The number of Americans hunting and fishing is declining, but women are bucking the trend. Host Melodie Edwards finds a sisterhood at an all-women hunting camp—and catches her first fish with her dad.
The great American tradition of hunting is not so great these days. The number of hunters has been dropping by the millions in the last few years. Maybe you’re one of those people thinking, “good riddance, I don’t want a lot of people shooting at animals in the woods.” But here’s the thing: in the U.S., we fund conservation projects, like protecting species and wild places, almost entirely on the hundreds of billions of dollars a year that hunting and fishing generates.
But in some places, like Wyoming where I live, the number of hunters is actually staying pretty stable. It’s true that fewer men are hunting, but Wyoming women are taking up hunting and fishing in greater numbers than ever.
Jessi Johnson is one of those Wyoming women. She’s what I’d call a kick-ass bow hunter. Trust me, I’ve seen her in action on the archery range. But she’s also the founder of the National Wildlife Federation program National Wildlife Federation program Artemis—named after the Greek goddess of the hunt. The aim of Artemis is to get more ladies preserving the ancient tradition of hunting and fishing.
“Women are the largest section of new hunters right now,” Jessi says, “and that’s incredible, but hunting has a PR problem. We’re declining because we’re not relatable to the outside world and we’re really bad at talking about what we do.”
Jessi’s theory is that women could be a huge help for that PR problem she mentions.
“It’s kind of scary to talk about: I really love this thing, I love a deer, I love an elk, I love animals on this landscape, but I also hunt and kill them. It’s a really difficult conversation to have and the hunting culture has typically just slammed that door in people’s faces when they question it,” says Jessi. “On the grander scale, women tend to be a little more emotionally intelligent in how they tell a story. So, they don’t start with, I went out and I killed a big deer. They’re like, ‘well, I just learned how to hunt ten years ago and oh my god, I did this and I did this and this is what happened, it was amazing, I cried.’ They show remorse, they show respect. Not just hunting culture but culture frowns on the emotional side of a man still and so they haven’t and so women are freer to show that.”
Photos by Patrick Wine
But let me back up and tell you where I ran into Jessi. She was my archery teacher at an all-women’s outdoor camp called BOW (short for Becoming An Outdoor Woman). They have these in almost every state. I signed up for the camp because for years I’d been wanting to learn to hunt and fish. My dad is kind of a famous bamboo rod builder and, growing up, he always used to bring home venison and rabbit for our family’s table. But somehow, he never taught me the skills…or I never asked.
But BOW camp gave me the basic skills I needed to wade into the water with my dad…and even catch my very first trout!
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