Women Putting A New Face On Hunting

Sun News Special Report

By: Bryn Weese

VANCOUVER - The image of good old boys heading into the woods for a fall hunt sometimes seems a thing of the past.

But the sport isn't dying. Not by a long, well-placed shot.

The resurgence in hunting across North America is thanks, in part, to a growing number of women who are taking up the sport.

One of the trend's most recognizable figures - even gracing the cover of this month's Field and Stream - is Canada's own Eva Shockey who co-hosts her father's successful hunting show Jim Shockey's Hunting Adventures.

"I was lucky. I was born into the right family," Shockey told Sun News in Vancouver recently. "But the thing is, I didn't actual hunt when I was little. I started hunting when I was 20."

"When I was younger, I was busy and my mom didn't hunt so I thought: ‘girls don't hunt so I'm not going to hunt.' But when I was 20, I thought just because girls that look like me don't hunt - I'm a girly girl, I dress up and I love doing girl things ... I still wanted to try hunting," she said. "I'm 26 now and I've literally done it full time for the last six years and I'm obsessed with it. It's the best thing in the entire world."

And Shockey's not alone. Kristy Titus and Tiffany Lakosky - to name just two - are other powerful feminine figures in the television hunting industry.

But the trend isn't only evident on-screen.

In British Columbia, the percentage of resident hunters who are women has jumped from 6.8% in 2005 to 8.3% last year. It's an increase of 39%, from just under 6,000 female hunters in 2005 to more than 8,000 now.

In Alberta, the number of female hunters has increased 47% since 2007, when just 7,754 women hunted. Last year, there were 11,400. The percentage of hunters in Alberta who are women has steadily increased from 7% in 2011, to 8% in 2012, and 9% last year.

And in Ontario, 25% of all hunter safety course students now are women.

"People are getting used to having women involved, and realizing that we just love being out there," Shockey said. "I do it because I love it, and that's why the guys do it. So really, what's the difference? It's fun to be out there together."

Manufacturers and retailers, too, recognize there's money to be made in the growing demographic.

Reports indicate Bass Pro Shops has seen a ten-fold increase in it's market for women's products in the past decade.

And Cabela's, which promotes itself as the ‘world's largest outfitter,' recently introduced it's OutfitHER line of hunting clothing and accessories "made by women for women.

"It was developed because women were tired of having to wear downsized men's clothing, so they started with a few key pieces and today we have over 20 different pieces in the OutfitHER line, from cold weather gear to rain gear to boots and gloves ... and it's growing," said Katie Sanford, a retail marketing manager with Cabela's at it's Tulalip, WA location.

She's a new hunter, too.

"When I started, I was wearing men's clothing and using my husband's gun. It was big and bulky and really not suited to me. Now, I have OutfitHER clothing - I have the whole line - it fits perfect. And I have my own gun made just for a woman."

While women are a growing hunting demographic now, there have always been very capable trailblazers who bucked the bygone trend of hunting as a man's pursuit.

Nova Scotia's Laura Wood has been doing it for nearly a century ... literally!

Two years ago, the 97-year-old from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia became a local celebrity when she successfully killed a cow moose with one shot while hunting in Newfoundland.

It had been a life-long dream of the mink rancher's, and reports indicate she's been hunting since she was a teenager.

Decades later, it seems, more and more women are joining Wood's ranks and picking up their guns to put meat in the freezer.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of American women participating in outdoor activities rose 25% between 2006 and 2011. And the National Shooting Sports Foundation pegs the increase of women hunters at 10% nationally between 2008 and 2012.

There are now 3.35 million women who hunt stateside.