Not so long ago, men comprised the majority of those who participate in outdoor activities like hunting. Why? In part, many women were not given an opportunity to learn outdoor skills as girls or young adults. Tradition once dictated that boys typically got the guns, and girls got the dolls.
There were also other barriers that once prevented women from participating in hunting, such as the costs and availability of suitable clothing and other gear. You see, for the most part, clothing manufacturers had made the business decision to cater to the larger hunting market—men. This meant that a woman who hunted often ended up searching through her boyfriend's or husband's hunting clothing, borrowing clothes that pinched in the chest, sagged in the waist, and sleeves that covered their fingertips.
Firearms were another factor that prevented women from easing into the outdoor world. While there has always been plenty of choices in hardware, finding a properly fitting shotgun or rifle presented its own set of challenges. Long gun stocks and barrels were not necessarily manufactured for a woman’s anatomy. The same could be said for pistols and revolvers, as large-framed firearms were not made to fit into the majority of women’s hands.
Some of these barriers were beyond our control, but others can—and have been—eliminated through education. We are seeing that this technique works, particularly as it relates to opportunities for women.
Major outdoor retailers and hunting industries have finally taken notice of the growing population of women who are engaging in outdoor activities like hunting. Today it is not uncommon to walk into any outdoor retailer and peruse the hunting department and find an entire section of clothing made exclusively for women. Shirts are better fitted, pants are designed differently; and hiking boots, waders and hip boots are now offered in women’s shoe sizes.
Many long guns are now often designed with an average woman’s body frame in mind, without the need for a custom fit. And when the fit still isn’t right, there are numerous gunsmiths and gunfitters who are more than happy to properly adjust the gun to the shooter. Acknowledging the women’s outdoor market extends beyond firearms, as ammunition companies are even contributing to women’s causes like breast-cancer research by producing pink shotgun shells.
It stands to reason that when women are able to find comfortable, well-fitting clothing, jackets, belts, socks and boots made just for them, they have a much more favorable outlook on their hunting experience and adventure. Attitudes change and they become much more positive about the sport in which they can now call their own. In turn, they have a positive influence on sales of hunting and fishing licenses and become more aware of their state’s natural resources and their state conservation agency. They are more likely to purchase park passes and explore more outdoor recreational opportunities. More ladies are invited to participate in these pursuits with their like-minded and newly empowered hunting buddies.
Several local, regional, state and national groups comprised of women exist whose purpose is to support and encourage other women into hunting and the shooting sports. Most conservation “hook and bullet” organizations now have a group within dedicated exclusively for women. Walk into any outdoor store and you will find women working behind the counter, available to assist new customers and ladies who may be overwhelmed by their choices when searching for equipment and gear.
Additionally, most public and private gun ranges offer a “Ladies Day” or a discount. More and more “women’s programs” are being offered and are filling to capacity as soon as the event is advertised!
Check out social media outlets and you will find groups established by women and for women, to support and encourage other likeminded women in the sport or outdoor activity they all love. One of the best places to find some of these amazing stories and connect with others is this website! There are NRA memberships exclusively for women; you can find NRA Firearms Training classes and shooting clinics offered by NRA Women Instructors and Coaches, you can attend a Women’s Wilderness Escape, and empower yourself with the Refuse to Be a Victim training.
Women hold the key to the future of outdoor activities for all of us. They are participating in the sport because they want to. They are more environmentally aware and educated about conservation issues and wildlife management. Most importantly, these ladies will introduce their children to these activities and ensure our future of hunting will continue for generations to come. When you recruit and empower the mom, she will involve the entire family!