I was recently told by a great friend and mentor that he believes women saved the hunting industry. That was an interesting statement to hear considering the fact that looking back to any point in time, hunting has always been the embodiment of masculinity. From famous hunters like Dwight D. Eisenhower and Hemmingway to cavemen with clubs, males have ruled over the sport for most of history. But over the past few years we have said goodbye to the days when a man would head off to the field, leaving his apron clad wife behind to tend to the family. Not only are women joining their husbands on their hunting trips…we are trekking out to the woods on our own, donning our bows and guns in hopes of providing food for our families. With women specific camo, accessories and guns readily available, it is now easier than ever for us to enjoy the sport we love. But let’s be honest… even with women making a name for themselves in the hunting industry today, it is still hard for the general public to hear the word “hunter” and not envision some strong, strapping man tossing a freshly harvested deer over his shoulder and bringing it back home to the table to feed his woman and children.
With the long running stereotype of what a hunter is still lingering today, you’d assume women everywhere would be joining forces to help validate our claim that we are able to hold our own in the hunting industry…we may be women in (sometimes pink) camo, but we ARE real hunters. With social media being a major platform and tool in sharing our outdoor experiences with others, we have all received the occasional comment from someone who supplies us with a tip on how to properly do what we are already doing in our pictures. Honestly, I don’t even mind those comments (the nice ones), because I am always open to learning new tricks and hearing what works for other hunters. What baffles me is how often I find myself reading scathing or degrading comments on my page (or on pages belonging to my hunter sisters) from other women.
I’m sure many (or all) of you reading this have been on the receiving end of a rumor, nasty comment or have been challenged in either a passive or full-on aggressive way (raise your hand if you have ever been personally victimized by Regina George). And I’m sure, in a moment of weakness, you your self have acted as the instigator or aggressor. Regardless of which end of the situation you have been an active part of, the sad truth is that there is an incredible shortage of women making it their personal goal to uplift other women rather than tearing them down.
I have spent countless hours trying to figure out where this competitive and ruthless behavior originates from. Is it something in our biology pushing us to act that way in order to attract the most suitable male? Is it a learned social behavior that has become a force of habit for us after having that mentality embedded in us from a young age? Why is it the status quo to spend most of our time attempting to humble other females? At the end of the day, does it really matter where it comes from?
On one occasion I was feeling renewed after an enlightening, yet discouraging time while hunting. I had spent three days trying to call in a tom with no luck. Thirty minutes into my hike through the woods on my final day out, I ran across the most beautiful family of deer…And for a minute I forgot about how big of a hurry I was in to get to my spot before my last few hours of hunting was up for the weekend….I forgot the pressure I felt to bag my first bird of the season and how badly I wanted to share it with all of my supportive friends following my journey….I forgot how discouraged I’d felt the two days prior to that heading home empty handed….And for 15 beautiful minutes as I went unnoticed by the deer, I was reminded of why I started making those long hikes in the first place. I left with a renewed love for the hunt that day, a new level of patience and a heart of gratitude. As soon as I got home, I posted my experience on Instagram with a selfie I had taken in my blind before I began my hunt. My hope was that others would relate to my internal struggle and that someone else might feel a renewed passion after reading my experience. I received so many encouraging comments on that post. So many kind words and several messages from people who had a similar thing happen to them… But I also received countless negative comments from females who are also sportswomen like me. I was incredibly discouraged after seeing so many women completely miss the point I had intended to make. Their focus was not on my story of growth as a female out on a solo hunt, but on why I thought I could bag a turkey with my blonde hair showing and makeup on. I wasn’t prepared for how harsh women could be. Should I comment and tell everyone that I wore a full face mask (that covered my hair) while I was actually hunting so that non-hunters seeing these comments would know that I wasn’t completely unknowledgeable? …Should I simply ignore them and move on? Why is that what they saw in my post? We are hunters, male and female. We are fighting for the same thing. Our right to hunt (ethically, of course) and the ability to share those experiences with those around us. Does it matter what we wear or how we look when we are in the field? Does my choice of fixed hair and makeup (or lack thereof) change the outcome of anyone else’s hunting experience? Shouldn’t we be applauding those who share renewing and enlightening experiences? Shouldn’t we be encouraging the discouraged with our own shortcomings or failed attempts and helping them to grow to be better sportsmen (and women)? Shouldn’t we be showing that hunting is more than a hobby? “It’s in our DNA” we say…but shouldn’t a love for those who share that same passion be part of that “DNA” as well? Does that shared DNA and passion not make us a family? Of course the good comments on that post outweighed the bad. Those comments reminded me why I share my stories and how many kind people there are out there in this industry…but it did sting a little to see so many of my sisters in hunting be so quick to point out the negatives they saw.
I have learned that we all have a choice to make during each and every interaction we have with each other. We can hurt each other (and in the process hurt our place in this industry)…OR…we can challenge ourselves to support each other by reinforcing the voices of other female hunters (and other hunters in general). We can champion their abilities and efforts with uplifting words and praise. When we share our adventures with others, they don’t see the trivial things…they see women hunting and truly believe that WE are saving and growing this industry. They see that we are advocates and ambassadors for the outdoors. That we are strong. We are fierce. We are providing for our families and we are showing other women that they can do that too. Shouldn’t they also see us building each other up in our passion? It is our job as females to set the example of what supportive women really look like…that way others will know how to support us too.