Women going hunting certainly isn’t a new thing—in fact, it isn’t even a novelty anymore. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimates that as many as 15 percent of hunters these days are female. Still, we’re overwhelmingly in the minority, and it’s likely that when you head to camp, you’ll be surrounded by men.
As an outdoor writer, I’ve been the only woman in camp more times than I can count. On most of these occasions, the men were all strangers to me upon my arrival. No matter the camp setup, it’s always my goal to never be “that girl.” You know—the girl who gets whispered and joked about because her behavior pegs her as a diva, a lightweight or a party crasher. How do you avoid being “that girl” in camp?
Don’t Be Such a Girl
I get it—you’re sharing a bathroom with men, and things get gross, fast. That’s just part of the deal, and you’re going to have to suck it up. Whatever you do, don’t be the reason there’s a long wait for the bathroom. Take a fast shower and get out. If you like to do your makeup before you head out to hunt in the morning, more power to you—but don’t hog the bathroom doing it. I’ve applied many a layer of moisturizer in my room with a tiny compact mirror rather than hold up the bathroom line. I’ve also been in a women’s hunt camp where the nail polish, flat irons and curlers came out every day. That’s all fine and good, but if there’s a line, keep it moving.
Speaking of dealing with gross stuff, don’t turn your nose up at the uncomfortable or less fun parts of hunting and camp life. There’s no better way to get labeled a diva than to declare, “Ew, I don’t do that” or to bat your eyes and play the girl card to get out of doing something.
But Don’t Feel Like You Have to Be One of the Guys
Although these are rare experiences, I’ve been in some hunt camps where the language and dirty jokes made me wince. If that’s your thing, have at it and join in. If it’s not, don’t feel like you need to participate in “guy stuff” just to fit into the group. Sitting around the campfire quietly observing or slipping off to your room to read a book or go to bed early are perfectly acceptable, non-confrontational ways to lay low.
Speaking of being one of the guys—at the end of the day when the alcohol comes out, don’t try to be one of the guys and keep up with everyone. It’s important to know your limits. Aside from the obvious downsides of hunting the next morning with a hangover, you absolutely do not want to be the girl who gets drunk in camp and does something that’ll make you the butt of jokes for years to come. I’ve been in camp with that girl, and it’s uncomfortable for everyone.
Years ago, I was the only woman in duck camp with a bunch of men I mostly didn’t know. At the end of the week, our 80-year-old guest of honor told me, “You know, you’ve conducted yourself like a lady in camp, so all these men have treated you like one.” He was right. Act the way you want to be treated.
Don’t Become the Camp Mom
You are not Snow White taking care of a house full of men. Camp chores like cooking, cleaning and hauling firewood should be evenly distributed. If you jump up and offer to tidy the kitchen because it’s not to your liking, be aware that you might have just signed yourself up for kitchen duty the rest of the week. It’s very possible that if you don’t do it, it won’t get done (back to that “things get gross, fast” subject), but you are not the camp maid.
The way to avoid this is to have a conversation when everyone arrives in camp about who is going to do what, and when. If you end up as the camp cook because you enjoy cooking, that’s great, and you’ll probably be invited back next year! Just don’t get stuck cooking every night because you begrudgingly stuck your hand up when no one volunteered.
But Don’t Forget to Pull Your Weight
We all work in hunt camp. If you’re not pulling your weight with the cooking, the cleaning duties or the hunting jobs like pulling trail camera footage and cleaning your own guns, you’re on a fast track to being “that girl.” Not everyone will do everything, but everyone must do something.
I’m not on board with the “women have to work twice as hard as men to prove they belong” line of thinking—everyone is equal in hunt camp—but everyone does have to contribute. If you’re new to hunting, you might not have the skill to hang treestands or plant food plots. But you know what takes no skill at all? Unloading the truck. Throwing out duck decoys. Brushing in layout blinds. Helping drag out someone’s deer or pack out someone’s elk. Do your part, whatever that is.
Don’t Show Up Unprepared
Have your stuff wired tight when you arrive. We were all new at one point, and there’s no shame in not knowing how to do something, but you need to show up prepared. Have your gun/optic/ammo combination dialed in so you only have to recheck zero when you arrive. If you’re trying a type of hunting you’ve never done before, do some research beforehand so you don’t come in unprepared. I once showed up to a dry-field goose hunt in neoprene waders because I thought that’s what you wore for waterfowl hunting. It made for a long, uncomfortable morning in a layout blind, and I felt like an idiot.
You’ll garner a lot of respect by showing the men in camp that you know what you’re doing or you’re at least trying. Come prepared with everything you’ll need. Don’t be the girl who has to borrow a flashlight, knife and handwarmers because you forgot them at home.
But Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Help if You Need It
Never gutted a deer before? That’s ok—your fellow hunters will be glad to help you, and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help with something you don’t know how to do. The key phrase here is “help you,” not “do it for you.” Being an active participant will show that you’re eager to learn and willing to work at it.
As mentioned above, even if you’re a newbie, you should come prepared with at least some idea of what you’re getting into—but don’t let pride or embarrassment get you into trouble by attempting to do something that’s over your head. There’s no shame in admitting you don’t know something and asking for help!