“The future of our sport.” You hear that phrase associated with women hunters all the time. The burden of preserving that future is often placed on our shoulders by public speakers, organization leaders, and writers in national magazines and hometown papers alike. Most recently, I saw it in this Montgomery Advertiser article out of Alabama.
And such a claim makes sense. As hunter recruitment numbers fall, public lands feel vulnerable, and certain game species appear threatened, it’s only natural to look to the increase in the number of women hunters as a welcome piece of good news for America’s hunting heritage. It’s an exciting, lofty charge — the kind of responsibility that maybe makes you want to wave a flag and break into song. But how much does it factor into your identity as a hunter?
For me, it depends. If I have some down time at home or at work (don’t tell), I do enjoy thinking about that legacy. As I’ve said in other posts, I get a real kick out of looking at photos and going through accounts of women hunters throughout the country’s history — especially around the turn of the 20th century when there were actually a fair number of females in the field. It really does feel like I’m doing my part to carry on a proud tradition, and it makes me feel all the more connected to the history of our sport in this country.
When I’m actually in the field, on the other hand, an awareness of that tradition is nowhere near the front of my brain. Even with seemingly endless time under a tree for my mind to wander, my experience as a hunter isn’t about the past or future of the sport, but it’s about the moment in front of me. At exciting times, it’s the animal in my scope, the deer on the ground, and the meat under my knife. At quieter times, it’s about the wind, that crunch of leaves over my left shoulder, and as always, how many snacks are left in my bag. -K.H.