Meat a motivator for more women entering hunting

Photo of mule deer does
The greatest growing hunting demographic in the country is women. This has piqued the interest of journalists, at least one social scientist, game and fish departments around the country and of course, the outdoor recreation companies. As with most trends, people want to know why. Recent articles by National Geographic, The Globe and Mail and the Dallas Daily News report anecdotal stories about women who are getting into hunting and their reasons for doing so. Most cite a desire to know where their meat comes from and a strong pull to spend time outside. Over the years I have taught five women how to shoot in preparation for their first hunting season and gathering their own meat was the reason they wanted to start. Earlier this year, I noticed the headline in the Missoulian (reprinted from the Spokesman-Review) “Relationships a motivator for more women entering hunting.” I cringed. The article referenced a project by Stacy Keogh, Ph.D., a professor from Whitworth University in Spokane, who interviewed forty women who hunt.

"It appears, then, that women approach hunting not strictly from a recreational angle, but one that considers relationships as a primary motivator to participation," Keogh said.

My first thought was, great, so do men, what’s the story here? Second thought was, great, just want we need is people only reading the headline (which is very common) and thinking women are going hunting to like, hang out with our boyfriends and stuff. To be clear, it is not Keogh’s fault that the newspaper decided to draw a causal relationship between what she found in her interviews and the reason that more women are hunting. In fact, she does state the sample used for her study (which was not a random sample and had no control group) does not necessarily reflect the interests and pursuits of all women hunters although I do find some of her statements in the article to be overly broad in scope based on her data. Here is what the newspaper did. Premise A: More women are hunting. Premise B: Forty women reported spending time with their family and partner is a primary reason they like to hunt. Conclusion:  More women are hunting because they want to spend time with their families and the men in their lives. Here I thought that more women are hunting because companies are making us pink camo guns and bows. I'll assume you all see the enormous logical fallacy the newspaper made. Keogh also found that, “in every case, women claim to hunt for the primary purpose of gathering meat.” Without seeing her questionnaire or her research design it is hard for me to make an assessment of her conclusions, but what I do know is that another possible headline option for the Spokesman-Review is,

“Meat: A motivator for more women entering hunting.”

I’m not asserting that there are no differences between women and men when it comes to hunting and I’m certainly not saying that women don’t hunt because of relationships. What I am wondering is why going hunting in order to spend time with people is being portrayed as a gender issue? Almost every male hunter I know hunts because of relationships too. John Madsen wrote and article in Montana Outdoors about why men hunt entitled, "Explaining the deep-seated need for game meat, outdoors companionship, and gittin’ out amongst ’em." As far as I can tell those are the same reasons women hunt. If there is a story we can tell based on her interviews it is that women hunt for the same reasons as men; reasons that are intertwined with our identities, our values and our relationships with the land and each other. And, like most things in life, you might go through a gradual personal transformation the more years of hunting you have under your belt. You may start hunting for one reason and ten years later be hunting for entirely different one. Personally I would find it very difficult to try to rank reasons that I hunt. I hunt because I like to eat deer, elk and antelope meat. I hunt to fill my freezer for the winter. I hunt because I like to know where my meat comes from. I hunt because I like being outside. I hunt because my dad hunted. I hunt because my mom hunted. I hunt because I like to be alone. I hunt because I like to be with people. I hunt because I like to take naps outside. I hunt because there is this amazing valley in southeastern Montana where I know the mule deer have been migrating for a millennia. I hunt because it makes my dog happy to go find pheasants. I hunt because it helps me understand death. I hunt because it helps me understand life. I would encourage you to read a more detailed and nuanced analysis of her interviews in her own words at the woman's hunting blog, Camo Is The New Black.  

2 Comments on “Meat a motivator for more women entering hunting

  1. Hello Alexis,

    Engaging post. I especially enjoyed your mosaic of your reasons for hunting. Compelling but also, I don’t know quite why, very funny. It’s a model for analysis of motivation that could be used over and over and more tellingly than the A leads to B leads to C sort of thinking our compulsion toward narrative so often gets us stuck in.

    I recommended your blog to three friends. One, a master builder, marksman, gardener, and raiser of gorgeous chickens and cats lives year ’round on a lake in Maine. The other now lives and carpenters along a river in western CT after two decades serving as the rather revered editor-in-chief of Fine HomeBuilding magazine. The third lives in norther Humboldt County atop the Cascadian Subductin Zone where she ardently campaigns for environmental protections and provides dirt cheap housing to young environmental activists. Here is what I told them:

    Alexis, is funny. She is insightful. She gets me back to worlds I used to live in but don’t anymore and makes me miss them. Her photos remind me to look around and see how beautiful the world is. They cause me to want to visit Montana. I think of her website as a little hidden treasure not yet much discovered, that likely will be. I think you might very well enjoy it. In fact, I think you might find Alexis to be a kindred spirit.

    Thanks for your work, Alexis — david gerstel

  2. Pingback: Why I started hunting | east of billings