As many know, the number of females in the outdoor industry has been rising quite rapidly. In an article from NRA Family, approximately 1.8 million women hunters in 2001 skyrocketed to 3.3 million in 2013, an 85% increase!! Companies have started created products specifically geared towards sportswomen, such as compound bows designed for smaller statures, clothing lines, etc. DSG Outerwear (coming to a Cabela’s near you this Fall!!!) is a line of outdoor gear designed for women by women who have dealt with the minimal amount of women’s outdoor gear in the past. No more cutting or tying previous hunting clothes to help them stay in place (like I did with this ghillie suit during turkey season several years ago)! The once lacking resources for women are lacking no more.
After talking to many female hunters, many mentioned how their only regret was that they hadn’t started sooner. When it comes to hunting, all you need is one experience. Some females don’t come from families who hunt, or they do come from hunting families, but just don’t have much interest at the time to pick up a firearm or bow (I loved the outside, but I also was in love with my $0.01 flip phone that I could instant message all of my friends constantly). Often for many women, it isn’t until later in their life that they have the opportunity to experience a hunt. I was fortunate enough to have grown up with a father who was an avid outdoorsman, but the majority of my friends at the time couldn’t fathom the idea of watching an animal field dressed after a hunt. Although this is not always the case, many young teenage girls are not too interested in the idea of spending their days sitting patiently in a tree stand with no cell phone reception.
Hearing women talk about their wish to start sooner, I reflected back to when I was twelve years old and what helped me develop a love for the outdoors, Outdoor Journey for Girls! This is a three-day, two-night camp that introduces young girls between the ages of twelve and fifteen into the outdoors with many “hands-on” activities. Not only are the girls given outdoor experiences, but they also are put into various groups to ensure they make new friends with other girls across the state.
The first day of camp consisted of the girls signing up for their cabin beds and learning which ‘day group’ they were apart of. It was necessary to split into day groups because of the wide range of activities planned. The smaller groups allowed the girls to have more time actually completing activities, rather than waiting for the large amount of other girls to do it first. The itinerary for the first day consisted of:
Orienteering & Compassing
How to get to specific locations using only a compass and minimal directions
Essential items for camping, how to start fires with various items, survival tips (hypothermia, position ivy, etc.)
Parts of a canoe, safely entering/exiting a canoe, proper rowing
What is done with the fur, various traps and attractants
The second day of camp was a very fun-filled day involving everything hunting! There was a morning session that consisted mostly of lecturing and important information. Although it might not have been entirely exciting for the girls, they were topics that needed to be discussed. Each presenter found ways to make it more interesting as well, whether that meant bringing in fur harvested from wild game for the girls to examine or creating a scavenger hunt that forced the girls to read specific hunting laws. The various stations were:
Firearm Safety, Guns and Ammunition
Various types of firearms, different ammunitions used
Wildlife Identification and Game Care
How to tell differences between common wildlife species in Iowa, how to properly field dress a pheasant
Conservation/Management, Hunter Responsibility and Ethics
How hunters help with conservation, what hunters should do in various situations
Tagging, retrieving an animal, blaze orange, public and private property, daily/bag limits, etc.
After lunch, the girls finally got to practice the hands-on portion of hunting. With an hour and a half per station, the girls rotated between:
Shotguns vs. Rifles
Safe handling of firearms in various situations (getting under/over fences, carrying firearms around others, etc.)
The end of day two consisted of all of the girls taking their hunters safety education exam, a 50 question multiple-choice test. After the exam, the girls are treated to a wild game sampling feast, consisting of deer, turkey, elk, antelope, rabbit, wild boar, dove, quail, and pheasant.
The third and final day of camp was focused on fishing. In the morning, the girls listened to presenters discuss necessary aspects when going fishing. These included:
Various Fishing Equipment
How to Cast
Fish Identification and Regulations
Cleaning and Preparing a Fish
In the middle of the day during lunch, female presenters spoke to the girls about the great amount of careers in the natural resource area. Each presenter spoke about their process of getting where they are now and their involvement with the outdoors. Following this, the girls were all turned loose with their own fishing pole and allowed to fish on the lake for a few hours until their parents arrived to pick them up.
Each participant in the camp came from a different background involving the outdoors and putting each personality together resulted in the making of many new friends and numerous ideas. Because of everyone’s previous experience, it wasn’t uncommon to even see the young girls giving one another tips on how to hold a bow, start fires, or just about anything else. I watched these young girls interact with one another and have fun learning about these activities with their new friends.
I know it can be difficult to get out and experience hunting if you don’t necessarily have access to land, firearms, or anything else. However, there are plenty of opportunities out there to experience hunting, fishing, or any outdoors activity! There are thirty-eight states and six Canadian provinces that offer a workshop called Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW). BOW is a non-profit program very similar to Outdoor Journey for Girls. Its focus is to encourage and educate other adult women in over twenty different classes about the outdoors. These classes can be anything from firearms, archery, various types of fishing, nature photography, learning about boats and trailers, and so much more.
Another way to learn about the outdoor lifestyle is social media. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2016, seven out of ten Americans use some sort of social media account. On each media, whether it is Facebook, Instagram, Youtube (and many more), there are a great number of avid outdoorsmen and women eager to talk hunting and fishing (myself included). Recently, I have joined several groups via social media that focus on women empowering other women in this industry. I have met some of the most incredible women thanks to social media. YUDU Outdoors is a fairly new free social media app that was created specifically for those passionate about the outdoors. Members are able to share their adventures with their friends and followers and then scroll through their feed to see what everyone else is posting! When used for the right purposes, social media can be amazing.
Being a female hunter, I can easily say there is a connection between women of the outdoors that is so unique. Hunting is a passion clearly shared by many, and when you meet others that have the same love for it as you do, there isn’t much better than that. It isn’t always easy being a female in such a male dominated industry. When women can come together and encourage other females, not just in the outdoors but any part of life, it is incredible to see how women can thrive in something they love.
If you are interested in getting more familiar with the outdoors, don’t hesitate to get involved! Young girls can enroll in Outdoor Journey for Girls (or other similar camps), you can be a mentor/chaperone at outdoor camps, adult women can join BOW, or even find other hunters/anglers on social media to get more information. There are numerous opportunities and individuals out there just waiting to share the outdoor lifestyle with you!