Hunting & Heritage  |  05/29/2013

On Women Hunters: Rethinking Pink

More and more women’s hunting and shooting events are popping up on the radar. Around the country, Becoming an Outdoors Woman and NRA Women on Target programs introduce women to a variety of outdoor sports and skills. State sponsored programs and special gatherings hosted by lodges, hunt clubs and shooting ranges offer instruction and opportunities for women interested in traditional sports.
These women-only events help the newbies learn without the pressure some feel trying activities outside their gender comfort zone. Women have a different center of gravity and musculature, which means they may need to be taught how to mount a gun differently than the way a man would be taught. Many women are intimidated by handling guns – something not part of the feminine playbook – and do better in a lighter, more supportive environment. Many women respond more positively to the social aspect of learning with other women.
There are lots of reasons why women-only instruction is successful, although assuming this is the best way for all women to learn is wrong. Just as some boys can be taught by their fathers while others need outside mentors, the dynamics of learning are as individual for women as they are for men.
More important, stepping beyond the learning phase, it is dangerous to over-emphasize gender specificity. I’m talking about things like marketing pink hunting gear, girlie hunting retreats that need spa treatments to lure participants, feminine camo patterns and silly accommodations for the “fairer sex” that insult our strength and ability to adapt.
Simply put, a pink shotgun won’t fix a poor mount and I can pee behind a tree as easily as the next guy.
If we continue to create the image of women hunters as essentially different from men hunters, the patriarchal – male dominated – view of traditional sports will be perpetuated.
We need to show girls and women that once they’re out there hunting, shooting or handling their own bird dogs, they are no different than male hunters, shooters or dog handlers. Hunters are hunters, and gender has nothing to do with the ability to shoot well, outsmart a rooster, read a dog’s body language or trudge through thick cover in the pouring rain.
The more women are separated out of the overall view of who and what a hunter is – in other words, implying a “woman hunter” is different from a “hunter” – the more we reinforce the notion of hunting as fundamentally a man’s pursuit. I don’t believe getting more women into hunting is the single key to the future of hunting, but it is important. We need to reinvent the image of the hunter to include anyone with the desire to hunt and shoot.
I love hunting with my female friends, and I love hunting with my husband and our male friends. Like most hunters, I hunt with partners whose hunting style complements mine, whatever sex they may be. We’re into the dog work and the laughs, the challenge, the outdoors and the adventure. Gender is irrelevant.
Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.