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By Christie Bonniwell

I can still remember the first time my dad took me hunting. The excitement of getting up early and waving good bye to my mom as we pulled out of the driveway, I felt like such a grown up! I listened eagerly to my dad explain everything with anticipation and excitement of sitting in the stand waiting for that majestic animal to appear. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to be in the woods as much as possible.

Photograph – WILD Jaeger Professional Hunter, Christie Bonniwell

Hunting is such a great experience that produces great memories, but being a female hunter has its obstacles. When I first started hunting, I was too big for children’s hunting clothes and women’s hunting clothes were very rare. I ended up wearing mismatching camo that my dad gave me. The clothes were too big or I had to wear dark colors to be able to wear something that fit. I never truly felt like a real hunter wearing those clothes.

As I got older, and met my husband, I was able to start sharing his clothes since he was a little closer to my size. I was also able to fit into a men’s size small, and found a few things to wear, but men’s clothes were awkward to wear and boots and gloves were still hard to find.

Female hunters want to hunt and be comfortable also, we want clothes that fit our figures, that aren’t baggy and to interfere with shooting our weapons. We don’t want jackets and vests that sit below our waist or hang down to our knees. We don’t want to wear pants that have to be held onto our bodies by a tightly cinched belt. Since I started hunting, more companies are making products specifically designed to fit a woman’s body. No more sharing clothes or wearing hand me downs. Many companies have come out with waders, gloves, boots, clothes, hats, even backpacks specifically for female hunters. Men and women have a different center of gravity so having a back pack that is comfortable to carry is great, no more back pain. Finally hunting gear that fits! I try to buy anything I can find to help me feel more comfortable in the field.

Weapons are also hard to find to fit a woman’s frame. Youth guns and the smallest bows were bought for me. Now there are companies that have started making arrows lighter, broadheads smaller and bows to fit a woman. One company also makes turkey calls smaller for women’s hands.

There is still a long way to go, but it is getting there. With the number of female hunters growing it is important to keep looking for gear that help us become even more efficient hunters. It is great “being one of the guys” but it is even better feeling comfortable and efficient as a female hunter.

Many see women hunting as a great thing. According to a survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), more women, especially younger women, are participating in hunting. A 2006 survey produced by the FWS indicated that while the number of hunters has decreased 11 percent between 1991 and 2006, the number of women has actually increased. Women make up about nine percent of the 12.5 million hunters in the U.S. The survey also showed that 304,000 girls ages 6 to 15 hunted from 2001 through 2006. Another study, by the National Rifle Association, in 2009 showed that the number of women hunting with firearms rose from 2.1 million to 2.9 million, women who bow hunt rose from 400,000 to 600,000, and women who target shoot increased from 4.1 million to 4.8 million.

My husband was ecstatic when he found out that I hunt. All of his friends were envious that he found someone who shared his passion for hunting. There are those who think having their significant other with them cuts into their “guy time”, but my husband loves having me around. He loves being able to brag when I kill something. We do go hunting without each other sometimes, so he still gets that “guy time”. My dad also really enjoys spending quality time in the field with me. He may not have a son instead he’s got a daddy’s girl who loves to hunt and what is better than that?

Men tend to be awkward being around a female hunter. It took a while for them to loosen up around me, they felt they had to baby me, but now I am one of them and hold my own. Every now and then I still get spoiled. My dad and husband still gut my deer at times or carry my bag and tell me to text them after climbing up the deer stand to make sure I am okay or they walk with me to my stand. Both would rather I take the shot or get the big one.

Being a female hunter is special. The astounding looks never get old when I tell someone I hunt. Most do not believe that it is my favorite hobby. The future looks bright for female hunters and I am proud to be a woman hunter and look forward to passing down this family tradition to my children.

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