South Louisiana was been built on a hunter-gather mentality, sourcing food from the bayous, bays, wetlands and highlands closest to our homes. The majority of that hunting has almost always been done by men, but a growing number of women are unsheathing their bows to take up the modern-day activity.
The New York Times recently reported on the growing number of women who hunt, focusing on how this new generation of female hunters is helping combat Long Island’s overpopulation of deer.
Nationwide, women account for roughly 15% of hunters, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study. It’s the fastest-growing demographic in hunting, national surveys have shown, even while the total number of hunters has gone down.
The same Fish and Wildlife Service study says women are the only demographic that has seen increased first-time hunting rates, up 32% between 2000 and 2015.
The trend line is a little different in Louisiana. Statistics from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries indicate the number of basic hunting licenses issued to women in the state has actually dropped over the last three years. In 2019, 18,757 women in the state held basic hunting licenses, down from 22,464 in 2016. Spokesman Ed Pratt said a similar decrease has been reported in the number of men holding basic hunting licenses, too.
Regardless of gender, access is driving numbers down. Wildlife refuges often have boat-only access, requiring hunters to haul stands and equipment. The growing number of hunting clubs has helped, pooling resources to find the best access.
In 2016, Louisiana legalized hunters wearing a pink blaze as an alternative to the traditional orange. Bogalusa-area Rep. Malinda White—an avid, lifelong hunter herself—sponsored the bill. When it was making its way through the legislature, she reached out to friends and family that hunt, and pushed the high-protein benefits of harvesting straight from the wild.
“Women have probably felt a little intimidated with the sport,” White says. “Now they’re more or less becoming aware that they can do anything a man can do. And it’s very enjoyable to go out and gather your own food.”
White grew up hunting with her family on their large plat of land and later married a hunter, raising her kids to appreciate the sport, too.
She’s noticed women getting more engaged in hunting‚—whether that’s because of a rise in TV shows and social media depicting female hunters, or women are just feeling more confident, or they want to source their own meat.
White shares the story of one of her friends who, “all of a sudden, she decided she wanted to kill a deer because she wanted the meat.”
The harvesting plays a big part in hunting for both White and Sara Furman, a real estate agent with Re/Max First.
“I can’t tell you the last time I bought meat from a grocery store. I know exactly where the meat came from and I’m sure that it is fresher than anything I can get from the grocery store,” Furman says. For women, she says, hunting is an opportunity to “spend time with their loved ones while harvesting some of the healthiest meat available.”
Even in a sportsman’s paradise like Louisiana, the focus long has been on the role of men in hunting. To get more women interested in hunting, Furman says seasoned female hunters should invite their female friends to join, as should men invite their wives, daughters and female friends.
Laurie Lipsey Aronson, president & CEO Lipsey’s, says it’s not just women in hunting that’s on the rise, but women in shooting sports, too.
Since 2008, a number of women entered the shooting market—particularly for self-defense and concealed carry firearms—and Aronson says she suspects many of them have now purchased a second firearm, whether that’s for hunting or target shooting.
Aronson herself loves to hunt: She grew up duck hunting at the family’s Oak Grove Hunting Club in Cameron Parish. Last year, she was elected as the first chairwoman of the National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers.
“My father, Richard Lipsey, introduced me to hunting when I was young. I recently had the opportunity to go to Argentina to experience dove hunting, which was quite exceptional,” she says. “I am not much of a big game hunter, although I did travel to Argentina four years ago to shoot red stag. She ended up setting a record—with the 12th largest stag on the continent. Says Aronson: “I call it beginner’s luck.”
Furman—also on the record boards—has taken her daughter hunting with her to teach her about the sport and whitetail management. She’s continuing a family tradition—she was exposed to the sport at an early age growing up. From boyfriends, to her dad and her brother-in-law, and friends, she’s always had a way to join in on some hunts.
“In the meantime, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and perspective on hunting in general,” Furman says. “My next hunt will be because I’m out of meat in my freezer or I’ll just be an observer spending quality time.”