Female hunters are the fastest-growing segment of the shooting sports market.
According to a 2015 study by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, women’s involvement in target shooting grew 60% between 2001 and 2013, and 85% for hunting in that time, for a total of more than eight million participants. As of 2015, a full 11% of all U.S. hunters were women, up from 9% in 2006. And it’s not a small market. In 2011 the U.S. Census Bureau reported that female hunters spent some $4.2 billion a year on hunting clothing and equipment, with an average per person expenditure of $2,800 a year.
This is new. The ratio of male to female hunters had held roughly steady for decades before jumping in recent years, due to what researchers say are a number of different factors, including the increasing popularity of local and free range foods, increasing independence on the part of many women, and a shared enjoyment of the outdoors. Others also credit the introduction of women’s-only programs such as Becoming an Outdoors Woman, which began offering classes in 1991 and has to date taught some 150,000 women in 38 U.S. states and Canada about shooting, hunting and game preparation.
Beyond that, though, many women say that they simply have been interested in hunting for many years and now see the sport as more accessible to them, so they’re trying it out.
"Women are realizing how much fun hunting is and how close it can actually bring them in their relationships with their families," Tiffany Lakosky, co-host of the Outdoor Channel hunting show “Crush with Lee and Tiffany,” told National Geographic. "The whole concept is that I am shooting my family's dinner tonight and we're eating something I shot. I would say probably 90% of the meat we eat, we hunted."
Whatever the reason, the increasing role of women in the hunting industry is here to stay.
“The women’s market is a force in our industry, and manufacturers, retailers and shooting ranges are making changes to their products and services to satisfy women’s tastes and needs,” said Jim Curcuruto, NSSF Director of Industry Research and Analysis, in his organization’s report about the trend.
For women who are interested in getting involved in upland bird hunting, there are several things to consider:
Not all shotguns are created equal: The widespread adoption of lighter weight shotgun models in recent years is directly related to the increasing number of women taking up the sport. Gone are the days where you have to lug a heavy, mis-sized weapon around in the field all day. Be sure to consider fit and weight when shopping for a shotgun.
Women’s-specific gear can make your life easier: Not that long ago the idea of a female-specific piece of hunting clothing or gear would have seemed like science fiction, but these days just about every major manufacturer offers clothing and equipment designed specifically for (and often by) women hunters. These aren’t just cosmetic changes, either. Fit, function and materials are often different in these pieces when compared to the men’s options—take advantage of these developments and find the gear that’s best suited to you as a hunter.
Safety in the field is a different ballgame: Upland hunting is a wide-ranging, fast-acting sport, so hunters need to know where each member of their party is in relation to themselves at all times. That’s because a bird can come into view at any time, and swinging your shotgun into position is an instinctive motion. You need to be careful when sighting and shooting live targets because you never know which way they’re going to move.
It’s not only about the kill: The fact of the matter is that upland hunters often come home at the end of the day with an empty game bag. Birds are fickle like that, and it can be challenging to not only locate but also successfully shoot your targets every time. But many bird hunters will also tell you that that’s OK, and it’s one of the things that they enjoy about the sport, which is as much about hiking around and enjoying the outdoors as it is bagging the most pheasants in your group.
A shotgun sling saves your back, and makes for a safer hunt: Products like the Upland Sling shotgun sling may seem unnecessary to hunters who come to upland hunting from other, less mobile, disciplines, but the advantages they offer bird hunters—particularly women—go well beyond simple convenience. Truth be told, it can be tiring to carry around a weapon all day, especially as you hike up, over, and through all sorts of different obstacles in search of your prey. A shotgun sling can help not only preserve your energy throughout the hunt, but it can also help prevent errant shots and other mistakes due to fatigue. Click here for more information about the options we offer. [http://uplandsportsman.com/collections/all]
What do you think? What else do women need to know about upland hunting, particularly if they are new to the sport? Let us know!