The fashion industry has taken note of the trend of women in the outdoors, as evidenced in recent advertisements for JCrew and Este Lauder, which feature canoes, flyfishing and similar outdoor scenes
Roughrider Teddy Roosevelt was known to shrug off the most miserable weather, even after having spent hours on horseback.
His obvious mental and physical toughness was not an indication that he was oblivious to the natural world. In fact, it was more likely an indication that Roosevelt was under some sort of spell.
From his earliest years, Roosevelt was inexorably linked to the land. His spent his time catching and cataloging insects, studying birds and pursuing other courses of natural history.
In 1906, the famed naturalist, John Burroughs remarked, “He (Roosevelt) craved once more to be alone with nature; he was evidently hungry for the wild and the aboriginal, a hunger that seems to come upon him regularly at least once a year…”
Roosevelt often placated this personal hunger with a hunting trip, a birding expedition or a camping outing. For Roosevelt, a trip into the wilds was a sure way to decompress and escape the duties of the day, and it remains so even into the internet era.
Fortunately, many of the very same natural escapes that Roosevelt once enjoyed are still available to most Americans today.
In fact, a recent study of outdoor recreation in New York provides a breakdown of New York recreation users. It reveals that 29 percent bicycle, 23 percent participate in wildlife viewing, 22 percent hike, 19 percent camp, 12 percent paddle, 8 percent fish, 8 percent snow sports and 4 percent hunt.
However, the current research indicates the recent increases are not as gender specific as most would believe. In fact, female hunters currently constitute the majority of new hunters both in New York, and nationwide.
Fortunately, the gender barriers that once defined outdoor pursuits such as hunting, fishing and camping as as the sole domain of the male of the species, have since been demolished.
Today’s women are free to ride and hunt, fish and camp, or do just about anything a man can do and occasionally, just a little bit better.
Women on the Hunt
According to the most recent US Census Bureau statistics, after remaining stagnant for over a decade, the number of female hunters surged by 25 percent in just five years between 2006 and 2011.
More women than men took up hunting last year, according to new figures from the National Sporting Goods Association.
While total hunters in the U.S. decreased slightly (.05 percent) between 2008 and 2009, the number of female hunters has increased by 5.4 percent overall.
The data also indicates women outpaced men among net newcomers to target shooting, where female participation has grown by 4.1 percent.
At last count, 11 percent of all U.S. hunters were female, compared to just 9 percent in 2006.
Hunting is a pursuit that can be enjoyed with friends, family, or alone. In recent years, many health conscious outdoor enthusiasts have taken a serious look at the concept of harvesting a source of all natural, low cholesterol, free range, humanely harvested, all organic meat. Wild harvested fish, fowl and game remain the primary local source for a fresh supply of this natural bounty.
Better yet, is all the healthy exercise that’s achieved in the pursuit of such outdoor recreational outlets. There’s another factor, too: family fun. Hunting is a way for women to be outdoors and enjoy nature while spending time with husbands and children who hunt.
Other key elements responsible for the dramatic rise of modern day, woodswomen are the numerous state and national initiatives such as BOW: Becoming an Outdoor Woman, Doe Camp, and ‘Get the Girls Out!, which have created opportunities to inspire younger generations to storm mountains and develop the necessary skills to succeed on the mountains and in life!
Traditionally, a male family member has often been the person responsible for introducing children to outdoor pursuits. Typically, that person was a father, grandfather or an uncle who considered such activities as masculine pursuits that were not appropriate for women.
However, times are changing as women have become a dominant force in the field. In fact, a recent national poll revealed 85 percent of all women expressed an interest in getting involved in one or more outdoor activities in the next two years.
Currently, 61 percent of all women participate in outdoor recreation and 31 percent have introduced others to their favorite sport.
From a marketing perspective, retailers have taken notice of recent recreational trends toward women in the outdoors. Companies such as LLBean, Cabela’s, Orvis, Matthews, Browning and others now provide gender specific outfitting for female hunters, anglers and sportswomen.
Rather than utilizing equipment designed for children, women can now purchase new outdoor gear that was specifically created with women in mind. The new gear includes lighter bows, shorter rifle stocks, anatomically correct clothing and smaller handles on everything from fly rods to pistols to ski poles.
The new gear is being driven by new demographics which indicate women are the newest and greatest market to ever hit the outdoor industry. Not only are women increasingly interested in the outdoors, they are also responsible for deciding nearly 80 percent of the family’s expenditures.
The startling new growth in participation among women, while perhaps counterintuitive to many traditionalists, came as no surprise to the female Olympians of the USA Shooting Team, whose ever-increasing visibility has made them effective ambassadors, role models and recruiters of women to traditional outdoor sports.
“Shooting is one of the most fun and empowering things you can teach a young girl or a grown woman,” explained Corey Cogdell, 23, a lifelong hunter and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in trap shooting. “Most men are surprised to find out that I am an avid outdoors woman and they are often intrigued to learn how they can get females in their own lives involved in hunting and shooting.”
Cogdell is just one of several USA Shooting Team members who has parlayed an early interest in hunting into international success in shooting sports.
It was an opportunity for women that didn’t even exist until Women’s shooting was officially added as an Olympic sport in 1984 (although U.S. rifle shooter Margaret Murdock won a medal competing against men in the 1976 games).
Since that time, the U.S. women have won 10 Olympic medals in shooting, and four of those medals were won in the past four Olympics by Kim Rhode, a double-trap and skeet shooter who is now listed among the most elite and enduring athletes in all sports.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.