Men Explain Hunting to Me

A trophy mule deer buck was bedded down at the base of a large formation of sandstone rocks. He was big. He was beautiful. He was relaxed. The distance was further than I prefer to shoot but I put up my gun, looked through the scope and watched him chew his cud for a few seconds. "Shoot! Shoot him!" "He's too far, I need to get closer." I crawled through the sage brush until I was out of sight of my hunting companion. I could still see the deer. He remained relatively relaxed although I was starting to see some tension develop in his muscles. He knew something was wrong. I laid down on my belly, put my rifle up, looked through the scope and centered it in the boiler room. It was a good shot. I heard an urgent whisper behind me. "Shoot! Shoot!" I took my eye away from the scope and saw a dry stick in front of me. I crawled over it as loudly as possible. The deer was gone in a flash, up a crevice in the sandstone to the top of the plateau. "What happened!!" he said, exasperated as I walked back. "I don't know," I said, "I think you spooked him."

On being a woman who hunts

As a woman, men explain things to you. As a woman hunter, not only do they explain things to you, they assume you need help. Now, before I go any further I need to make some disclaimers before I offend every single man in my life who is a hunter and who has hunted with me. This isn't about you. Well, it may be a little about you but really it is about the experiences of dozens of women I know that hunt with men. It is based on being "helped" in sporting goods stores when they ask if you are buying the gun for your husband or not getting helped at all. It is based on these same men trying to sell me pink camouflaged bows. It is based on men "letting" me shoot the pheasant first. We know you mean well. That being said, let us begin.

On telling me what to shoot and when I should shoot it

Many men, for some reason, feel the need to tell women what animal to shoot and when we should shoot. I tried to imagine my mom or my sister crouched down in the sage brush next to me urging me to shoot something and I laughed out loud. It's too absurd to even consider. My unscientific argument based on my conversations is that there is an assumption made by many men (settle down...not all men) that the women they hunt with are less experienced, know less and therefore need to be told what to do. Now, this may be true or it may not be true. If the woman you are hunting with is less experienced than you, ask her before you go hunting if she would like you to tell her what to shoot and when to shoot. If she says "Yes! Please tell me what to do," then, by all means, proceed. My perspective is if I am going to take an animal's life, it is my decision, not yours. If I don't want to pull the trigger, for whatever reason, I am not going to pull the trigger and that's ok. Everything is going to be ok. I only shoot when I know I'm going to hit the animal. I don't take chances. I don't take shots when I'm unsure of the distance. I want to use one bullet. I want the animal to drop quickly. If that isn't the shot that is in front of me I'm not going to take it. Anyone who has hunted with me knows that most of the time I am secretly, or not so secretly, hoping they get away. One time,  I stalked a nice big bodied mule deer buck for miles across the sage flats of southeastern Montana. He was 75 yards from me.  I sat there for probably five minutes hoping he'd leave but he didn't. I took a breath and squeezed the trigger. When I'm bird hunting, most of the time, I am so absorbed watching them fly away that I rarely get my gun up in time to shoot. My dad would just shake his head. And that's ok. Everything is going to be ok. So, where does this come from? Who the hell knows but I'm going to put forward an hypothesis. I think this tendency in men goes back to how they were taught to hunt by their fathers. In 2010, I took Hunters Education with a girlfriend of mine. I hadn't taken it before because I was born before 1985 and was not required to by state law. I told her I would take it with her so that she didn't have to take it alone and be the only women in a room full of 12 year old boys. I was fascinated watching the interactions between the boys and their fathers during the field day. A boy would approach the bench with some level of confidence having been taught to shoot prior to the class. Their dad would watch and talk to the other dads about how good of shot their kid was. The kid would lean over the bench, aim, and miss. I noticed that quite a few of them had a hard flinch. I saw one dad approach the bench telling the instructor that something must be wrong with the gun. The instructor politely told him that he would check the gun but "sir, could you please step back behind the line?" Fathers would try to coach them from behind the safety line and a couple of the kids burst into tears. They were constantly being told what to do and how to do it. The stress was evident on their faces. It makes sense that in the future when they become an adult and start hunting they feel the need to tell another person what to do if they believe that person is less experienced. This competitiveness and associated judgements on one's masculinity impact the way a person hunts and therefore hunting, from an early age for many men and probably some women, becomes competitive. It becomes a sport.

On helping me out because I have lady parts

If I need help, I'll ask you for help.

On pink camouflage bows, guns and clothing

Why do companies think that women's hunting gear needs to be marked with the color pink? Maybe it is because they think women get confused easily because of our estrogen and wonder, which bow is mine? Oh, there it is, it's the pink one! Maybe it is meant to help identify me in the field to warn male hunters that there is a woman present. "Guys, we have a FEMALE in the field. Repeat, there is a FEMALE in the field........" "Let's go tell her what to do."

3 Comments on “Men Explain Hunting to Me

  1. Oh Alexis, there’s really a simple explanation. Men are just trying to make up for being told what to do by women everywhere else 😉 The one last domain where a man can feel like a man might be hunting. In everything else it seems the woman tells HIM what to do. Now he can’t even have that?

  2. It’s not just women, Alexis. Men – my uncle, father, friends – always tried to hurry me to shoot, as well. Like you, I’m cautious to only take a good shot. So I don’t think it’s a sexist attitude.

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