Interest from women fuels rise in hunting

During hunting season, photos of beaming young women often grace the pages of The Montgomery Herald. Dressed head to toe in camo, they pose with a turkey or deer. The Uwharries seem to be on the cutting edge of a national trend. According to a 2011 report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the number of hunters has increased for the first time in generations, largely thanks to a growing interest among women. This demographic shift was highlighted with the recent publication of two books, both by city girls who took up hunting in their twenties.


The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will offer a free hunter education course for women on March 28-29 at Bass Pro Shops in Concord, Cabarrus County. Click for more information.

In Call of the Mild: Learning to Hunt My Own Dinner, Lily Raff McCaulou shares the thoughtful and methodical process that leads her to become a hunter. Her nagging concerns about the ethical and environmental issues associated with eating meat from the grocery store intersect with a move to Bend, Oregon. There, she works as a reporter in the surrounding countryside. Immersed in a hunting culture, she enrolls in a hunter education class (filled with kids less than half her age) and buys her first gun. She gradually progresses from taking a farm-raised pheasant on a guided shoot to bagging and field dressing an elk in a rugged patch of national forest.

McCaulou drives home the point about the ethical treatment of animals by comparing the miserable life of the typical chicken to that of a goose she takes from the wild. She also celebrates the role hunters have played in conservation. While Thoreau was holed up at Walden contemplating nature, she notes, hunters were taking real action to set aside wildlife preserves. At the same time, she laments the National Rifle Association bestowing its endorsement on “sportsmen” who have abysmal records on conservation issues.

As we forsake the outdoors for a virtual world, McCaulou worries that hunters themselves are becoming an endangered species. Having grown up in the suburb of Takoma Park, Maryland, she’s also aware that some people disapprove of hunting altogether. She urges hunters to be good ambassadors for the sport so there continues to be widespread public support for gun ownership, healthy ecosystems and places to hunt.

As Georgia Pellegrini describes it in Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time, her conversion to huntress was more immediate and visceral. After leaving a job on Wall Street to attend culinary school, she works at a famous farm-to-table restaurant in the Hudson River Valley. When the chef sends her out to harvest a flock of free-range turkeys, the experience awakens a yearning to hunt. A friend introduces her to a group of cigar-smoking, bourbon-swilling hunters in the Arkansas Delta that includes the state’s former wildlife commissioner.

After blogging about her experiences, she receives invitations to glamorous hunts across the country and abroad. She bird hunts at a luxurious spread in the Texas Hill Country and a quintessential English estate. There’s also an arduous and futile expedition for elk with a creepy guide in Wyoming and a bone-chilling wait for squirrels beside a discarded green toilet in a patch of Connecticut woods. These adventures come and go, but she always returns to the Delta, once joining a group of men who hunt wild boar not with rifles but with dogs and knives. When they pin an animal and offer her the blade, she hesitates for a moment, then plunges it into the heart.

Pellegrini has a chef’s sensibility, providing detailed recipes after every hunt. She makes a convincing case for squirrel being supremely tasty. This piqued my interest, especially in light of the problems we’ve had with the cheeky devils stealing our apples and pears. I’ve never thought I’d be a good hunter – it seems to require getting up dreadfully early and sitting still for long periods – but now I think I ought to “woman up” and help my Dad keep the local squirrel population in check. I’m grateful to McCaulou for describing the simple test to determine your dominant eye. In all my years running around with a BB gun and taking the occasional target practice with the .22, no one had ever explained that to me.

Needless to say, I should’ve attended the Women’s Hunter Education Course recently conducted by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Twenty women from across the state gathered in Raleigh for this two-day event in early November. Each one earned her hunting certificate and received a copy of Call of the Mild. There’s talk of offering the class again in time for turkey season, but the dates haven’t been confirmed. Another option is the Becoming an Outdoors Woman workshop to be held in Tyrrell County April 11-13, 2014. This course will provide instruction on a range of outdoor skills such as fishing, canoeing, target shooting and archery. Contact hunter education specialist Carissa Shelton ( for more details.

Women taking up arms and going into forests, fields and marshes for their sustenance – this is a new spin on the old jingle for Enjoli perfume. When the woman in the ad sang, “I can bring home the bacon; fry it up in a pan,” she was celebrating her new role as breadwinner. The girl hunters of today are not only exercising their own personal freedom, they’re also influencing how we eat and how we protect the natural world.

For more information on becoming a hunter, visit

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will offer a free hunter education course for women on March 28-29 at Bass Pro Shops in Concord, Cabarrus County.

The two-day course will provide an atmosphere conducive to learning for women of all ages, with no experience required. This specialized course will be held at Bass Pro Shops, located at 8181 Concord Mills Boulevard, through the Wildlife Commission’s Hunter Education Program and Home From The Hunt™ campaign.

The course is offered on a first-come, first-served basis with limited space available and pre-registration required. The first session will be conducted on Friday evening from 6-9 p.m. with the final session held Saturday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

“There is an increase in female participation in hunting, shooting sports and outdoor recreation, and we want that trend to continue,” said Carissa Shelton, the Commission hunter education specialist who will lead the course. “This course will provide the standard lessons of the Hunter Education Program, but will do so in a gender-specific setting. We believe a specialty course like this creates an appealing environment for those women who prefer it.”

All graduates will receive hunter certification recognized in all 50 states, U.S. territories and many other countries.

For more information or to pre-register, call 919-707-0031.