Hunting While Pregnant

Back in the summer of 2005, I met a woman from Keg River, Alberta. She said the upcoming season would be challenging because she’d be hunting while 4 months pregnant. I said, wow, that’s really interesting.

I was still relatively new to the field and had never heard of a woman hunting while expecting. But I figured with the number of sportswomen out there (the National Sporting Goods Association was counting 2.5 million at the time) the issue had to come up on occasion.

Curious, I called Karen Lee of Women in the Outdoors (I know, I mention Karen all the time), who offered to forward an email to her network of outdoorswomen, asking if anyone was hunting while pregnant that year. I wasn't sure if I'd hear anything back.

Long story short, by October I’d talked with 20 moms-to-be who were taking their rifles into the woods that season. They ranged in age from 22 to 39, in profession from attorney to game warden, and in stage of pregnancy from first to third trimester. Their stories — which included that of an 8-month-pregnant Idaho woman hunting elk with a muzzleloader — had a lot of similarities. They were all passionate hunters, who weren’t going to let a pregnancy keep them home for an entire season. They were also responsible moms, who’d talked with their doctors about the advisability of hunting while pregnant, and the measures they should take to do so safely. A number of them expressed their belief that the fresh air and exercise they got through hunting was of great benefit to their babies, and many reported feeling the fetus move more when they were sitting quietly in a tree stand than at any other time.

I’ve kept in touch with a number of those women, and just last week followed up with 3 of them so I could share their updated stories on the blog.

Amy Tucker is a pharmaceutical sales rep from Greenwood, South Carolina, and she was one of thefirst and most enthusiastic pregnant hunters I found (that's her with the binoculars). Back in November 2005, she was 30 years old and expecting her first son that February (she got a kick out of telling people the due date was perfectly timed between winter deer season and spring turkey season). She invited me to come on a weekend whitetail hunt with her and a friend who was also hunting while pregnant. Amy had talked to her doctor beforehand, and made safety the first priority by shortening the times she spent in the field and taking extra care when walking rough terrain or climbing into a box blind. No deer that weekend, but the energy and relaxation Amy gained from her hunt made it more than worthwhile.

Now her son Trent Laylon is 20 months old, and he’s sure to learn from his mom’s hunting career, which has recently involved working with JAKES and getting a nice Rio last spring.

Michelle Schaefers is a district conservationist from Lone Rock, Iowa. In December 2005 she was 4 1/2 months along, and didn't know if she felt up to hiking the rough terrain in her area. But Michelle's uncertainty vanished when she heard that a pregnant friend would be deer hunting a week before her own December due date. Encouraged, Michelle headed out on a 15-degree day and killed an 8-point buck — the largest she'd ever taken.

A healthy Clayton Patrick was born that Feb., and Michelle reports that these days he and his older brother love the outdoors. One of Clay's first sentences was “Daddy outside!”

In November 2005, Florida hunter Amanda Pippin was six months pregnant with her third child during her family's annual hunt on their Georgia deer lease. Amanda is part-owner of High Maintenance Camo, a women's gear company that she co-founded in 2004. That fall was her first experience hunting while pregnant, and a day in the field wasn't what she was used to. She only got decaf at 5:00 a.m., depended on her sons to tie her boots (she couldn't reach them otherwise), and wore her husband's XXL hunting clothes. Wyatt Earl is now 19 months old and a natural in the outdoors.

These stories held an interest for me that went well beyond the shock value of picturing a pregnant woman with a gun. Not to get too lofty, but my fascination involved a kind of poetic element — the duality of taking life through hunting while giving life through pregnancy.

Always one to go overboard on matters that interest me, I started researching any historical mentions of women hunting while pregnant. I ended up finding the strongest ties in the tales of the goddess of hunting. Called Artemis by the Greeks and Diana by the Romans, she carried a quiver and bow, and was a skillful administer of death. But she was also the patroness of child birth, and by helping her mother deliver her brother Apollo, became associated with the nurturing of new life.

Artemis was accompanied in the wood by a band of nymphs, all of whom had taken a vow of chastity. But one poor nymph, Callisto, was seduced by Zeus in disguise and became pregnant by him. The young huntress tried to conceal her swelling abdomen, but Artemis angrily discovered her condition. Callisto gave birth to a boy, and — though versions of the story vary — the tale ends with her being sent to the sky as the constellation Ursa Major, with her son following as Ursa Minor.

Considering these stories — from arguably the first pregnant hunter on record, to the experiences of Amy, Michelle, and Amanda — the notion of hunting while expecting doesn’t sound as surprising as it did a few years ago. In fact, in the 2007 F&S Women Hunters Poll, 25% of respondents said they had hunted during a pregnancy — a higher number than I'd expected.

So what’s your take? Have you hunted during a pregnancy, or know anyone else who has? If so, what were your experiences? If not, what do make of the whole thing? –K.H.