natural resources have begun hosting Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) workshops that offer instruction in skills such as archery, shotgun, and rifle shooting.
"There is definitely a high demand. We have over 3,000 women on our mailing list, and workshops fill up quickly," says Patricia Handy, Information & Education Program Manager at the Department of Natural Resources in Maryland.
Retailers have taken notice, too. Companies like SHE Outdoor Apparel, Cabela's, and Próis are outfitting women hunters with clothing and accessories created for the female body, and archery manufacturers like Mathews Inc. are designing lighter bows scaled for shorter arm spans.
"Across the board, women are more independent than they've ever been, and they realize they are capable of hunting," says Brenda Valentine, national spokesperson for the National Wild Turkey Federation and the self-proclaimed "First Lady of Hunting."
The Next Food Frontier?
Gender roles in America have changed in many ways through time, but women still dominate household food and nutrition decisions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2012 American Time Use survey found that nearly two-thirds of women are involved in daily household food preparation and cleanup, compared to 39 percent of men—and women spend triple the amount of time on such tasks in an average day.
Women are also leading a surge of support for sustainable food and agriculture initiatives like CSAs and farmers markets. One of the main ideas of such initiatives is eating locally, generally meaning foods produced within your state or about 100 miles of your home. This not only supports the local economy and environment, it also means the food often tastes better because it can be harvested and sold at its peak rather than spending days in transport.
But in many parts of the country, local meat can be difficult to find. Most of the available meat at U.S. grocery stores comes from one of the large-scale commercial farms, often called factory farms, concentrated in a few regions.
Hunting offers an alternative to the grocery store that lets women provide truly free-range and organic meat for their families while also helping create a more sustainable food system, says Lily Raff McCaulou, author of Call of the Mild: Learning to Hunt My Own Dinner.
"Hunting may be the next frontier for local food," says McCaulou, who lives in Oregon. She regularly hunts deer and elk, and recently added grouse and duck to her repertoire.
"I was pretty detached from what I ate before I started hunting. Since I've started hunting, I've changed my relationship with the meat that I eat, and I eat a lot less meat than I did before. Hunting's a way to reclaim some closeness to the food chain."
It can make chefs more thoughtful, too, says Georgia Pellegrini, author of the book Girl Hunter.
"Hunting made me realize that there's a lot that has to happen before that piece of meat gets to your plate," says Pellegrini. "As a chef, I wanted to participate in that process because it makes the experience more meaningful. You think about the ingredients differently, you think about the experience of eating it differently, and you have more control over how the animal was treated."
Many hunters—both men and women—say their hobby is not just about food. It also creates a sense of intimacy and respect for both the animals and their habitats.
Writer Tovar Cerulli was a longtime vegetarian when he took up hunting, deciding that eating "the ultimate free-range meat" was an ethical and sustainable choice.
"Hunting also allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the place I lived," says Cerulli, author of the book A Mindful Carnivore. He argues that in a regulated, well-managed system, "there is nothing inherently ecologically damaging about hunting." It can actually benefit the animals by preventing overpopulation, which can lead to starvation during winter months.
Hunters are also quick to note that funds from purchases of licenses, equipment, and ammunition go to support conservation efforts for a variety of species. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, every year nearly $200 million is distributed from the federal taxes associated with hunting to support wildlife management programs, the purchase of lands for habitat conservation, and hunter education and safety classes.
There's another factor, too: fun. Hunting is a way for women to be outdoors and enjoy nature while spending time with husbands and children who hunt.
"Women are realizing how much fun hunting is and how close it can actually bring them in their relationships with their families," says Tiffany Lakosky, co-host of the Outdoor Channel hunting show Crush with Lee and Tiffany and a top bowhunter. "The whole concept is that I am shooting my family's dinner tonight and we're eating something I shot. I would say probably 90 percent of the meat we eat, we hunted."
While shooting the family dinner isn't a realistic option for everyone, especially in urban areas, Lakosky says she hopes even non-hunters will start giving more thought to where their food comes from.
"We are all part of the food chain. There is a balance in nature," she says. "People go to the supermarket and they think that somebody's growing a TV dinner somewhere to feed them. They are just not connected to it like people were 100 years ago."
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This is a great article. I began hunting 5 years ago. I have learned so much about animal habits, conservation, and sustainability thanks to hunting. I also raise chickens and grow as many of my own vegetables as I can. The chicken poo makes great fertilizer!
Bravo! A very good piece in a vehicle that will reach a large number of readers who have no connection with the land or the value of our natural resources.
I was able to harvest my first deer last year on National Television (Deer and Deer Hunting TV and Destination Whitetail) and it was one of the best experiences I have ever had. I am so passionate about using wild game in cooking that I have written several books on the subject of Sustainable Living including wild game as my meat source. Mostly my husband and children bring home the "free range meat" and I cook it to perfection! I LOVE VENISON and consider it one of the best foods in the world; it is tasty and healthy. There is really nothing new about this lifestyle. It was normal for families to harvest their food from the woods and their kitchen gardens right out back. Wonderful article.
I went to the Indiana BOW in 2011. It was so fun, and very educational. I was pregnant when I went and I can't wait until my son is old enough for me to leave him with daddy for a weekend so I can go again. Maybe 2014?!
Dang NGW, nice story; but GAWD throw-away the pic. No person (male or Female) who knew the slightest about guns would ever hold a Gun that way (it's in the water, you hold it by the stock). Really nice to bring up women's hunting, then make a mockery of it with a pic. (intentional?)
Perhaps it is easier for those who do not agree with hunting to understand that because of commercial agriculture and urban sprawl a significant amount of wild habitat is destroyed annually, and will not be recovered. As such wildlife populations are pressured and species considered "undesirable", (typically predators) because they do not interact in a manner conducive to human desires are the first to become heavily pressured or eradicated. Now most self described environmentalists understand the importance of predators in a healthy ecosystem. But because of human presence our local ecosystems they are anything but healthy. Without natural predators and because of an overabundance of readily available agriculture deer populations swell well beyond the capacity the incomplete ecosystem can support. This has resulted in widespread outbreaks of disease such as Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in deer populations. The natural result is horrific death and decay which is feared could spread into commercial agriculture. The solution is managing deer herd populations, this can be done in two manners. The first is culling populations, by which the government spends large amount of funding to pay companies to fly about the target area in a helicopter and shoot as many animals as they possibly can, the meat either destroyed, wasted or rendered for pet feed. Not a pretty picture, and would make most here sickened, even us hunters. The second is to support organized and controlled hunting seasons by which individuals purchase licenses to harvest the same animals providing funding for habitat protection and wildlife conservation, at the same time putting a healthy hormone and chemical free source of meat for their families or the food banks. In a perfect world humans would not negatively effect the environment, but that ship sailed centuries ago. The real world is not a pretty or simple place.
Again, here we go with all the tree hugging politics. You people fail to explore any other option but your own. You act superior to others and expect the ones you critisize to have an open mind but you will never have an open mind of your own. I am so sick of reading these NAT GEO articles only to find annoying schrews who have nothing else better to do with there time but guilt trip people into making them feel bad about themselves. Well, get this! I went hunting with my husband and our DAUGHTER last night in our Ford pick up truck. Trying to teach her how to fend for herself, so that way when the end of the world comes due to human destruction, she can at least feed herself. Now hows that for a quagmire??
Okay everybody - enough of the ridiculous questions and absurd assumptions about others in order to deny/change the subject.
Everybody google "Paid Internet Shills" and you will be able to tell immediately what possible motive/agenda most of these postings are representing.
Now that will be REALLY educating.
What you call hunting and what we call hunting are two different things. Hunting in your view is murder to us! Now we are not against "hunting" but we ask how many deer etc., would be killed by "hunters" if they were required to enter the woods naked and without any weapons? Sitting in a tree awaiting some deer etc. to come into view and then shooting them with a high powered rifle is not sport to us...as we said murder. Humans once again are strutting around on bi-peds beating their breasts and shouting "me hunter" when in fact they are simply cowards, who would cower should they be required to hunt as we suggested. Instead of shouting "me hunter" they would be calling for "mama" whether they were male or female. We recognize the need to control the population of wild life, but we also recognize the need to control the population of humans. We expect that will come about when the aged (over 65) reach a saturation point of around 3/4th of the population. Then the young will seek ways to reduce the population by whatever means is more "efficient" and "beneficial" to them. If wildlife could speak to us perhaps they would say "play fair"!
I have known several women who hunt and some of them hunt because they genuinely enjoy it and I respect that. But I know more women who hunt because their husband/boyfriend hunts and they want to appease them. They have no real interest in hunting and ironically neither do the men in their lives. Those men want trophies. In both hunting and their women. Boob jobs, nude pics on the work computer, seriously derogatory statements about the women when out in public.... My husband hunts and at one point when around these kind of people he turned to me and assured me he would NEVER treat me like that. It is ridiculous, it does not promote hunting and it is a step backwards for feminism. Not an equalizer. I think it could go the other way...but it seems more often than not it just makes the women look like objects. Ever see the female hunter contests online? Look one up....tell me that those are about the skill of the hunter and not some beauty queen for hunting sideshow.
WHO can ever forget the WEALTHY/ SERIOUS HEART PATIENT in the White House, Dick Cheney , going hunting and SHOOTING his life-long friend by 'accident."
Then he just couldn't WAIT to get back out - HUNTING AGAIN............
Some situations with homo sapiens are simply too hopeless/depressing to think about for long.
This is a great article! The only part that bothers me is where is seems to lead on that women are doing this because their husbands do or to spend time with them. I started hunting so I could have a good source of natural food to feed myself. I don't have anyone in my life that prompted me to do this, I did it on my own, and there are many women out there that have done the same.
I know a lot of people here see hunting/ women hunting as bad, but wildlife is very well managed by state agencies to protect populations. Some of you have said hunting an innocent animal is a cowardice move, but I disagree. You spend days looking for an animal, in weather that is frequently terrible, and may not find it. Once you do, you have to make sure you can get a good shot in. A responsible hunter only shots when they know it will count.
I do feel bad for the animals I kill. But in the long run it is how the natural world works, and without the management we have, game animal populations would explode, and consequently destroy themselves. I also know I am feeding myself with the best protein available, meat that was never caged, enclosed, treated terribly, force fed, or shot up with drugs. You can't get more natural than that.
I know many of you will disagree, and that is okay. Everyone gets to make their own choices, so please don't knock hunters for deciding to pursue a healthy lifestyle in their own way. As a soon-to-be wildlife biologist, I fell hunting is helping me understand wildlife more thoroughly and will make me a better professional in the future.
There are many, including some posting below, who criticize the hunter and fisherman (woman), blithely overlooking the greater damage caused by agriculture in producing their own meals. Pause to consider the environmental damage that results from agriculture. Consider the millions of acres of forest, grassland and wetland converted to exotic monoculture. Consider the millions of tons of chemical dumped into our air, soil and water; and the billions of gallons of water diverted from sensitive aquatic ecosystems. In taking a deer from wild lands, the hunter leaves habitat intact to provide for native species of all sorts, indefinitely. Agriculture, on the other hand, destroys every individual, of every major species on the landscape--if not by the direct crush of the plough, then by starvation after having been displaced from its source of food and shelter. On top of this, farmers make every effort to ensure that their lands remain devoid of unwanted "pests," with the result that they serve no species besides man. It is a shame that modern society has become so distanced from the realities of its existence that many cannot conceive of hunters and fishers as the conservationists they are, and have come instead to consider agriculture as the clean, sterile, and moral alternative.”
Too bad so many "obese" fellas die from heart attacks while HUNTING.........
Always makes one wonder every time:
Live by the sword, die by the sword?
Hunting and the act of shooting a defenseless animal is the act of a pure coward. What joy do you sick human beings take out of putting food out for animal to attract it and then shoot it. Some people call it "sport" but I don't see what is sporting in that. None of you should ever be allowed into the woods to destroy the life of another living thing.
For those who actually took the time to read that and understand, I will go on to mention that wildlife management is in fact a very serious science for which there are College and University degrees. Carefully controlled hunting is a very important tool. Beyond my previous example of herd culling and drastic population reduction, long term management goals for sustainability depend on controlled hunts as well. If one wants to reduce population over the long term, increased licenses for females are issued reducing the numbers of producing does. Contrarily hunting can help a depleted ecosystem recover, bu reducing the numbers of males, and leaving the does, food availability is left for more does and offspring while the fewer young and healthy males are just as capable of breeding all of the females, speeding up the recovery of the population. Holding to the views that killing wild animals is bad is naive ignorance, and if a person is serious about conservation they have to move past their childhood influences such as Bambi and take a look at the bigger picture. There area lot of well educated and very conservation motivated people working very hard at maintaining a viable balance for humans and nature where nature is losing on a daily basis. Bashing hunters, many of whom are very much interested in conservation and invest in it is not productive. Instead try putting more pressure on your government representative to push for embargoes and international pressure on nations like Japan which are irresponsibly exploiting global resources and wildlife.
@Roiikka-Ta P Globetrotter How about going to a Cabela's, Bass Pro Shop, Gander Mountain, or hit the web and try typing in Women's Hunting Clothing into a search engine. You'll find hercamoshop.com, proishunting.com, camodivas.com, plus you'll find woman's hunting apparel I'm sure at RealTree, Mossy Oak, LL Bean and UnderArmor.
All you have to do is LOOK and you'll find that there's far more out there than you can imagine.
@Debbie Hamilton thats a good way to put it, too. i agree.
@Daryl Johanssen I did as you suggested but found nothing of interest. There is not one name on this thread that I recognize except "norman", who repeatedly appears on anti-hunting threads, as do I. My only interest (I am not paid or even affiliated with any organization) is in supporting hunting and fishing by reminding readers that all things are relative, and that hunting, compared to agriculture, is relatively innocuous. As an environmentalist first, it is my goal to protect habitat, and only wild game consumption provides for this. It is my expectation that reasonable people, considering the facts, will not allow themselves to be misled by emotion. Rather than complain that the rest of us do not see things your way, why not demonstrate the faults in my case, as I will certainly demonstrate the errors in yours.
@Daryl Johanssen Yes perhaps you should do that. After all you are the one making an interesting assumptions. I quote you having said:
"'If women didn't exist, all the money in the world would have NO meaning.'
The late Aristotle Onassis, once considered one of the wealthiest men in the world.
(Too bad females never stopped to think that MAN has created this nightmare scenario on planet EARTH, which all Homo sapiens are beginning to live......)"
"They are STILL following MALES lead.....nothing much else to say.
Mother Nature/Universe is/will correct all........"
Your statements indicate:
1. You feel that men are the source of all environmental and economic woes in the world.
2. Women are sheep following men in regards to hunting.
Both implications are tremendously offensive.
As for my agenda on this message board, it is quite simple. As a non-hunter, I really don't care if people hunt or not or if they are vegetarian or not. However, I do feel that it is inappropriate and incredibly arrogant for people such as yourself to crusade against others and make prejudiced assumptions about them in the process. So in summation, I believe that everybody should google "Paid Internet Shills" and find out what YOUR motive/agenda is. You are being just as ridiculous, absurd, and fairly offensive as you find the hunters that you berate to be.
@El Gabilon Play fair? I guess this means you are not going to the grocery store where all the "murdering" has been done on your behalf already, and you'll get butt-naked and go harvest your own damn food? BTW, animals cannot be "murdered". Only a human can be murdered. Look it up.
@El Gabilon What you don't understand is wildlife management is necessary. If no one hunts, then populations of wildlife soar. Overpopulation is a huge problem!! It causes diseases to run rampant through an entire herd of deer, elk, antelope, etc. Also, with overpopulation comes the killing of each other and dying due to lack of food. The strong ones live because they can fight for their food. If there are too many animals, they end up having to fight for food or die because there isn't enough. Hunting is a way of management so that diseases and overpopulation do not become an issue.
If an individual's method of food acquisition is a reflection of their "courage", what degree of courage would you say the typical Walmart shopper has? Many shoppers don't know where their food is coming from...aside from Walmart. Your link between acquiring food and courage is ridiculous.
Also, why the plural? Who's included in "we"?
"...how many deer etc., would be killed by "hunters" if they were required to enter the woods naked and without any weapons?"
What kind of nonsense is this? How many spears of asparagus would you consume if you had only your own bare hands to destroy the habitat on which you grow your crops, divert water from sensitive aquatic systems, plant, cultivate and harvest? Do you believe that death by starvation upon being displaced from habitat converted to agricultural purpose is preferable to the deer? Hunters are cowards? Since when does anyone associate one's manner of food acquisition with courage? Do you mean to suggest that the word "courageous" applies only to those few humble souls who remain perched atop the tractor as it crushes every plant and animal in its wake? Get real. It is the defining characteristic of humans that we depend upon tools to maintain ourselves in suboptimal conditions. Perhaps we could all just go back to Africa and eat bananas...
@Daryl Johanssen Why do you hate hunting and hunters? What makes a human (I mean homo sapien) hunter any different from a lion hunting or a bear hunting?
I fail to understand the pleasure you obviously gain from killing an animal Taylor (I apologise if that's a your surname and not your first name).
How can you say "I do feel bad for the animals I kill" and "it is how the natural world works"? Nor can you excuse your kill by claiming you are searching for 'natural food'. How ridiculous! If you have any idea of what you ordinarily ingest every day from other foods, water and the atmosphere you would realise what a pointless statement that is!
Nor do I hope you drive a vehicle. If you do then you presumably understand the damage you are causing to the environment, yourself and other people by doing so? So how can you claim to be concerned about Nature?
Just leave wild animals to live their lives in peace. Buy your meat and other foods from farmers like the rest of us.
@Mark HarnerExcellent reply, I agree 100%. Anyone who claims to be an environmentalist should thank a hunter. Anti hunters do not understand the ramifications of human existence on the natural world, and just see hunting as being the prime example of humans destroying nature. They do not realize that hunters directly fund more habitat protection, sustainable resource management (aka maintaining healthy wildlife populations) and wildlife conservation programs than the federal government many times over. In fact most of the government funding comes from taxes and fees exclusive to the hunting population.
These are the same people, who, when asked where they would get food if farmers went on strike would say, "The store".
@Mark Harner And yet I bet you've never once donated money to an environmental organization that fights all these atrocities your so concerned about right? In fact I bet you even vote for the same politicians that promote the expansion of those things, not to mention oil and gas drilling, mining and logging. Please, spare me your pitiful attempt to vindicate your acts of senseless violence on animals by putting down those who truly care.
Backyard Vegetable Gardens
(Would really HELP tremendously with our "EPIDEMIC OF OBESITY" as well, according to the American Medical Association.)
Haven't heard about that statistic. Please provide a citation of your source(s).
What does hunting have to do with courage? Or vegetable consumption, for that matter? If you believe that hunters are motivated by the need to "prove themselves", then you have missed the fact that society has changed in the past 100 years when a trip to Africa truly might spell death. You are fixating on fairy tales.
@norman h. I assume you do not consume any meat? Or are you one of those that only consumes meat of animals that died of natural causes? Beef cattle raised for food is no more or less important as a creature than a wild deer, duck or elk. Furthermore, your "woods" are preserved by hunting dollars and taxes. But hey, let's have it your way. Eliminate all conservation efforts created by hunting funds, allow the population to reach max out the carrying capacity and let it all go natural. We'll let you figure it out. By the way, have you ever researched what a deer population looks like when the area is overpopulated? Give that a Google search and see if you think that is in any way "humane".
I guess every carnivore on earth is a coward to you then.
So why did you go to B.C. to watch bears kill salmon?
Remember, bears are omnivores... just like humans, gasp!
I just wanted to reply to your idea that all hunters use bait to bring in animals. The truth is, in many states it is illegal to use any kind of bait to bring in animals. In Montana, where a lot of hunting is done, you are only allowed to use scent markers to possibly bring in an animal. If you get caught using bait you would be seriously fined.
Most hunters spend days trying to find an animal, and most hunters have a deep respect for the animals they hunt. I know that probably sounds contradictory, but some of the best conservationists I know are hunters. I hope this helps make sense of hunting for you.
@norman h. I take it you don't eat meat or use any products that are derived from the death of any living thing?
How is hunting different from working in a slaughterhouse?
The correct English is: " in REGARD to hunting."
@Seth Bonilla @Daryl Johanssen
Humans do it for the THRILL of MURDERING in most cases today, as illustrated above, while other species do it solely for food - to survive.
Nature is anything but peaceful, Taylor. There are the hunters and the hunted. Nature is a brutal mistress, it is bloody, gorey and often cruel.
A hunter's bullet or arrow is, by far, more humane for an animal than being killed by a predator.
Wolves, for instance, will sometimes start feeding while their prey is still alive.
Orcas will drown baby humpback whales and have been known to toss live seals around, playing with them, before eating them.
Only humans try to make a clean, quick and humane kill.
@Andrew Booth @Taylor Hanson Are the animals killed by farmers less important to you than the animals killed by hunters? What makes their lives worth more? They are more defenseless than wild animals. Wild animals have the opportunity to hide themselves, to flee, or in some instances, even to attack the hunter. Animals in stock yards essentially stand in line and wait to be killed. Put that way, it seems less cruel to hunt than farming.
Rather than attempt to rebut my argument on the basis of unsubstantiated bias (and you are, in fact, incorrect), why don't you argue your case in favor of agriculture in opposition to hunting/fishing and the consumption of wild game taken from unspoiled habitat? Incidentally, even if I were the most inconsiderate, anti-environment slob imaginable in every other respect, this would not alter the calculus in question, but I guess you need this image of hunters and fishers in order to feel better about yourself.
Undoubtedly. But we should not forget that such spaces were once the habitat of wild creatures that, for the most part, are displaced to die with the establishment of gardens, lawns, driveways, etc.
Hmmm, many of the hunters I know also have gardens, myself included.
@Samuel Bonilla @Seth Bonilla @Daryl Johanssen Boy. I am so ashamed. How did I pass English class? Private school...so overrated. And that zing with the assumed thanks. Christ! I should have seen that coming!
The age or health of the hunter is irrelevant, as long as they are participating in a legal and authorized hunting season they are helping manage wildlife populations. Even in a WEALTHY nation people need to get their hands dirty to get results, not just throw money at problems. If you don't understand this reply read my comments above.
@Daryl Johanssen Additionally, do you know any hunters personally? Have you ever met one and had a conversation with one other than to criticize them on message boards? My guess, and I could be entirely wrong, is that you have never done so. Maybe you should try to have a calm conversation with one sometime and actually listen to their views before arguing with them. You don't have to agree, but you should actually listen. I am not a hunter or a vegetarian. I have friends who are in either category. Maybe my hunter friends are unique, but I have never observed or heard them admit that they hunt solely for the thrill of killing. Largely, they kill for the meat, and the meat they do not or cannot eat themselves, they give to homeless shelters. What is the difference between choosing to eat deer that you hunted and choosing to buy and eat beef, chicken, or pork bought from a store?
@Mark Harner So what do you suggest we do for food? Commercial agriculture is obviously evil in your view. Even a small home garden is displacing creatures to die (really?! a few hundred sq ft garden is going to cause an impact on the number of squirrels in my yard? oh please). Are you naked in a cave eating the drippings from the walls? I hope not, because you probably "displaced" some poor family of bats and other cave critters. Have you ever flown over this great country of ours? Do you see the vastness of untouched land? There is plenty of room for people and critters as well.
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