19,000 women cannot be wrong.

In 2011, resident hunters in Alaska purchased 95,896 hunting licenses. According to numbers available from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), females purchased 18,770 of those licenses. That equates to female hunters comprising 19% of all resident hunters in the state. Not included in that number are 839 licenses reported as “unknown;” female resident hunters under the age of 16 who do not need to purchase a hunting license, or women who are eligible for a permanent license. These records have not been tracked in the past by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. However, as more wildlife agencies across the country begin to see a decline in overall hunting numbers, the growing number of female hunters is gaining attention.

One in five or close to 20% of the hunters taking to the field in Alaska are female. This seems to go hand-in-hand with the nationwide upsurge of female hunters. Female hunters are considered the fastest-growing demographic in the hunting arena and they may very well be the salvation of hunting as the nation knows it. Women have been hunting since before recorded history. Students of hunting know this but the general, and in particular, the non-hunting, public has for centuries been led to believe that hunting is something “men” do.

Humans are predators and as in all predators, the hunting instinct does not take gender into consideration. Social acceptance and encouragement as well as male-dominated print media are perhaps the primary culprits in keeping women from the hunting fields. The appearance of social media, where people are able to access like-minded others, may be the most significant thing to come alongfor the female hunter. The ability to connect with others all around the world has created a “sisterhood,” if you will, of female hunters who are extending their experience and knowledge to encourage other females to enter this special world of coming full circle with nature.

The non-hunting public’s perception of men hunting is oftentimes one of beer-bellied rednecks out to kill anything they see and throw it over the hood of the car to parade around town and show their incredible masculine abilities. This unfortunate perception does not come by accident; there are plenty of examples out there and outlandish behavior always overshadows the majority of hunters who quietly go about the business of hunting in a respectful way—now that quiet number is including more women, and the industry is taking notice.

The emerging female hunter has brought an entirely different perception to the act of hunting. Taking game animals for their family because they are without unnatural additives, experiencing the cycle of life, where something dies in order for other things to live, and the honesty that comes with that is well portrayed by the female hunter. I would speculate that most males have the same type of reverence for the hunt; at least I hope they do, but perception is more significant in the overall scheme of things, and thus, men have the stereotypical “slob” hunter to overcome in the public eye.

For the most part, men would rather take a pistol shot to the head than admit they know nothing about guns or hunting. Men are just supposed to “know” these things and be able to perform them without any instruction. Of course that is ridiculous; no one is born with knowledge to operate firearms or field dress an animal. But egos prevail and women do not have that historical stereotype to overcome. Instead, women are taking advantage of the newfound ability to connect with each other and attend the numerous programs that have arisen to support and help introduce female hunters and shooters to these worlds.

On the Kenai Peninsula the potential female hunter/shooter is strongly supported by the Snow Shoe Gun Club (SSGC). This 194-acre facility that is member-owned has a Board of Directors and a 1,000-member roster that strongly supports bringing everyone and anyone into the fold and sponsors the events that are promoting women into the hunting and shooting traditions.

Among the programs the SSGC supports are the ADF&G Becoming an Outdoor Woman (BOW) and the Women on Target (WOT) program that is also largely supported by the National Rifle Association (NRA).  Grant money from the Friends of the National Rifle Association accounted for approximately 20% of the cost of the SSGC’s new training facility that is also home to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Hunter Education program for the central Kenai Peninsula.  The facility also sponsors Delta Waterfowl Introduction to Waterfowling for women and youth and Safari Club International’s beginning hunter programs. These programs are springing up all around the country, if you live near a gun club that has not started, get involved and get the ball rolling. At no point in history have hunters needed to come together and embrace one another in this time honored tradition. And what’s more, you guys out there who already have your wife or girlfriend as your favorite hunting partner know how terrific it can be. Help spread the word and volunteer to welcome women to the hunting and shooting arena, you’ll not be disappointed.