Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Is hunting no longer a boys' club? Young female hunters increase by 50%

Hunting is popular in rural America – for both food and for sport. However, the number of male hunters has slowly decreased for nearly two decades. To revive interest in hunting, some states are running campaigns focused on drawing women into the sport. These campaigns are producing results, as evinced by a 2007 Fish and Wildlife Service survey. The survey shows that the number of women hunters in the United States has remained steady for the past 10 years, despite a drop in the number of male hunters. The survey also revealed a surprising discovery – the number of young female hunters, ages 6 to 15, has doubled since 1991. The increase in young female hunters represents a fundamental change in the perception of women as delicate, feminine beings.

As shown by the map above, the rural areas of America have the highest hunting participation rates. On a state level, Montana had the highest participation at 19%, followed closely by North Dakota, South Dakota and Arkansas, Maine, and West Virginia. The lowest level of hunting participation rates was in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey, which all had a 1% hunting participation rate. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, the participation rates for hunters were the lowest among residents of large metropolitan areas and highest among non-metropolitan areas. Metropolitan areas with a population of 1 million or more had a hunting participation rate of only 3%, compared to 12% of non-metropolitan areas.

In 2006, 12.5 million Americans hunted. In all, 10% of American males and 1% of females hunt. Males account for 91% of the hunters in America, while females account for only 9%. However, each year the number of male hunters has declined, culminating in an 11% decline from 1991 to 2006. In 2006 in the U.S., 1% of females hunted.

As the numbers decline, some states have looked for ways to keep hunting alive. The Idaho Fish and Game Department has begun to hold women-only hunter workshops. Yesterday, NPR’s Morning Edition reported on the rise of women hunters and focused on women attending on of the Idaho Fish and Game workshops. At these workshops, the women are taught to shoot, navigate in the woods and how to prepare animal carcasses to bring home.

The fact that the number of women hunters remains steady is surprising enough given the decline in the rate of men hunters, but the rise in young female hunters is even more astonishing. As shown by the chart on the left (property of Legal Ruralism Blog, data from the Fish and Wildlife Service 2007 Survey), the number of young female hunters ages 6 to 15 has increased from 153, 000 million in 2001 to 299,000 million in 2006.

According to this 2007 New York Times article first discussing women hunters, most women cite the desire to spend time with the families as the reason why they want to hunt. NPR's Morning Edition also cited need for food and togetherness as the reason more women are hunting. However, this does not explain the increase in young female hunters. Adult female hunters hypothesize that more fathers and husbands are bringing their wives, girlfriends, and daughters hunting with them. This is certainly a switch from the days when only boys went hunting with their fathers.

The fact that more fathers are willing to bring along their daughters hunting represents a fundamental change in the way rural men view their daughters. Women, especially in rural areas, are historically viewed as domestic and feminine. Beyond this, there is the assumption that females would not be interested in the barbaric, brutal sport of hunting. Hunting is not for the faint of heart - one has to take another animal's life, and then there are the processes of gutting the animal, skinning it, and carving it into meat should the hunter use their catch as food. This drastic increase in the number of such young women involved in hunting shows that women are no longer seen as dainty beings who cannot stomach hunting. The stereotypes of women are being broken down with every gunshot!


Hog Hunting Texas said...

Its good to see girls are giving interest towards hunting.

Taylor Call said...

I agree with your post and think the combination of women wanting to be a part of the hunting culture and the newer generations being more receptive to the idea of women hunting has led to this. The influx of female hunters also came at a good time (when the number of male hunters was decreasing).

State fish and wildlife departments also play a role in encouraging hunting participation by women. California, for example, has special hunts for women. The women can bring a guest with them to hunt. My girlfriend and I have done this several times. It is hard to get drawn for a special hunt as a man, but because so few women are hunters, it is much easier to get drawn for women-only hunts (they allow men to hunt with the women which means I get to hunt too!). I think this is a great incentive for male hunters who want to participate in special hunts to get their girlfriends and wives to participate. Not only are there women hunts, but also junior hunts. Parents can apply for their daughters and get them excited about the sport early. I did those as a child and I loved them.