Women Outpace Men as New Hunters

More women than men took up hunting last year, according to new net figures from the National Sporting Goods Association.

While total hunters in the U.S. decreased slightly (.05 percent) between 2008 and 2009, the number of female hunters increased by 5.4 percent, netting 163,000 new participants. Growth areas for women included muzzleloading (up 134.6 percent), bowhunting (up 30.7 percent) and hunting with firearms (up 3.5 percent).

Data also show women outpaced men among net newcomers to target shooting with a rifle, where female participation grew by 4.1 percent.

New hunters and shooters are cause for celebration because more participation helps with funding for conservation, according to officials with National Hunting and Fishing Day. Congress established NHF Day, set for Sept. 25, 2010, to recognize America’s sportsmen and women for their leading role in fish, wildlife and habitat conservation (more info at www.nhfday.org).

"New hunters, shooters and anglers are a good thing for everyone who loves the outdoors," said Denise Wagner of Wonders of Wildlife museum in Springfield, Mo., the official home of NHF Day. "Hunting and fishing license sales, combined with special taxes on firearms and ammunition, bows and arrows, and rods and reels generate about $100,000 every 30 minutes, totaling more than $1.75 billion per year, for conservation. When it comes to funding for wildlife and wild places, more is definitely better."

The growth in new participation among women, perhaps counterintuitive to traditionalists, is no surprise to Steve Sanetti, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the shooting, hunting and outdoor industry.

He explained, "Over the past several years, our industry has worked hard to help build this segment of our market. We’ve developed shooting and hunting products especially for women, reached out with welcoming and instructional workshops for women, and encouraged existing hunters and shooters to introduce their spouses, daughters and other newcomers to shooting sports and outdoor lifestyles. I believe these efforts are paying off, which is a bright spot for our industry as well as for conservation."

Also unsurprised at the number of female hunters and shooters are the women Olympians of the USA Shooting Team, whose ever-increasing visibility has made them effective ambassadors, role models and recruiters of women to traditional outdoor sports.

"Shooting is one of the most fun and empowering things you can teach a young girl or a grown woman," said Corey Cogdell, 23, a lifelong hunter and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in trap shooting. "Most men are surprised to find out that I am an avid outdoors woman and are often intrigued to learn how they can get females in their own lives involved in hunting and shooting."

Connie Smotek, 45, a two-time Olympic skeet shooter, bronze medalist in the 2009 World Cup, and avid bird and big-game hunter, added, "Shooting and hunting are activities which a woman can enjoy for a lifetime."

Cogdell and Smotek are among the many USA Shooting Team members who parlayed early interests in hunting into international success in shooting sports—an opportunity that didn't exist for women until comparatively recently. Women’s shooting wasn't officially added as an Olympic sport until 1984 (although U.S. rifle shooter Margaret Murdock won a medal competing against men in the 1976 games). Since then, U.S. women have won 10 Olympic medals in shooting, which is a growing source of pride.

Four of those 10 medals were won in the past four Olympics by Kim Rhode, a double-trap and skeet shooter now among the most elite and enduring athletes in all of sports.

The entire USA Shooting Team is serving as honorary chair for NHF Day 2010.

Sponsors for NHF Day 2010 include Wonders of Wildlife, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Bass Pro Shops, Smith & Wesson, Sportsman Channel, Realtree, Cabela's, GunBroker.com, Yamaha, Pope and Young Club and Izaak Walton League of America.

For more information about NHF Day, visit www.nhfday.org.

Participation statistics are from the National Sporting Goods Association report "Sports Participation in 2009–Shooting Sports."

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