But an exciting shift has emerged. In recent years, incredible numbers of women have taken up hunting for both necessity and preference. And the hunting industry has taken notice. Women-specific clothing, accessories and guns are popping up everywhere, and not just by the "shrinking and pinking" method.
Gone are the days when a man leaves his wife behind to go hunting. Women with guns and bows are not only becoming a staple on hunting trips, but they're also taking to the woods and plains on their own, providing food and resources for their families without having to rely on a grocery store or butcher.
With more opportunity than ever, the time is ripe for women to don camouflage and ghillie suits, hit tree stands and duck blinds, and take part in the rewarding act of hunting. Because, when it comes down to it, there's no reason not to.
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1) To Spend Time in the Great Outdoors1 of 10
In the fast-paced, high-stress world we live in, spending time in nature is a medicine that doesn't require a prescription. Numerous studies have discovered lower stress levels in those who regularly exercise or spend time in the outdoors, and hunting is a prime way to reap those benefits.
From pre-season land preparation to post-season shed hunting, these activities allow you to log a little quality time with Mother Nature, which leads to a happier, healthier self.
2) To Know Where Your Food Comes From2 of 10
The organic food trend is everywhere these days, and there's nothing more organic and natural than harvesting food yourself. Free-roaming animals consume natural sources of food, thereby avoiding the hormones, steroids and antibiotics found in many factory farm animals. Wild animals also enjoy open spaces, contrasting the cramped and unsanitary conditions often found in slaughterhouses and large meat-producing facilities.
For a clean, natural and organic diet, hunting is the perfect way to know exactly where your food has been and how it was treated.
3) To Spend Time with Family and Friends3 of 10
Hunting is a great way to bond with your fellow outdoorsmen and women. While the act of firing a gun or releasing an arrow is left to one single person, most of what happens before and after that shot can be heavily group-related. From pre-season preparations to cleaning and packing out an animal, hunting is often anything but a solo activity.
There's also a strong sense of camaraderie among hunters, both at your respective deer camp and in the general hunting community. Your regular hunting group can quickly become a second family as you shed blood, sweat and tears together while preparing for the season and during days-long hunting trips.
4) To Challenge Yourself4 of 10
Hunting is not easy. Whether you hike miles into the mountains or withstand hours of freezing temperatures on the cold, wet ground, hunting tests your physical and mental strength. Many sportsmen and women train year-round to be in peak shape for hunting season.
Strength and endurance training are becoming a vital part of a hunter's pre-season regimen, and hunting-specific exercise programs have taken off both on the web and in gyms across the country.
The mental side of hunting is no walk in the park, either. Knowing how to control your emotions when staring down a potential harvest can be the difference between nailing the shot and completely missing the target—or worse, non-fatally wounding the animal.
5) To Learn Gun Safety5 of 10
There's no doubt that guns are an incredibly polarizing topic, but the fact is a gun is less dangerous when the person handling it knows how to use it.
Most states require a hunter's or gun safety class before you are legally allowed to purchase a hunting license—or at least hunt by yourself. These courses not only teach proper gun handling and vital hunting safety fundamentals, they also educate newbies on the importance of ethical hunting practices.
6) To Learn Patience6 of 10
A staple of ethical hunting is learning when to pass on an animal. Many hunters will watch an animal for years before it is mature enough to harvest. Taking an animal too soon is not only selfish, but could also potentially do harm to the herd by decreasing breeding opportunities.
While it may be difficult to go a full season (or more) without using a single tag, harvesting an animal at full maturity is the most ethical and rewarding act a hunter can perform.
7) To Contribute to Conservation and Population Control7 of 10
Through the purchase of hunting licenses and supplies, outdoorsmen and women contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to wildlife conservation efforts each year. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, more than $7.2 billion has gone toward wildlife conservation since President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (also known as the Pittman-Robertson Act) into law in 1937. Since then, the Act has aided in bringing back a number of species from the brink of extinction.
Hunting also keeps population numbers under control, especially as the habitats of humans and animals continue to overlap. Overpopulation can result in wildlife-vehicle accidents, the spread of diseases and a disproportionate amount of food sources for the animals in a given area.
Each year, wildlife biologists set regional hunting regulations based on months of studying the local animal populations. If there are tags available for an animal, the experts have determined the need for population control at some level. And by strategically harvesting specific animals in a herd, hunters play a pivotal role in preventing overpopulation where it is most needed.
8) To Reverse Gender Stereotypes8 of 10
As mentioned in the introduction, hunting has long been associated with masculinity, with the woman's role traditionally coming into play only when the meat is prepared and consumed.
Why should someone be surprised when a woman says she is a hunter? Hunting is a natural activity in the food chain, and shouldn't "belong" to one gender or the other. A woman is just as capable (and sometimes even more so) of succeeding in a hunt as a man, and it's high time we act like it.
9) Because Why Not?9 of 10
Women should hunt because they want to, not because you don't want to be left alone during hunting season, or because men find you more attractive decked out in camouflage with a bow in your hand. Hunting is a privilege—not a right—and should be treated as such, with respect, ethics and legal behavior. And until you prove you aren't worthy of it, that privilege is open to all, regardless of gender, race, religion or any other characteristic.
Above all, a woman should be proud to be a hunter. And with all the aforementioned reasons, you have no reason not to be.