The following information is compiled from National Shooting Sports Foundation and Sports Day.
Since 2000, hunting participation by females has risen dramatically in the U.S. In the first year of the new millennium, 5,264 females passed the mandatory hunter education course. The course is required of every hunter born on or after Sept. 2, 1971.
By 2010, 8,500 females, 20.3 percent of all students, passed hunter education. In 2014, 16,534 females took the course. Females represented 23 percent of last year’s 72,015 hunter ed students.
“We’ve been encouraging women to try hunting and shooting sports through our outreach programs,” said Nancy Herron, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s outreach and education director.
“There’s also been a surge in movies and television of very capable women being resourceful.”
Then there are women like Monica Bickerstaff, who married a man obsessed by hunting and fishing. She was ready for the fishing part, having fished with her dad while growing up in Kansas. She took up hunting to spend more time with her husband, L.D. Bickerstaff.
Neither of them knew that she’d be hooked on hunting. Monica Bickerstaff recalls the Kansas hunter education course she took at age 30. She was the lone female in a class of males, ages 7 and up.
“Hunter education has changed a lot since then,” said Bickerstaff, who liked hunting so much that she and her husband became volunteer hunter education instructors for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Bickerstaff enjoyed the teaching almost as much as the hunting. She returned to college for a master’s degree in adult, occupational and continuing education. In 2013, she took the TPWD job of North Texas hunter education specialist.
The Bickerstaffs live in Perrin. Nowadays, when either of them buys a hunting gadget, the other wants to know why two weren’t purchased. When non-hunting women ask why she hunts, Bickerstaff explains that one key reason is to put food on the table.
“My husband and I prefer to have more control over how our food is processed and prepared,” she said. “This is not the sole reason that I hunt, it’s merely a bonus. I share some of the great experiences I’ve enjoyed — like the pride and accomplishment when the hours of training come together and a wily pheasant rises under my Labrador retriever’s nose.
“For me, it’s not all about the hunt and filling a tag. It’s more about getting into nature, spending time with family and regenerating.”
In the 11 years she’s been involved in hunter education, Bickerstaff has watched a steady increase in the number of women taking the courses. Some of them married hunters. Others find themselves the single parent of a child interested in hunting.
“Spending time with family and friends is a big reason women participate in hunting,” Bickerstaff said. “Females take up the sport to become part of that social network within their family or community.
“Movies, such as the Hunger Games trilogy, has piqued young women’s interest in archery and all it has to offer — including hunting. I believe the TPWD outreach programs like Becoming an Outdoors Woman has helped, as well. In recent years, women participating in BOW workshops have the opportunity to participate in mentored deer hunts.”
Some women don’t enjoy the hunting all that much. Others wind up like Bickerstaff. When asked her favorite part of the hunt, she couldn’t single out just one thing. “I like it all,” she said.
Source: National Shooting Sports Foundation and Sportsday.com