Historically, hunting has been a sport that has been predominately participated in by men. There have been notable exceptions, of course. Eleanor O’Connor, wife of the famous hunter and outdoor writer, Jack, traveled with him and hunted in many parts of the world, taking her share of game, including some exceptional trophies. Not as well-known to hunters today were Martin and Osa Johnson of the early to mid-1900’s. Together they traveled to many places that seemed extremely exotic and especially dangerous to most Americans of their day. Osa studied, filmed and hunted big game with Martin in such places as East and Central Africa, the South Pacific Islands and British North Borneo.
Today’s outdoor TV shows have produced an increasing number of lady hunters whose names are known to most fans of these programs. Tiffany Lakosky, Brenda Valentine, Candy Kisky and Vicki Cianciarulo have become household names among those who enjoy watching others take big game on their home screens.
But when hunting season arrives in most parts of the world, it is the men who comprise the bulk of the license buyers. There are many factors that contribute to this, with the traditional role of women as the primary care-giver to children probably being first and foremost. I would suggest that many more women could, and should become involved in hunting. I have no doubt that there are many ladies who have given it serious thought, but have been precluded from this wonderful sport - either because they didn’t know how to approach the subject, or the men in their lives didn’t take the initiative to show them how.
BREAKING DOWN OLD TABOOS
How many of us have heard that “it’s bad luck to have a woman in hunting camp!”? Probably as many as have heard, “It’s bad luck to bring a banana on a fishing boat!” Even as I write this, I know there are some who are nodding their heads in hearty agreement, and will defend both of these ideas to the death. But logic, common sense and the experiences of many would show that these old taboos are without a truthful basis.
Many women are excellent marksmen, have perfect vision and hearing, and can follow the blood trail of a wounded animal as well or better than most men. Beyond that, they have a love of the outdoors, an appreciation of wild animals and can learn the basics of woodsmanship equal to their male counterparts.
Aside from possibly lacking the physical strength to perform some of the more rigorous tasks that may be involved in hunting, women can learn and apply all the skills necessary to being a successful hunter just as well as a man who has never hunted before. Anyone who disagrees need only to look to the women mentioned in the previous paragraphs for proof.
Perhaps the greatest hindrance to more women being involved in hunting is men who still hold to the idea that it is a man’s sport and no place for a woman. It’s time to realize that hunting can, and should be just as available and rewarding to women as it has always been to men. Here are some areas to consider when introducing your wife, daughter or girlfriend to this great sport.
Whether the weapon selected is a bow, shotgun or rifle, there are many options open to women today. Many of the bows that are designed for young hunters will also work very well for a woman of smaller stature. Bows that offer up to 11” of draw adjustment and draw weights between 30 and 60 pounds are now available. A bow such as this can first be used to learn the basics of archery, and with simple adjustments can be increased to be a very efficient hunting weapon.
The Remington 870 Express Youth Synthetic Combo, a 20-gauge pump, would be a great choice of a shotgun if deer and turkeys are her main interest. It comes with a 21-inch vent rib barrel for birds and a 20-inch rifled barrel for slug shooting, has an adjustable length of pull, and even comes in pink camo! Many years ago my wife, Cynthia fell in love with my Ithaca Featherweight pump the first time she used it, and called it “her shotgun” for a while.
The choice of rifles suitable for women seems to expand every year. The short and light Ruger .44 magnum carbine, one of the single shot models offered by H&R or NEF, the Remington Model Seven or a lever action rifle will all be found to be somewhat easier to handle for many women than a heavier, long-barreled rifle that most men find comfortable to use.
As far as caliber goes, there are plenty of them to chose from that offer excellent performance for deer-sized game or larger, yet produce light to moderate recoil. The .24 caliber is the smallest that I personally would recommend, with the .243 being a great choice. The .257 Roberts, 7mm/08, 6.5x55 and 7x57 are also all good ones, and have a large range of bullet weights available for use on a wide variety of game.
When I was buying a deer rifle for my wife, I chose a Ruger Model 77 in 7x57. To tell the truth, I really didn’t give the size and weight of the rifle as much consideration as I should have. Consequently, it proved to be a bit long for her, and she found it difficult to get to her shoulder while wearing her heavy hunting coat. We solved this problem by shortening the stock about 2 inches. It made the rifle much easier for her to handle, as well as removing a little bit of weight. With this rifle she has harvested several whitetails over the years. I’m sure none of them realized that they hadn’t been hit by a heavy-recoiling, magnum caliber bullet. If you would like to read about two of these deer, see Cynthia’s First Mesick Doe  and Chilly Morning at Cole Creek in the Photos and Stories section of the BGH forum.
My wife's rifle (lower) has been shortened and the scope is further back to accommodate her short arms.
We live in Michigan. During the firearm deer season it’s cold here. Even the warmest-blooded man will be seen wearing several layers of clothes when he heads out with a rifle in his hands. But Cynthia often reminds me that her favorite temperature is “warm”. Fortunately, manufacturers of outdoor wear have been making clothing designed to keep us warm in cold weather for many years now. By applying several light layers of non-cotton clothing and topping it with a modern, insulated coat and pants designed to stop the wind, it is not that difficult to stay warm for at least a couple of hours while sitting on stand.
The selection of a good pair of wool socks that are worn over thinner liners inside well-made boots with up to 2,000 grams of space-age insulation will also keep those toes warm. Another option is to wear lighter boots to the stand, and then put the feet inside big, fluffy “overboots” that will keep the feet toasty on the coldest of days. There are also specialty boot covers that have pockets designed to receive air-activated warmer packets – like the old lighter fluid handwarmers, except much better.
And now there are several clothing manufacturers that cater especially to the woman hunter and outdoor enthusiast. Shorter arms and legs, along with more hip room will be found in these clothing items so that a woman will not feel like she is swimming in something that wasn’t made for her. She can even get her long johns (long janes?) in such colors as teal, heather or pink if she wants to!
Add a good warm hat and some well-insulated gloves or mittens with liners inside, and the lady hunter will not suffer from the elements under normal Fall or early Winter conditions.
OK – we can get her a weapon that will fit her well and do everything needed for an efficient, humane kill. We can find clothing made for her that will keep her nice and warm, while still offering the freedom of movement needed for comfortable walking to and from the stand. But all that aside, she’s still a woman, and that presents some special consideration when going afield or into the woods. I am sure that one of the main reasons many women don’t even consider hunting is because they don’t possess the “plumbing” that men do. In other words, when nature calls, it’s much more complicated for them to answer. That doesn’t need to be a reason why they should stay away from hunting.
There are several products made today that help the woman who is away from the modern conveniences of home. Little John makes a portable urinal that can be used anywhere, and it comes with a “female adapter”. Freshette offers a “feminine urinary director” that women may find useful for this purpose. There are also several companies that offer snap-on toilet seats and lids for the top of a 5-gallon bucket as well as many other styles of portable chemical toilets. Just do an online search for these products and you’ll be surprised at the variety available. For my wife, I purchased a Luggable Loo that she uses in her pop-up hunting blind as well as in our boat when we’re out fishing in the summer. Simply add a couple of quarts of water and a few ounces of RV holding tank solution, and you have the same setup as the well-known “porta-potty” that is found wherever crowds gather – except it isn’t being used by several hundred people!
I mentioned that Cynthia likes it warm, so she also has a small catalytic heater that she can use inside her blind on those extra cold days. Add to that a padded swivel hunting chair from Texas Hunter (with arms, of course) and she’s as comfortable as can be while watching for deer and just enjoying being in the great outdoors.
Items to keep her comfortable: Swivel Chair, Portable Toilet, Heater, Overboots.
Perhaps the two main objections to the idea of taking a woman hunting are (1) “It’s too much trouble”, and (2) “That’s my time to get away with the guys!” There is no doubt that many women would agree, and have absolutely no desire to learn how to shoot or go out into the woods. That’s fine, but what about those who would genuinely enjoy the sport, and would welcome the opportunity to spend more time with their man? With the divorce rate now exceeding the marriage rate, it’s pretty obvious to me that if a man is serious about nurturing his wife, he ought to be willing to make the effort needed to make this sport available to her – if she is interested. I have found that nothing seems to energize Cynthia more than to spend a day or two deer hunting or fishing in the summer. She loves being outside observing animals which can only be experienced while sitting quietly without making noise. She even talks to deer (that’s another story)!
There is another reason why I believe we should try to get more women involved in hunting, and that has to do with protecting our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. There is a serious and growing threat to that right today, and the more people we can enlist on our side of the issue, the better.
I would suggest that you begin by teaching your ladies how to shoot. Take your wife, daughter or girlfriend to a shooting range or other suitable place where you have a safe backstop and teach them to shoot a .22 rifle. This should be done following some at-home instruction on safe gun handling and how to use the particular rifle without any ammo present, of course. From a .22, she can progress to a centerfire rifle of appropriate caliber (no magnums, please!). You also may want to introduce her to a shotgun and learning how to hit moving targets as well as stationary ones. If the weapon of choice will be a bow, there will probably be an archery range in your area where she can learn and practice, or perhaps in your own back yard if legal.
In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with purchasing good used weapons. When I bought Cynthia’s deer rifle, I found it at a gun show with a scope already mounted for $150 less than I paid for my own rifle without a scope. It was in practically new condition and has proven to be an excellent choice for her. There are thousands of used guns and bows available on eBay, Craig’s List and other online outlets, as well as in local sporting goods stores that take trade-ins. You shouldn’t have to break the bank to get what is needed to introduce a woman to the sport of hunting. Maybe she’ll enjoy shooting, but not the idea of actually killing an animal. Great! That alone will provide you and her with many hours of enjoyment together, perhaps joining an archery league or gun club where you can both continue to hone your shooting skills.
Before hunting season arrives, you should spend time teaching her what you know about woodsmanship, animal identification, shot placement and the many other aspects of hunting. She can also access many resources online to learn more on her own. In most states she'll be required to take a hunter safety course, and that will add to her knowledge.
When opening day arrives, don’t drop her off by a tree and walk several hundred yards to your stand. Get her set up and then take your stand 50 yards away facing the opposite direction. That’s what I did the first year I took Cynthia deer hunting. It was only about one half hour after daylight when I was startled by the report of her rifle. She didn’t get that young buck, but she cut some hair and we immediatley had a hands-on lesson in following up on a shot. It was the start of a journey that she has enjoyed for over 30 years now. When she harvests a deer, I don’t insist that she field dress it and drag it out. She assists by holding the legs while I field dress it, and by carrying my rifle while I drag the deer. She also helps me in skinning the animal once we get back home. She loves to cook venison and has many scrumptious recipes. And, with her filling deer tags, we have more meat in our freezer than if I were always hunting alone!
If you have any doubt that now is the time for more women to get involved in hunting, just do an online search using the title of this article. Read what other women are saying about how the hunting and shooting sports have literally changed their lives. I think you will be amazed. In these days of increased pressure on the family and a continued tendency toward things that are high-tech, why not share some of the more simple joys that come with the great sport of hunting with the women in your life? I think your entire family will benefit from it.