Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Number of women hunters: A super duper amazing explosion

OMG, the number of women hunters has increased 50 percent in the past five years???

So say the stats cited in this Scripps newspaper story, but as much as I'd love to get excited about it, I can't.

Reason No. 1: I got these stats from the source, the National Sporting Goods Association, this summer. While the Scripps story says the number of women hunting with firearms jumped from 2 million to 3 million, you need to know that someone rounded way too generously; the actual numbers in the survey are 2.4 million to 3 million. That turns the 50 percent increase into a 23 percent increase. Read more...
Here's how it looks when you graph it out:

Reason No. 2: The number of people surveyed helps determine the accuracy of a survey, and the NSGA researcher who sent me they survey cautioned that because the number of women surveyed is so small (he didn't say how small), "any change is magnified." (This helps explain why those numbers jump around so much from year to year.)

I'm a real numbers geek, so I talk to folks about this quite a bit, and I'm told that the most impeccable numbers on hunting come from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's National Survey, which comes out every five years. Those folks start their survey with 60,000 households, which is enormous (vastly larger than most surveys you'll see during elections, which tend to run maybe 3,000-4,000-5,000 at best).

Here's what the National Survey says about the numbers of women and girl hunters over the past couple decades (if you click on it, you can see a larger version):

Notice how the overall numbers are smaller? NSGA says 3 million women hunted with firearms in 2006; USFWS says it's more like 1.2 million. Much as I'd like to believe we number 3 million, I'm putting my faith in the USFWS numbers.

Why am I being such a party pooper? Because there's going to be a flush of stories now based on these weaker numbers, with many just repeating the highly misleading "2 million to 3 million" claim, and that irritates me.

I think what's going on with women in hunting is really important, important enough that we shouldn't diminish its meaning with inflated claims: Women are becoming an accepted part of the hunting scene, so much so that we now have real options in women's hunting clothing, and we are featured regularly and prominently in hunting television. The number of girls getting into hunting appears likely to boost our numbers overall in coming years - a testament to all the moms and dads taking kids of both genders hunting.

And we put an important face on hunting: Because we are not the stereotypical hunter, non-hunters are less inclined to make snap judgments about what we do, more likely to stop and listen to why we hunt.

Sorry guys. I know that's not fair to you. But trust me - it serves you well. In an increasingly urbanized society that can't relate to guns or hunting at all, this willingness to listen to non-stereotypical hunters matters: The more non-hunters understand us, the less inclined they'll be to want to take away our rights to feed ourselves the way we do.

I really do hope that the next National Survey shows an increase in women hunters that's even a fraction of what NSGA numbers show. That's something I could cheer without reservation.

© Holly A. Heyser 2010


Hil said...

"we are featured regularly and prominently in hunting television"

You mean the skinny, pretty ones among us are. When's the last time you saw an ugly woman hunter on TV?

My point being, I'm not sure we're being featured because we're a part of the hunting demographic so much as we're being featured because men would rather look at Tiffany than at Lee. (Nothing against them, just an example). I don't mean to stir up the Booth Babe debate again, but we have a very long way to go when it comes to being taken seriously. I have always said I would rather not be known as a WOMAN editor or a WOMAN hunter. Just an editor and a hunter is fine with me.

Holly Heyser said...

Yep, you're right that it's mostly beautiful women - I have yet to see a truly unattractive woman on one of these TV shows, and they're definitely weighted (no pun intended) toward the blonde and the beautiful.

But I've also seen shows where a woman is a guest, not a star, and sometimes they don't even make a big deal of it.

Tiffany Lakoski is definitely eye-candy for men (and I don't say that to denigrate her in any way - I have nothing against her, and have heard only good things about her from those who know her).

But I'm not convinced that all the women on outdoor TV are there just to titillate - I think our presence is starting to be a little more normal. Part of the reason I feel that way is that I'm seeing women appear in shows without doing any interviews where they're dressed to tease - they're just their bundled up in camo like everyone else.

Josh said...

Holly, you are an amazing researcher and journalist. Thanks for the truth and the real hope.

Holly Heyser said...

Thanks, Josh! It's fun to act like a reporter again once in a while.

Phillip said...


I understand what you're saying, because my GF, Kat, often says the same. And there's no denying that some hunting shows are leveraging sex appeal, just like any other industry.

At the same time, I'm sitting here right now watching a program in which the women hunting are definitely not Barbie girls. ("Ugly", by the way, is such a loaded, personal term... why apply it to someone you don't know?) There's another show that I watch from time to time in which the co-host is a very "ordinary" looking woman. There are some other shows I don't enjoy as much for various reasons, but they also feature and/or are hosted by women who won't likely make the cover of Cosmo or Vogue.

Percentage-wise, I'd say the "purty ones" outnumber the rest. But let's not get carried away to the detriment of the more important fact... it wasn't that long ago you'd never have seen a woman hunting on TV. Now you can hardly find a show without women.

Even better, is that you're finding more and more women in the field. Guys are taking their wives and daughters. Moms are taking their kids. And women like Holly are taking their friends. It's an awesome thing for the future of the sport.

The numbers game has always been pretty fishy to me, but the trend itself is indisputable.

SimplyOutdoors said...

Thanks for the heads-up about the numbers "inflation". As a guy who works with data every day, I find it pretty amazing how much data can spun to help defend a specific view point.

Anyway, I do think - though it's not increasing as much as explained in story referenced here - that the ladies are definitely flooding the hunting scene.

And I love it.

It just means that my wife hunts with me (as she does), and it gives me hope that my young daughter will one day hunt with me as well.

Great post, Holly

Edward J. Palumbo said...

I'm delighted to see more women drawn to the shooting sports for the most practical of reasons: it can only benefit the sport by providing a better variety of equipment, and the growing ranks of women will strengthen support for Second Amendment rights. If the shooting sports are perceived as "guy stuff", which was the perception for the two previous generations I've witnessed, the polarity of target marketing would suffer. With men and women afield, it can only improve the sports we enjoy. Men exercise no physical advantage as shooters, and it's time more women pursued the challenge of accurate shooting or hunting afield. I hope this trend continues.

slm313 said...

Although I hate bad statistics, I have to say if those numbers encourage more equipment designed for females (both guns and clothing), I for one will be thrilled. The number of guns I had to try out because I'm too big for youth, and too small for std men's guns was impressive (and surprising to Darren although he did get to fondle A LOT of guns over a weekend). Would I like the numbers to be more accurate, certainly, but much like how Danica Patrick brought attention to Indy racing even though she wasn't the star the media created, even bad statistics might help the women who are in the field, and those who are thinking about learning to hunt. In my view, it can only encourage growth. And yes, this is coming from someone who does fact checking all the time, and has tantrums when the facts aren't right. Guess I'm getting mellow now that my shotgun has arrived!

Holly Heyser said...


Galen Geer said...

Holly, You "must" read the center fold story in the new issue of "The Pines Review" which you will be getting the email to in a day or two (providing I get the printed proof copy to approve before posting). Tammy Sapp has written a very, very insightful piece on the number of women hunters.
PS Any of your readers who would like to receive the link to the Review by email can contact me at my Blog.

Jon Roth said...

"And we put an important face on hunting: Because we are not the stereotypical hunter, non-hunters are less inclined to make snap judgments about what we do, more likely to stop and listen to why we hunt."

Holly, WTF?? And what exactly does the "stereotypical hunter" look like - besides being male? And why would women get more 'street cred' than someone, say, like myself; an early 40's chief executive who wears a suit to work every day, shoots public areas (not a private club snob), and am teaching a 10 year-old boy and 8-year old girl to hunt with the concepts of conservation and ethics in hunting? Why would you and your sisters - simply because you've got ta-ta's - cause anti-hunters "to stop and listen" without a snap judgement.

Holly, shame on you for playing the gender card! :) Sorry, can't jump on the NorCal fan club on this one.

Holly Heyser said...

Wow, LTH, nice to see you again after such a long absence, but dude, chill out and read a little more carefully!

1) I said I know it's not fair.

2) I said - and you quoted - that non-hunters are more likely to stop and listen, not anti-hunters. Most anti-hunters have already made up their minds.

3) I did not say "ta-tas" give us cred.

4) I didn't bring your p*nis into this, so I'd appreciate it if you don't bring my breasts into it, OK?

The reality is that I spend a LOT of time monitoring what non-hunters are saying about hunting - daily, not just sporadically - and the stereotypical hunter that I see anti-hunters and a fair number of non-hunters describing is a redneck man who kills for fun, just for the violence of it. Put any man in camo and that's what a lot of people are going to assume you are, regardless of what you wear Monday through Friday. And of course it's not fair.

Conversely, I would challenge you to find anything more than isolated instances in which women are assumed to have violent tendencies because of our gender. Our stereotype is that we're nurturing. So when people see us hunting, it turns heads, and it challenges stereotypes.

That's the experience I've had. Maybe you've had a ton of experiences in which non-hunters see you in your camo, somehow discern that you're a tie-wearing CEO five days a week and stop to listen to why you hunt. If so, congratulations! That's awesome.

Have a nice season.

slm313 said...

OOPS! Forgot to check after I posted. It was a tossup between the Beretta Urika and Franci. I opted for the lovely Franchi 720, 20 gauge, with 26" barrel. Oh and walnut, because I am still girly enough to want something pretty.

Darren and I took it out a couple weeks back to break it in at the Cordova range...well...let's just say, I definitely need to practice! And no, I have not gone duck hunting yet, because I don't DO rain, mud, and wind. Maybe one at a time, but defintitely not all 3 at the same time. You are far more hard core than me!