Women & Hunting: A Pastime on the Rise

By Liz Bruckner

Depending on who you ask, women embracing hunting is nothing new. But statistically speaking, the number of females choosing to wield a gun or archery tackle has never been higher.

Case in point: In the past eight years, CORE (Conservation Outdoor Recreation Education), a program requirement for hunters in B.C., has seen soaring rates of enrollment for women – to 1,725 in 2012 from 791 in 2004. And according to Alberta’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, the number of female hunters rose from 1.2 million in 2006 to 1.5 million in 2011, an impressive 25 per cent increase.

While explanations for the surge can be attributed to a handful of factors, including movies and marketing, cultural shifts, an increased interest in eating wild game, and a focus on being able to feed a family on a budget, Michael Short, host of Let’s Go Outdoors, says just as male hunters go into the field for different reasons, the same is true of women.

According to 42-year-old Sheila Campbell of Edmonton, while it was initially a desire to spend time outside with her husband that drew her into hunting, gaining a new perspective on the sport and eventually including their young sons in the pastime only added to the experience. “What I enjoy most is that hunting has become part of who we are as a family. The boys are excited when we bring home a deer, and help us make sausage and jerky a few times a year,” she says. “We like to have friends and neighbour over for BBQs and we often joke that wild game is the one unique thing we have to offer.”

For 17-year-old Amanda Zimmerling from Ardrossan, being introduced to hunting at a very early age by her parents planted the seeds of interest. “When I was old enough to be [involved] I was excited [to hunt], but also looked forward to the family time, the feeling of achievement, and knowledge that I can feed myself and my family,” she says. “Hunting is such a confidence and independence builder, and I definitely recommend women try it. It’s also a great family activity that gets kids outdoors and learning about the environment.”

Regardless of the motivation bringing women to hunting, Short says getting involved is what’s important. “Sometimes a woman’s first exposure to the sport is as a result of being encouraged by their fathers, grandfathers, boyfriends, husbands, or even a group of girlfriends. My take on it is, why not? Apart from the meat component, in today’s environment we have a social obligation to be involved in hunting, and human intervention – from both males and females – is necessary to avoid us going down a bad path.”