Skip to main content

Women Hunters: Just Call Them Hunters

Women Hunters: Just Call Them Hunters

You can call Rachel VandeVoort lots of things, but don't call her a woman hunter. And definitely don't call her a huntress. She is the daughter of a Montana outfitter, and hunting was simply what she and her family did.

the-rise-of-women-hunter

She killed her first deer, a spike whitetail, when she was 12, and some of her earliest memories are of accompanying her father and grandfather as they hunted small and big game throughout northwest Montana. She's a competitive shooter, a bow hunter, a former fly fishing guide, and a mother — all labels she gladly wears.

A woman hunter?


"I've never really given it much thought," says VandeVoort, trade relations manager for Kimber. "I've always just considered myself a hunter. I think the vast majority of women who hunt just want to be hunters without being placed in some sort of category or given a cute name."


Women who happen to be hunters (or hunters who happen to be women) are becoming an increasingly common sight in the woods. According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they made up about 11 percent of all hunters in 2011. According to a report by the National Sporting Goods Association, that number jumped to 19 percent, or 3.34 million, in 2013. The growth of women hunters in recent years has actually outpaced the rate of male hunters new to the sport.

The reasons for the spike vary, but there's no question part of it can be credited to the introduction of women's-only hunting and outdoors immersion programs. Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) was the first geared specifically for women. It was founded in 1991 by Christine Thomas, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point professor, and gained a huge national following. At least 150,000 women have participated. Thirty-eight states and six Canadian provinces now have some sort of BOW-inspired program that teaches a variety of activities, including hunting, shooting, and game cleaning and preparation.

Despite the program's overwhelming success and popularity, the number of women who have taken to the field didn't surge until the last decade or so. BOW National Director Peggy Farrell isn't sure why it took so long, but she wonders if the recent "locavore" movement may be partly responsible.



"I've never really given it much thought," says VandeVoort, trade relations manager for Kimber. "I've always just considered myself a hunter. I think the vast majority of women who hunt just want to be hunters without being placed in some sort of category or given a cute name."


Consumers are more interested in eating natural foods free of hormones and antibiotics and raised close to their homes. Wild game fits the definition perfectly. The rise in the number of locavore hunters has been highlighted in the New York Times, Slate, and a host of other left-leaning media outlets. Hunting clearly isn't just for rural, white males anymore.


"I think it's just become more vogue," says Kirstie Pike, founder of Prois, a women's hunting apparel company. "It seems like it is also sort of feeding off itself. As more women hunt, more women want to try it, and they realize how satisfying the entire experience really is once they try it."

The recent increase in the availability of woman-specific gear and guns has certainly helped fuel the growth, although gun and equipment manufacturers were slow to embrace the concept a decade ago. Those that did adopted what Pike calls a "shrink and pink" business model. They simply downsized men's gear and added a little pink to the color scheme to appeal to women. It's not uncommon to see women wearing camouflage embedded with some pink, but many women refuse to wear it.

"That's terribly insulting," says Farrell. "I don't want a youth-model shotgun, and I don't want pink on everything I wear or carry when I hunt."

Neither does Pike, who started her business after struggling to find clothing that fit her body properly and didn't have some pink in it. It's been wildly successful, and other clothing and equipment manufacturers are taking notice. Many are dumping the pink-infused camo patterns and pink-stocked guns and treating women as adults who want the same thing men want: quality gear that fits. At least one gun manufacturer recently started making shotguns specifically designed for a woman's body.

women_hunters-in-the-us

Finding quality clothing that fit was about the only hardship Farrell and Missoula, Montana, resident Katie McKalip experienced when they started hunting. It has always been a male-dominated sport, but neither experienced any discrimination or sexism.

"Many of the men I worked with were hunters, and they were all more than willing to take me and show me the ropes," says McKalip, who started hunting 15 years ago. "They were all unfailingly generous and welcoming. I also started hanging out with my future husband and all of his friends. They hunt, and they were very supportive. I don't recall ever feeling uncomfortable around men hunters."

Farrell says men were more apt to offer to help when she started hunting 18 years ago, but she doesn't know if that was because of her sex or if they were simply trying to help a new hunter.

"I actually think it's a million times easier for a woman to break into the sport than it is for a man," says VandeVoort. "For some reason, men seem to be more willing to help a woman than they are another man. Maybe it's some sort of paternal instinct or maybe because men are less threatened by a woman. Whatever it is, I had nothing but encouragement from all the men I've been around. I see the same with other women new to the sport."

That's not to say women haven't faced some challenges. Indeed, for reasons that no one can seem to explain, women who share their hunting success on social media are attacked, or at least scorned, far more than men. Television host and hunting personality Melissa Bachman was kicked off the cast of National Geographic Channel's Ultimate Survival Alaska before filming began in 2012 as a result of an online petition that amassed thousands of signatures from anti-hunters. She also received countless hate-filled messages and threats on her Facebook page after posting a photo of a lion she killed in Africa. Others have been subjected to similar attacks. Surprisingly, much of the hate comes from other women. Farrell doesn't put too much stock in those attacks, but she agrees that women appear to be targeted more often than men.

"It may go back to our traditional roles as men and women," she says. "Men went out and hunted and women stayed home. The people who attack women hunters may find something wrong with changes in those roles."

They had better get used to it. Women who hunt are no longer a sideshow and they aren't women hunters or huntresses anymore. Like VandeVoort, they are mainstream Americans from all walks of life who simply love to hunt and who happen to be mothers and wives and daughters.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

.500 S&W vs. the King of the Beasts

.500 S&W vs. the King of the Beasts

Smith & Wesson's Tony Miele and host Kevin Steele track an African lion across the Kalahari for the ultimate handgun showdown with the King of the Beasts.

Camp Chef at SHOT Show: Elk Venison Slider Burgers Recipe

Camp Chef at SHOT Show: Elk Venison Slider Burgers Recipe

Have a freezer full of ground elk venison from your fall hunting trips? Never fear, the folks at Camp Chef have a great SHOT Show recipe that is lean and mean, easy to prepare, and a crowd-pleasing favorite!

Best Whitetail Shot Placement with a Rifle

Best Whitetail Shot Placement with a Rifle

Craig Boddington breaks down where hunters should aim on a whitetail that provides the best possible margin for error.

Venison Cheeseburger Bites Recipe

Venison Cheeseburger Bites Recipe

If you're tired of the same old jalapeno and cream cheese poppers, here's a completely different take on the popular party appetizer. Easy to make, and incredibly delicious, these mini cheeseburgers, wrapped in bacon, make the perfect one-bite-fits-all snack for your next tailgate party or hunting camp.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The new Moultrie X-6000 series cellular trail camera and the Moultrie Mobile app are redefining remote and low-impact scouting. Here's why and how one or a network of them can help you.Is a Cellular Trail Camera Right for You? Accessories

Is a Cellular Trail Camera Right for You?

Josh Honeycutt - September 15, 2020

Sponsored By
Moultrie Mobile
If you're spending time in the outdoors where you might encounter bears, carry one of these guns.Which Firearm Is Best for Bear Defense? Survival

Which Firearm Is Best for Bear Defense?

Larry Case - July 11, 2018

If you're spending time in the outdoors where you might encounter bears, carry one of these...

Learn what freezer burn is, how it occurs, and how to slow it down with these tips.Why Freezer Burn Matters Recipes

Why Freezer Burn Matters

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Learn what freezer burn is, how it occurs, and how to slow it down with these tips.

See More Trending Articles

More News

Center for Biological Diversity files legal documents — intends to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.Lawsuit Threatens to Stop New Hunting Land Access Initiative by Trump Admin News

Lawsuit Threatens to Stop New Hunting Land Access Initiative by Trump Admin

Lynn Burkhead - October 29, 2020

Center for Biological Diversity files legal documents — intends to sue the U.S. Fish and...

Perspective from the National Shooting Sports Foundation.NSSF: Mayors' Blame Game as Lawlessness Grows

NSSF: Mayors' Blame Game as Lawlessness Grows

Larry Keane - July 09, 2020

Perspective from the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

We give hunters an edge on hunting public land close to home.Public Land Hunter Magazine Now on Sale

Public Land Hunter Magazine Now on Sale

Game & Fish Staff - July 21, 2020

We give hunters an edge on hunting public land close to home.

In a year trying daily to defy description, even longtime cartoon hunter Elmer Fudd is being affected by the craziness of 2020.As 'Loony' Year Continues, Longtime Rabbit Hunter Elmer Fudd Loses His Gun News

As 'Loony' Year Continues, Longtime Rabbit Hunter Elmer Fudd Loses His Gun

Petersen's Hunting Staff - June 08, 2020

In a year trying daily to defy description, even longtime cartoon hunter Elmer Fudd is being...

See More News

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Petersen's Hunting App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Hunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now