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Step Aside Boys!

Women are the fastest growing segment of the shooting and hunting world today. More women have taken up shooting sports in a serious way and the movement shows no signs of slowing down!

By Lacey Sullivan

An image of a woman holding a rifle as if to shoot it

Women have become a big part of the shooting sports arena. Competition shooters and those out just for the challenge finds more women at the sporting clay ranges. Photo courtesy of DWR.

In the past decade, the number of women owning firearms, participating in target shooting, and hunting has rapidly increased. Hunting is no longer a “man’s sport”, but instead, a sport that can be enjoyed by women and children, too. Even though it’s been almost 100 years since women faced the battle for equality, in the woods today, we are not always equal. For many, the woods are still seen as a place for men.

I have been taking part in this sport for almost ten years. Some of my favorite memories are of whitetail hunting with my grandfather and duck hunting with my father. The only other woman hunter in my family was my grandmother, and for many years, I used her rifle for good luck. I have heard stories about her outshooting men at turkey shoots, and killing the big buck the rest of the guys missed as it ran down the line. The stories of my grandmother inspired me to carry on the tradition.

An image of a woman in a tree viewing platform with a rifle and binoculars looking to hunt deer

Serious women deer hunters are not to be outdone by their male counterpart. Over the past ten years, more women are entering their trophy bucks in the Virginia Deer Classic, and the trend continues to grow. Photo courtesy of DWR.

As I have gotten older, I have encountered more and more women hunters. Television hunting shows are not just about men anymore, but, instead, men and their wives hunting as a team. It has become more common to see women and children on hunting shows than ever before. There are clothing lines now geared specifically for women. More programs and classes are being offered for women to learn how to shoot bows, rifles, and handguns. Programs like Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW), NRA Women, and the NWTF’s Women in the Outdoors, are just a few of the many programs offered to encourage female participation in the woods. We are being drawn into the sport.

“The only other woman hunter in my family was my grandmother, and for many years, I used her rifle for good luck.”

People of an older generation view women as people that belong at home taking care of the family. It goes without saying that many people of my generation don’t necessarily agree with women hunting, either. I remember when I was a little younger and my peers would ask, “Why do you hunt?” or, “How can you just go out and shoot something?” My response has been the same my entire life. It’s not about killing. My grandfather and I have had a special bond since I was a child. I took up duck hunting about three years ago because my father thoroughly enjoys it. Now it is something we can enjoy together.

Here are some statistics that show the sharp rise in female hunters over the last decade. In 2001, there were about 1.8 million women hunting in the United States. The amount of women hunters increased 85% by 2013, weighing in at 3.3 million. As of 2013, 19% of women were hunters versus 11% of men, proving that the growth rate of female hunters has outpaced that of men.

An image of a woman posing with a dead deer she has killed

Lacey Sullivan took this beautiful 8 point management buck while hunting with her club in Amelia County Virginia. Lacey is an avid deer and waterfowl hunter. More and more women have become a big part of the hunting community and the tendency continues to expand. Photo by Denny Quaiff.

To accompany the rise in female hunters, a sharp increase in women owning and shooting guns has also taken place. In 2013, the amount of women target shooting increased by 60% since 2001, weighing in at 5.4 million. Seventy-three percent of firearm retailers reported that women were buying guns more frequently than men in 2013. Women are signing up for shooting courses, buying guns, and spending time at the range at least once a month. The three most popular firearms purchased by women are semi-automatic pistols, revolvers, and shotguns.

“I remember when I was a little younger and my peers would ask, “Why do you hunt?” or, “How can you just go out and shoot something?” My response has been the same my entire life. It’s not about killing.”

We all know about the negative impact social media can have on hunters around the world. I speak from personal experience when I say it’s very hard to handle. Women receive criticism from the world on social media a little more than men do in general, but add in a pretty girl wearing camouflage, holding a big buck, and it sparks an entirely different debate. Melissa Bachman from the Sportman Channel’s “Winchester Deadly Passion”, received countless hate-filled emails, messages, and tweets after posting a photo of a lion she killed in Africa in 2013. She was even removed from a television show’s cast on National Geographic, because of the uprising of anti-hunting that took place.

Over the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of introducing several of my peers to the outdoor experience. As a woman who has been hunting since childhood, I encourage everyone to take a woman or child hunting. It is often said that the youth is the next generation of hunting, but women are playing just as important a role.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Lacey Sullivan is a staff writer for Whitetail Times, the official publication of the Virginia Deer Hunters Association. In addition to feature articles, Lacey writes a regular youth column in each issue of the magazine as part of the association’s outreach program for our next generation of hunters. Readers can email Lacey at with questions and comments!

©Virginia Deer Hunters Association. For attribution information and reprint rights, contact Denny Quaiff, Executive Director, VDHA.

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  • January 3, 2019