Friday, November 12, 2010

The West: Where women love to hunt

I am rarely at a loss for words, particularly when it comes to the latest stats on women hunters (I'm thinking here of my last screed on the topic). But I've come across some new data that I'm not quite sure how to interpret.

Back in September, a friend turned me on to this study by Southwick Associates, "A Portrait of Hunters and Hunting License Trends: National Report." The study is based on actual hunting license data from 17 states, which means its basic numbers are super sturdy - an actual count, not an extrapolation based on a small sample size.

The results affirm the basic gender breakdown of hunters found in the most recent U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's National Survey: Nine percent of hunters nationwide are women.

But it goes on break the numbers down by region, and that's where we see that the West has the highest percentage of women hunters - 13 percent, which is nearly half again the national average. The Southeast has the lowest percentage of women hunters - 7 percent.

Here are the charts from the study:

I'm just not quite sure how to explain this without falling into a giant stinking vat of stereotypes about independent Western women, but something's definitely going on here.

As you could see from the map above, California wasn't one of the states in the study. But from where I sit, I can't imagine we'd drag down the numbers if we were included in it.

When I went duck hunting the past three weekends, I saw at least three other women at the refuge check station at 0-dark-30 each time.

I'm seeing a strong interest among women here to start procuring meat with a gun instead of a grocery cart, based on participation I've seen in women's shooting and hunter ed events.

And if I want to organize a girls' weekend out (in the field, not on the town, of course), I have so many hunting girlfriends I could invite that it would be no problem pulling it off.

But none of that answers the question why, which is of course what I want to know. Anyone else out there have any thoughts on the matter?

© Holly A. Heyser 2010


Josh said...

What's wrong with a stereotype with a big kernel of truth? Look at where womens' suffrage first became law, for example.

Holly Heyser said...

What I'd really like to do is dig into the state-by-state reports - a project for my winter break, perhaps?

But yeah, the kernel of truth is there - pioneer women and all that good stuff.

richmellott said...

I definitely think that there are more thinking people, both men and women, going hunting. When are people going to realize that it was the women who got their men to go West, and it was the women who sent their warriors east. The culture class of the 19th century was the basis of the suffragette movement, where the tough women were no longer willing to direct from the wings.
I've always been a fan of strong women characters, so it's no surprise to me, and quite welcome indeed that they're taking up outdoor sports, including hunting and fishing, at an increasing rate. I also think it is best that they return to the field in greater numbers every year, and enjoy the freedom that comes with being on the loose in the outdoors. We shouldn't have all the fun.

Phillip said...

Can't speak to the way the numbers break down, except the way it works out seems to make sense along stereotypically traditional lines. I'm not particularly surprised... but then, I don't dive into statistics like you do.

As far as a women's hunt weekend (or something like it), let me know if you'd like a hand in putting something together. Need at least 8 hunters/huntresses.

SimplyOutdoors said...

Hmm..interesting data right there. And not surprising I guess.

I am interested to see the state-by-state break down too.

I think you ladies in the West are just the do-it-yourself kind of gals. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Josh said...

I just noticed the actual map... Oklahoma is the "west"? Interesting...

Holly Heyser said...

Yes, Josh, the West is drawn very broadly, but historically it doesn't surprise me - I think of all of these places as pioneer states.

Richard, funny, but I just read something about that last night, about women often being the instigators to move West.

Simply, I'm hoping some women from the other side of the divide pipe in and talk about the hunting culture in their regions...

Hil said...

I am just going to dive headfirst into the vat of messy stereotypes with reckless abandon here.

I do my deer hunting in Pennsylvania and Alabama, so I can speak to the hunting culture in both the Northeast and the Southeast. And quite frankly, in my experience, there are a lot of redneck Bubbas in both states. Hunting is definitely a boy's club to a lot of these guys, and they want their women far away from deer camp because it would just not be fun to sit around and belch and scratch themselves if girls were around. I'm not saying this is the majority, as I know plenty of great men who welcome women in camp (thanks Dad!). But as we see in politics so often, the vocal minority seems to win over the quiet majority, and I think the redneck Bubbas are vocal and visible enough to give the rest a bad name.

The few hunters I know from the West, who are spoiled in that they get to hunt elk, muleys and whitetail while we Southerners are stuck with just whitetail, seem to have a different philosophy. The ones I know (again, only a few) have less of a "if it's brown it's down" philosophy than their Eastern/Southern counterparts. I guess in my head that's just sort of indicative of a little more mature mindset, a little more enlightened attitude, and thus maybe a little more open to letting women in the boys club.

Plus, yeah, pioneer women and all that. :)

Holly Heyser said...


Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think anyone has anything like a "deer camp" in California - very different deer hunting here.

On the larger point: I've never thought of the boys club thing as being a regional issue, but now I'll have to look more closely. I do know that there is an old boys club in duck hunting here, the kind that doesn't welcome women. I hear about it in little snippets, but I haven't really encountered it personally.

Maybe I'm just lucky to have found men so welcoming. One thing I have a knack for is attracting good and positive people, and the blog magnifies that 100-fold. Maybe I'm surrounded by trogs and just don't know it because they aren't the people who appear in my life.

(My other knack, btw, is getting to restaurants and cafes just ahead of big crowds. If I were a superhero, it would be my superpower - helping busy people get food quickly by inviting them to lunch with me.)

Hil said...

I should clarify that I too have found men very welcoming when it comes to hunting and "deer camp." I usually have to prove myself by walking the talk and then they get over the "hey it's a girl that likes guns" thing and everything is cool. But there is a definite boys club — I just don't associate with it (obviously). Maybe it's no worse here than it is everywhere, but in my very limited personal experience, I think it might be. The South is behind the curve in all sorts of tolerance issues, I'm afraid...

Holly Heyser said...

I hear that a lot - about women having to prove themselves.

I don't think I've gotten that here - at least not overtly. I think at the end of a couple hunt days, some men have been impressed that I hunt very seriously, and I'll stand in flooded corn in a rainstorm just as long as any of the guys, but I've never heard even so much as a whisper of "prove it" or "I don't believe it" from any guys before the hunt.

lindsay said...

Hi Holly!
it would be neat to find out how many women continue to hunt after learning how. I've hunted with a few women that you were with on the CA waterfowls camp. So great to have new friends!
Also...still excited for you to teach me duck hunting. I have another friend interested as well.

Huntress Livy said...

I love to see women growing in numbers -we ARE the fastest growing segment in the hunting industry. But as far as the numbers/data is concerned I remember when I worked for Dick Cabela and I asked him: "Where are the majority of Cabela's client's coming from?" I thought he'd say Texas or Pennsylvania, but instead he said that the majority of customers are from North of San Fransisco! Wow! I was shocked! Now, this conversation did take place about 10 years ago, but even then we know the west coast has a lot of outdoor enthusiasts!