Janesville66.6°

Deer camp no longer just a guy thing

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Mike Heine
November 18, 2007
It’s da second week of deer camp, and all the guys are here.
We drink, play cards and shoot the bull but never shoot no deer…

Ay! Wait just a gosh durn minute! All da guys are here at deer camp, but da women came, too?


You bet, guys.


More and more women are hunting. Look for them today through Sunday, Nov. 25, the traditional nine-day gun deer hunting season.


Patti Twist of Lake Geneva started hunting six years ago to better understand the activities of her husband, Larry.


Now, it’s something they do together.


“It’s real nerve racking when you realize one’s coming your way. Your heart starts pounding, your breath gets shorter,” she said of the adrenaline rush when a deer comes in range.


“I think once women get involved, they find out it’s more exciting because it’s not so traditional,” Patti said. “To me, it’s more fun breaking traditions.”


Some of Larry’s longtime hunting buddies weren’t too happy when she first arrived at camp, Patti said, but they’ve gradually become more accepting.


More women is a trend at deer camps throughout the state, according to state Department of Natural Resources numbers.


Between 2001 and 2006, the number of females buying deer hunting licenses went from 39,100 to 50,098, according to DNR figures.


Girls represent 16 percent of hunters under age 18, a trend also on the rise, according to DNR statistics.


“They just enjoy being outdoors. It’s an opportunity to be away from the madness and the rush and the craziness of home,” said Michele Windsor, a wildlife biologist for the DNR. “They’re starting to realize that it’s nice to slow down, take a break, be out there with your family, your kids. For some women, it’s the personal satisfaction that they shot the animal that they’re eating.”


There isn’t one good reason why women can’t or shouldn’t hunt, Windsor said.


More wives, daughters and girlfriends are showing up at one time were “men only” deer camps, Windsor said.


“I don’t think that bothers (men) one bit,” Windsor said. “Their ego might get bruised if a woman comes in with a bugger buck, but they’re still smiling.”


Conservation Warden Jason Roberts, who patrols Walworth County, has seen an increase in young girls taking his hunter education courses.


“I think it’s just dads wanting to interact with their daughters,” Roberts said. “That’s probably a big part of it. It’s becoming more socially acceptable for girls to hunt. For that reason, more and more are getting involved. It’s a changing climate.”


Retailers have caught on.


The selection of guns, clothes, shoes and equipment tailored for female hunters is burgeoning, Windsor said.


“There is a fairly significant push to lure women into the outdoors. Traditionally they had been skipped,” Windsor said. “Companies are realizing there is a huge market they can tap into and are (promoting) equipment suited to women.”


Before, women had to buy men’s clothes and hope they fit. Or they could use a gun that wasn’t fitted to a woman’s usually smaller frame, Windsor said.


Buying a hunting license and going into the woods for the first time can be intimidating. Windsor recommended finding an experienced mentor or hunting partner to show you the ropes.


“I learned in college with friends, and I wouldn’t have done it without them,” she said. “I wouldn’t know what gun to get, or where to go or how to field dress (a deer). Once you do, it really gets the ball rolling.”


Patti got interested enough that she became a hunter safety instructor and personalized her license plate to say “LUV2HNT.”


“Just go for it,” she said.


“Don’t be intimidated by the guys.”


LICENSE SALES

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reported the following number of deer hunting license sales to women:


2002: 39,100


2003: 43,016


2004: 48,128


2005: 49,000


2006: 50,098


TO LEARN MORE

Women and girls looking to get involved in hunting or other outdoor activities can log onto the following Web sites for more information:


-- Women hunters at www.womenhunters.com
-- Becoming and outdoors woman at www.uwsp.edu/cnr/bow
-- National Rifle Association women’s programs at www.nrahq.org/women/index.asp
-- Women in the outdoors at www.womenintheoutdoors.com

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