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Women have hunted for generations here in Missouri. My own family tree bears branches of hunt for food history when my mother put rabbit on the table just in time for a dinner visit from her mother and father-in-law. More recently, she took an eleven-point buck, which scored 143 & 7/8 by Boone and Crocket measurements. Mom asks, "What are the odds that a woman hunter would bring that kind of trophy deer home?" In her description, "There is nothing else like being in the woods when dawn breaks and nature unfolds around you with birds singing and squirrels scampering about. You sit almost frozen in the silence waiting on point for that moment when a deer comes into sight."
Gentile Ozark’s pioneer women completed tasks of household necessities before going on hunts to replenish meat stores when husbands were away to war or men-folk were unavailable. The fact is long before women hunters were considered a trend or considered as purchasers in the hunting market, women have hunted alone, in groups, and with their families.
Sacajawea was a guide for the explorers first steps upon Lewis and Clark trails through Missouri and beyond the Missouri Rivers banks hunting and scouting along with them on the journey which they first discovered America’s natural resources and the native wildlife. From that first recorded American-Indian maiden who walked a hunting and scouting trail and every woman hunter in between, the women hunting along the Missouri River and in other states beyond are more than the statistics we represent in any comparison. We are stay-at-home moms and professionals, believers and unbelievers, hunters and outdoor enthusiasts alike with faces and real stories behind the hunts and outdoor pursuit of game.
Dee Rackers, a Business and Support Services Annalist with the Missouri Conservation Department, willingly answered my questions about women hunter statistics for the Sho-me state. Her computer queried research of permit holders from the 2002/2003 hunting year provided comparative numbers for women and men hunters by method of the hunt. In 2003, the number of men purchasing archery tags was 93,403 compared to the 2003 showing o f 94,255 permit purchases. Women buying archery tags numbered 1,996 in 2002 rising slightly in 2003 to 2,048 archery tag purchases. These statistics do not include those landowners that are not required to purchase permits to hunt on their own property. Firearm deer permits decreased slightly from 31,308 in 2002 to 27, 995 in 2003. The numbers of women turkey hunters in 2003 were 4,537 just slightly lower than the previous years’ number of 4,546. Thirteen percent of the American population does hunt, according to the most recent telephone survey conducted among American households by the US Census Bureau in cooperation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Of that, 1 percent are women hunters and 12 percent are men. Of the number of Americans who do hunt, women make up 9% and men make up 91%. Those figures are taken from the 2001 American household survey.
‘Kathie’ another MDC employee in the Administrative Services Division shared what hunting means to her. "I am a late bloomer in the world of hunting, although like many women my age, I grew up around it, watching the men in my family traipse off to the woods with all of their big boy toys and their testosterone-induced fervor for the sport. As I also recall, there were several trips in which the men arrived home with nothing to show for their effort but a few ticks and a spent shell or two. It was never suggested, by any of us, that I go along. At the age of 40 and a newlywed (I told you I was a late bloomer), my new husband took me to the woods every time he went. I spooked more turkeys than I ever got a shot at those first couple of years but the memories I have of those times in the woods with my incredibly patient husband are precious to me. Missouri is the undisputed # one turkey nation in the state, and as the new wife of the state turkey biologist, there was never any question as to whether or not I would hunt turkeys. I did, and fortunately, for both of us, I'm now an addict. I hunt deer by modern firearm and archery (killed my first bow doe just last fall), as well as turkeys, squirrel, rabbits, and the occasional tomcat that lurks under my bird feeders."
In central Missouri’s Camden County ‘Bonnie’ a friend of ours hunts for deer with a bow and has done so for many years since her husband, now a bow shop owner and taxidermist, first introduced her to hunting. Bonnie remembers a time when she went with him out west to hunt deer and antelope some thirty years ago when women weren’t accepted as hunters. After a harvest of her first antelope, she proudly went to check it in and was not only subject to questions and expected to prove that her gun was the one that had in fact killed the animal, she was also asked to show her driver's license! She prefers the safety of a tree stand to do her hunting and observing of local wildlife. It is not as important to her that she harvests a deer, but that she and her family enjoy the outdoors. When the entire family goes out to hunt, they take turns babysitting the little ones. On one such occasion when Bonnie was to watch her granddaughter, they wrapped the baby doll that she affectionately called ‘Baby Jesus’ in an orange blanket before everyone left the house. When it was time to go and sit with Grandma Bonnie, the baby doll was left behind in daddy's truck and they had to go back for the ‘baby Jesus’. She says, "If you’re going to include the kids in the outdoors they need to be comfortable and they have to be able enjoy themselves."
‘Barb’ whom lives in Johnson County had an interest in hunting and fishing with her family at home and she eventually found common interests with and married another hunter. Now their children also hunt and fish with a zest for the outdoors. Barb jokes about the fact that her son is so comfortable in the woods that he can sleep on the ground while waiting for the coon dogs to bark after locating a raccoon. A teacher for a local school district and working as a M. D. C. hunter education instructor are ways she is involved in her community. She likes to participate in local hunts and visit with other ladies who hunt, but she is more interested in those women hunters who are really out in the field and not just on a name on paper hunter. "It is getting easier to be a part of the male dominated hunting world, but sometimes a woman has to prove herself. I just enjoy it and that’s what we do my husband and I enjoy our time together and we hunt and fish as a family."
A little farther south near Bolivar another friend ‘Pam’ hunts turkey using a ten-gauge shotgun with success and sometimes without, but says, "If I get one or not they are a lot of fun to watch." I asked her what her reason for hunting was and she said, "It’s just the enjoyment of being in the woods with my husband and sometimes it’s just nice to have a little quiet time to myself when I do get to go. It is hard to find the time for me to get away and go hunting." A mother of three beautiful girls she is busy with their needs and evening routines after managing employees and customers at her full time job. She has bagged two turkeys and when I asked about that she shared that one of the hunts was with her husband when they both shot turkeys from the same group of birds. "That was exciting we really had fun that day."
‘Qing’ (pronounced Chin) from China now lives in Missouri’s Hickory county with her husband, another bow shop owner, along with their son who is also, a young member of Mathews’ pro-staff. They like to hunt as a family. Qing hunts deer with a browning 308, but her passion is 3-D shooting at their shop in tournament competitions where she sometimes beats the men opposing her including her son as they shoot Mathews to Mathews for the high score. She told me that when she does beat the men they take it in stride and are good-natured about it though sometimes shocked to have been out-scored by a woman. When I asked John, If his mom ever beat him in competition he grinned and said, "yeah she did just last night." Qing commented that she thinks it’s a good sport for ladies and added that in her home country people are not allowed to own guns or hunt. When they go to an archery range in China, they have to rent a bow to target practice, returning the bow when they are finished, much like renting bowling shoes in America.
Other states are represented by lady hunters as well. Women in the Outdoors currently have regions that include each state, which sponsor events annually that are well attended by women. First time participants and seasoned women hunters learn skills together in the courses provided at the events. A Nebraska native, ‘Christy’ visited with me by phone about how important it is for her to harvest, clean, and prepare food from her hunts. She made a valuable point about how the Women in The Outdoors gave her both a way to find other women hunters and a way to share her hunting knowledge and enjoyment with other ladies. The great part about that is seeing the excitement on the face of someone new to hunting when they see for themselves what it’s all about with a group of like-minded women. She has been the coordinator for the Eastern Nebraska Chapter of the Missouri River Long Beards for the past five years. When she first started hunting, she also found the need to prove herself among a male dominant sport. Now she meets at least one new serious woman hunter each year who she can share hunting experiences with and has about five good hunting buddies to go with.
Louisiana’s gulf coast will always be home to ‘Angela’ a neighbor who misses gun hunting there for ground hogs and squirrels. Recently she expressed an interest in learning to bow hunt. We’ve discussed basics like draw length and draw weight and I suggested she take a beginning bow hunting class and find a pro-shop staffer she is comfortable with who can help her choose a bow that fits her needs. These are her own words, "As a native of Louisiana, I enjoy the outdoors. Just being outside and enjoying what nature has to offer can open up a world of opportunities. Hunting is one of my favorite past times. Although deer isn’t as plentiful in southern Louisiana as in some states, I do enjoy the peace when I sit in a tree stand. I enjoy rabbit hunting as well, but I would have to say that squirrel hunting is my favorite. As far as hog hunting goes, I have done mostly trapping. What really attracts them are homemade traps, which are holes baited with sour corn. I now live in the state of Missouri, which gives me an opportunity to better my chances for whitetail deer. I am very interested in bow hunting and plan on being ready before bow season opens in the fall. As far as Louisiana goes it will always hold my heart and when duck season opens I will be taking a trip home to experience duck hunting for the first time."
A huntress of the Carolinas, ‘Sue’ enjoys supporting others in disabled hunts as well as attending annual archery shows to meet with pros’ and organize ways to involve more women and young ladies that want to be involved in the tradition of hunting. Last but not least, her account of hunting is heard along with many others evoking images of what it really means to be a woman hunter. "Hunting has brought many wonderful aspects to my life. Before my health problems, it gave me such a feeling of independence. I felt like I could do anything I wanted to. Now I have had to learn how to be dependent on others. And hunting has really become a treasure because I don't hunt that often. I really miss it too because there is nothing like being in the woods. My favorite time and place to be in the world is in the woods at the break of day when that magical moment happens . . . all is quiet and in one instant the woods wake up. Truly, this is an awesome time to spend with Our Lord . . .! "
These words are both paraphrased and direct quotes from the ladies named above whom are really hunters. When you look into the faces of women hunters, the people you see are mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, and grandmothers who hail from every walk of life and nationality. This is more than just a passing glance at a group of women. These are the words of real women hunters who have a passion for being in the outdoors and keeping that passion alive by sharing it with family and new friends. Thank you to all the ladies who willingly shared why they hunt and helped show who we are as women hunters.
I say women have a voice, let them speak with respect of course and without putting down the men or non-hunters. Women Hunters gives us that ‘voice’ by inviting all women to share in viewing and hunting wildlife with others and to participate in their own place as women hunters if they choose to do so.
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