Why Women Hunt: The Fastest Growing Segment of the Hunter Population

Between 2010 and 2020, the CDC reported a 24% increase in cancer rates in men and 2% increase in women, with a 15% increase in cancer deaths in men and 8% in women. Shockingly, meats from commercially raised livestock are leading culprits in many diet-related cancers. “Of 143 drugs and pesticides likely to be found in domestic meat and poultry, 42 were known to cause cancer or are suspected of causing cancer,” says the U.S. FDA.

Caroline Rather, a women hunter and angler, was asked why she took up hunting and she replied, “I wanted to know what I was feeding my family. Wild game is hormone, steroid and antibiotic-free, the healthiest meat you can eat. And the animal has lived a humane, free-range existence. Besides that, wild game just tastes better and I love the sustainability of the field to table process.”

Both author and hunter, K. J. Houtman interviews 18 women who hunt in her book Why Women Hunt, to explore their motivations, “This fall, women will feed their families locally-sourced free-range meat that has been foraging on natural grasses, leaves, nuts and berries—clean, delicious food without a trace of chemical additives.”

“But it goes beyond food for many women. For some it’s a sense of independence that comes from possessing the skills to hunt, the ability to provide food without having to rely on others. While many grew up in hunting families where they learned to hunt from a young age, an increasing number of adult women are becoming hunters through friends who hunt and by enrolling in programs that help teach women the skills to hunt and process their wild game,” says Houtman.

A similar program that is a non-profit called Becoming An Outdoors-Woman (BOW), was founded by Dr. Christine Thomas, Dean of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point College of Natural Resources. This program was created shortly after a conference was held in the 90s that identified the barriers of women getting involved in outdoor recreations like hunting. Among those barriers was education. Thomas stated, ““We felt if education was the main barrier, we could handle that, so BOW was born.”

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“We’ve had more than 300,000 women go through our program since it was created in 1991. Women want to hunt for many of the same reasons that men do. They enjoy the time in nature and the unexpected things that occur and the wonderful interactions that happen with wildlife.  They love the fellowship of the time with family and friends and they like providing wild and healthy food that they then turn into gourmet meals.  Women also appreciate the self-reliance and self-confidence that comes with going safely and successfully afield and they love to share stories after,” says Thomas.

For Mary Predovich, Secretary of Safari Club International’s Sables program, an effort to get both women and men involved in hunting, it’s all about family—spending time together in the field and around the dinner table, sharing elk steaks or pheasant kebobs and swapping stories from the hunt. “Sables is about educating people about the role of hunting as part of the wise use of our wildlife resources and conservation. For me, mentoring other women into hunting is very rewarding—from the first shooting class to actually getting afield,” says Predovich.

According to a report sourced by National Geographic, “The proportion of women who hunt has risen 25 percent since 2006. Women are finding that hunting gives them a chance to connect more closely to the food chain and to nature,” says the report, “to eat food that is more ‘natural’ so that they understand where their meat comes from.”

“Women hunters were never as accepted or celebrated as they are in this decade. The number of women in boots and camouflage has exploded,” writes veteran hunter Brenda Valentine in her foreword to Why Women Hunt.

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