Like any new undertaking, hunting can be an intimidating endeavor. It requires specific hunting gear, and some of that, like the rifles and bows, is downright dangerous if misused. Tracking, bringing down, and field-processing an animal aren't innate, nor are many of the outdoor skills associated with hunting. Add in the fact that hunting is, by and large, a male-dominated sport, and it can be very difficult for women to break into it, particularly if they weren't raised in it, or don't have a father, brother, or partner who can help them.
Thankfully, numerous resources out there help break down the barriers women face when they start hunting. Women's-only hunting camps, courses, and trips ease the learning curve, while women's-only hunting brands and women hunting guides increase the sense of belonging for females in the sport.
That said, it can be hard to know where to start if you're a woman interested in hunting—or a hunter trying to encourage the women in your life to join you. Through my own journey as a passionate outdoorswoman, working to engage other female hunters, I've found these five tips for women hunters very useful.
1. Start Small
Intense, backcountry big-game hunts can be intimidating to many, especially when the hunting is hard and the chances of success are small. Starting with smaller game animals, like rabbits, ducks, and other waterfowl, is a great way to ease into hunting. Smaller game generally requires less tracking and much less field processing as well. Higher bag limits—that is, the number of animals you're permitted to take—also mean more frequent shooting, making for a more exciting and rewarding experience that allows you more time to get used to your weapon.
2. Balance Fun and Competition
Keeping the pressure low to get a kill is key to a fun hunt. There's more to gain from hunting than just a harvest. Killing an animal is one of the smaller aspects of hunting; spending time outside and connecting with the natural world encompasses much more of what hunting actually is. Learn to see hunting as a way to interact with your environment and develop your outdoor skills, like hiking and camping. They have far more crossovers than just hunting, and you might find yourself using your new skills to go car camping or backpacking outside of hunting seasons.
Adding a healthy bit of competition is another great tip for women hunters to get excited about the sport. For example, you could head to the shooting range to practice your skills, and bring friends along to see who can hit the most accurately. A friendly shooting competition with my fiancé encourages me to get out and practice, which also improves my skills in the field and increases my chances of success.
3. Find a Group of Female Hunters
I grew up with primarily male hunting parties but eventually found a female group to go with. Being part of a network of women who hunt means learning firsthand tips for utilizing or own strength and finding more comfortable gear suited for our bodies and needs. The inherent camaraderie in a group of women supporting each other means far less pressure as you learn, too.
There are plenty of women's-only hunting camps and courses, so you'll be sure to find one near you. Becoming An Outdoors Women (BOW) is a good place to start your, ahem, hunt for a female group. This non-profit educational organization hosts workshops on hunting skills for women. BOW programs are in 38 U.S. states and six Canadian provinces. Many shooting ranges also offer women's-only classes in firearm and bow safety.
4. Bring the Hunt Home
First-time hunters are often surprised by what they find in nature, such as a set of shed antlers hidden in tall grass, a turkey feather underneath an old roost, or a withered piece of wood from a forgotten barn. For crafty women, these can become resources for new home décor.
Successful hunters are typically empowered by being able to serve the meat they harvest for dinner. With the wave of interest in "local food" in the past decade, hunting offers the perfect way to bring home local meat, free from any antibiotics or chemicals. You can also use your time outside and your new outdoor skills to get involved in foraging, and bring home tasty vegetarian treats like fiddleheads, berries, and mushrooms.
5. Involve the Kids
My dad passed on his passion for the outdoors to my brother and me at a young age through a variety of activities. My mom recognized our enjoyment and joined us, making hunting a great family experience for all. My final tip for women hunters is to make it a family affair.
If you have your own children, raising them with an appreciation for the natural world and a love of being outside can only set them up for success and happiness throughout their lives. Hunting is a great way to teach children to respect the environment and gain some skills in self-sufficiency.
Don't have kids? Consider getting a bird dog. Several friends of mine began upland bird and waterfowl hunting after seeing their pooch point or retrieve. You'll not only have a great partner on your hunts, you'll have a wonderful companion for home.
Enjoy the outdoors?
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