Book Review: Why Women Hunt

Younger and older, black and white, experienced veterans and relative rookies ... here's why we hunt.

by posted on April 22, 2020
Why Women Hunt Book Review Cover

“Tell me about a hunt that changed you…”

That was the question posed to 18 women hunters by author K. J. Houtman in her new book, Why Women Hunt, published by Wild River Press. Hailing from Lake Minnetonka, Minn., and a hunter herself, Houtman profiles women from across the country—Alabama to Alaska. The ladies are a cross section of American huntresses: younger and older, black and white, experienced veterans and relative rookies.

“These hunters are not the most famous female hunters, although there are some names you might recognize,” said Houtman. “Nor is each the most skilled … although some are blazing new trails with their impressive abilities. A few, in fact, are novices, their inclusion intentional.”

Houtman writes in-depth, taking an entire chapter to describe each woman’s background and how she came to the sport of hunting. At the end of each chapter, she then lets the ladies speak for themselves on various topics concerning hunting and the outdoors in a section titled “In Her Own Words.” Arguably some of the most interesting reading in the book, the following is a sampling of the women’s comments:

Hilary Dyer (Sylacauga, Alabama; began hunting in 2004)

Your favorite type of hunting?
“I’d have to say turkey hunting … it’s so interactive and you’re such an active participant. When you hear that gobble behind you, it’s like holy cow, and your heart jumps out of your chest.”

Who do you wish knew and respected your hunting world better?
“The population at large. Hunting is so misunderstood and misrepresented today. The people who oppose it aren’t interested in facts or logic—that’s a disappointment. It’s a hurdle we’re going to have to face. I wish it were more understood by everyone.”

Your favorite smell in the woods?
“A freshly-fired shotgun shell.”

Tammy Bashore (Sioux Falls, South Dakota; began hunting in 2013)

Your favorite type of hunting?
“Bowhunting, because I have to get closer to the animal. I like getting close.”

Do you prefer hunting with someone or solo?
“With my husband and my kids. I’m not a fan of going [hunting] with just anyone.”

Your biggest disappointment in today’s hunting culture?
“Those in it for the wrong reasons. I don’t know if ‘Barbie hunters’ is a bad term or not, but I hope they’re in it for the long haul and really stay in. My fear is that it’s not, and it’s the wrong message to other young women. I’m one of nine women co-founders of Artemis—a new groups of sportswomen. You can learn more at www.artemis.nwf.org. We’re all about public land and that hunting draws families together.”

Jaliliah Williams (Allentown, Pennsylvania; began hunting in 2012)

Who do you wish knew and respected your hunting world better?
“Every millennial and every hipster—every 20-something who watches a PETA video and thinks every hunter is Satan incarnate… They rage about nuggets and burgers, but they don’t understand animals … There’s so much chaos with guns and they don’t understand their Second Amendment rights. They don’t understand guns and they don’t understand how food works.”

Your biggest disappointment in today’s hunting culture?
“Exclusivity. I don’t keep up with the biggest hunting celebrities. I don’t subscribe at an obsessive level. It’s just an intimate thing for me [hunting], but I don’t think it is inclusive enough. It’s just all-white and I’m one black dot. I wish more city folks hunted, and I wish it was all more inclusive.”

Your favorite sound in the woods or on a hunt?
“The call of a bull elk—have you ever heard that? It has a weird, ethereal sound. Anytime there’s an elk in the woods, that’s what I want to hear.”

Christine Cunningham (Kenai, Alaska; began hunting in 2005)

Your favorite hunting equipment?
“Shotgun, for sure. Over-Under, preferably a wood stock.”

Your favorite smell in the woods?
“I like the smell of pine needles, wet earth. I love the smell of alpine flowers, especially in the fall when the sun is sort of burning them. There’s a sort of offering in the air.”

Who in your life, alive or dead, would be the most surprised that you’re now a hunter?
“My grandfather, who has passed away. He always saw me as an adorable but squeamish girl; he’d be surprised to see me hunting. He’d say: ‘You’re hunting? You don’t like to get dirty and you curl your nose up at everything.’”

Doreen Garrett (Lyons Falls, New York; began hunting in 1983)

Your favorite type of hunting?
“Being with family—especially my dad—to share the experience with people I love. Deer hunting is what changed my life; that’s always been important to me in the fall. Can’t define it just to one. I’m happy whenever I’m in God’s great outdoors and get to see what we’re thankful for.”

Biggest disappointment in today’s hunting culture?
“Social media. You have to be careful because not everyone shares the same values. I don’t post a whole lot, but I know friends who do, and they get a lot of feedback. Everyone can see it and there can be a lot of backlash. We’re being watched.”

Biggest obstacle for women getting started in hunting?
“Finding the right mentor and then having the confidence to do it. Most women who want to do something new seek an education on it, almost to a fault.”   

Brenda Valentine, likely the most well-known hunter profiled in the book, also wrote the foreword, which reads in part:

“I have always believed hunters possess a special gift similar to musicians, artists and others with unique talents. This gift knows no age, gender, color or economic boundary—not everyone possesses the drive, instincts, patience and toughness required to be a consistently successful hunter. Thank goodness that, throughout history, there have been women who excelled in providing food for their families as well as passing the fundamentals of hunting to the next generation.”

Hunting is not for everyone, but if you’re thinking about giving it a try, find a mentor you trust and get started; the women in Why Women Hunt will provide the inspiration. To order a hardcover copy ($49.95), go online to whywomenhunt.com or call (425) 486-3638.

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