Women are making waves in the outdoor industry. With the number of female hunters rising, industry leaders are making moves to reach them, implementing everything from pink camo to bedazzled knife handles. While glamorized gear seems to get mixed reviews, the opportunity to hunt is drawing women to the woods in droves. Strong female role models like Brenda Valentine, Jana Waller and Julie McQueen, are inspiring women across the nation.
As a young woman working for the National Wild Turkey Federation and new to most things outdoors, I was strongly encouraged to attend a women’s only hunt. Initially, I began feeling marginalized. I worried that I would find a “watered down” version of hunting. I expected a “pink camo” approach, thoughtfully crafted for someone’s wife or daughter, not a general education for a new hunter. When an opportunity arose to attend a WITO turkey hunt, I packed my bags and took to the woods. Thanks to a partnership between the NWTF and the South Carolina Forestry Commission, we were granted access to Niederhoff Forestry Center. This 1,600-acre property is reserved for special hunts and outreach and has been without hunting pressure for more than 10 years.
Shortly after arriving at our hunt camp, I was introduced to my fellow first-timers. Five very different women had come together with different purposes; two were branching out from deer hunting, looking to obtain a new skill and expand their own mentoring abilities; one was a forester inspired by her environment; another came from a family of male hunters but was looking to blaze her own trail. Finally, I joined the mix to gain experience in the field and improve my ability to represent the NWTF.
A strong sense of community between the women quickly developed. There was no hesitation to ask questions or request assistance with anything from firing shotguns to calling. Our mentors showed us respect and appreciation of our interest in their beloved sport of hunting. We spent two days listening, learning and hunting together. I watched women fire shotguns for the first time and revel in success of taking down their paper target. They clucked, cut and yelped on their pot calls, pleased with any noise they were able to produce. The camp was a place of positivity, full of strong, camo-clad women ready to move outside of their comfort zone. We took to the woods full of gratitude and excitement.
At the end of the weekend, only one woman brought down a bird, but it felt like we all had won. Our congratulations hid no malice or envy, just pride for our new friend and all of our experiences in the woods. I took away a deeper understanding of the hunting community, encouraged by this group of women who were fearless and ready to dive into a male-dominated sport.
If pink camo is what gets you into the woods in the morning, then rock it. However, femininity isn’t the toll women owe to take part in the hunting world. Ultimately, your motivation and approach do not matter. If you’re taking to the woods safely and ethically, then get out there.