Fri04182014

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Hunters’ ranks grow with more women participating

As a schoolteacher I get to see and meet a number of people, particularly young people. When I first started teaching in King George I attended a hunter education class with my wife. Hunter education classes serve several purposes. First, the class is an excellent course that teaches new or novice hunters the safest ways to hunt effectively. Typically the all-day course goes over everything from basic firearms safety to basic hunting techniques as well as ethics and morals while in the field. We have an excellent cadre of instructors in our area and they do a great job of getting the material across to students of all ages. Second, the class serves as a qualification for those seeking a concealed weapons permit. Third, many adults take a refresher course as I did while mentoring a young person or novice to hunting.

When we attended the class it was held at Spiro’s Sporting Goods on Rt. 205. My wife had hunted with me regularly in Arizona where I was stationed, but had never taken the course. I had taken the course while in middle school, but a refresher never hurts and I knew not many women would be in attendance. I wanted my wife to be comfortable with taking the course. I was correct that very few women were in attendance. There were some youngsters in the group, but overall the audience was composed of adult men seeking to fulfill their requirement to purchase a hunting license to hunt military bases, federal or state lands.  
The first few years I taught school I was stunned at the lack of interest by young people to get outdoors and hunt or fish. When I attended King George schools, the first day of deer season saw a severe drop in attendance. (I am not suggesting that kids skip school!) Of course most were boys, but regardless, hunting was a big deal back then. As a teacher if I had three or four students out of 100 who expressed an interest in hunting the first few years I taught, I was lucky.
Things began turning around slowly but surely. The hunter education class seemed to be part of the turn around. More students took an interest in going outdoors. More parents were taking their kids hunting and spending quality time with them too. By 2007 there was a significant increase of kids getting out according to my informal observations. The VDGIF had implemented several changes to help encourage kids to begin hunting. A youth rule was put into place to allow youth to take an antlerless deer during the season on days other than antlerless days. A youth deer hunting day and a youth turkey hunting day was also implemented. Youth hunts began being conducted on WMAs and then apprentice hunting licenses were created to allow hunters to take a friend into the field to teach them to hunt. The licenses were inexpensive, the hunter education requirement was waived for the two-year license year and many new hunters were recruited as a result.
So, what does this have to do with women hunting? As more people began having additional opportunities to hunt, more women became interested. Many fathers began taking their daughters hunting. Guys took their girlfriends. The culture began shifting. No longer were girls frowned upon when they hit the woods. Many groups began welcoming them. Our local hunter education team made the women and girls feel welcome. The numbers statewide and locally back that up.
Buddy Fines, hunter education instructor for the King George area, said the last three years nearly one in four hunter education attendees has been female. Many are younger women and girls. The older women often come to get the firearms safety training for a concealed weapons permit.
This year I have at least a half dozen young women I teach that are active hunters. Most hunt with their fathers and not just as a one-time deal either. Many love to eat venison and recognize the benefit hunting plays in our environment and wildlife management too. It is encouraging to see so many young women want to hunt and enjoy hunting.
The stats from VDGIF show an increase in female hunting license numbers from 2007-2010. In 2007 there were 9,723 female hunters with licenses. In 2010 the number rose to 11,540 before they leveled off to 11,489 this year. Breaking the numbers down further I noticed that the percentage of female hunters versus male hunters (not counting license exempt hunters) crept up from roughly 4 percent in 2007 to 5.4 percent in 2011. The hunter education numbers also crept up from 28 percent to 31 percent of attendees in 2011. Note that the 2011 numbers are not complete as there are still spring hunter education classes and licenses for spring gobbler season to add in once complete.
Female hunters are becoming a big part of the hunter ranks. The NRA has Women on Target hunts for women only. http://www.nrahq.org/women/index.asp
Even Oprah Winfrey has put her two cents in. A huntress named Kimberly Hiss was featured in Oprah Winfrey’s “O” magazine recently for her exploits afield on a Nebraska turkey hunt. http://www.oprah.com/food/Women-and-Hunting-Kimberly-Hisss-Humbling-Harvest.
The Journal has featured a number of young girls and women with their deer this season and many more were successful afield. If you are interested in hunting and are apprehensive about trying it, please consider giving it a shot. There are numerous people in our county and readership area that enjoy hunting and many of the ones that I know actually enjoy introducing others to the tradition more than they relish hunting themselves. There are many ways to get started. Help is as close as talking to someone you know who hunts and/or taking a hunter education class.  
Mark Fike can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Mark Fike

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