Some millennia back the human race emerged as omnivorous hunter-gatherers. We will never know what strapping young fellow developed the concept and managed to sell it, but somehow males took on the more exciting role as primary hunters, while the ladies did more of the gathering.
Even so, there have always been avid and successful female hunters. Although precise origin is unclear, Diana, goddess of the hunt, appears to have been invoked from the very dawn of Roman civilization. She has always been depicted as a woman (and a good-looking one at that).
Humans were hunters before they were anything else, so in prehistory it's fair to say that the vast majority of us were hunters. In today's world, active hunters are a subset of modern society.
Either way, females have always been a minority of the hunting population. I doubt this will change, but their minority isn't as minor as it once was.
Women Hunters Increase
All surveys indicate that women are the fastest-growing segment in almost all shooting sports. But you don't need to study surveys to comprehend this fact. It's easy to see on shooting ranges, in hunting camps, in gun stores, in hunter safety courses, in shooting schools, and in the rich array of hunting gear designed for the distaff side.
Women are an increasingly important part of our shooting and hunting world'¦and they play a critical role in our ability to maintain that world.
Recently on HUNTING I wrote about the shameful Internet attacks on Texas teenager Kendall Jones, who posted pictures of (non-endangered and legally taken) animals she killed while on safari with her parents.
Since then Belgian teenager Axelle Despiegelaere lost a major modeling contract when cosmetics company L'Oreal discovered photos of her doing the same. The dazzling beauty went on safari with her parents, posted photos and then a different kind of hunt began. I may be naÃ¯ve, but I don't believe there are all that many anti-hunters who are so committed as to issue death threats (and worse) against teenage girls.
I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I do not believe that these attacks are random. Rather, I believe they're part of a concerted effort targeting visible representatives of that fastest-growing segment of our hunting and shooting societies.
Unfortunately, female hunters often have to contend with, er, stuff from other sources besides anti-hunters.
It's Never Easy
Jealousy is a normal human emotion, though not one of our better outlets. Hey, I'm a guy, and I take my share of crap'¦some from anti-hunters, some from fellow hunters. I understand this. I'm visible not because I like the spotlight, but because it's part of my job. Said job includes doing a lot of what we all like to do. I work hard at my job, but I can't please everybody and there are bound to be some sour grapes. Women, however, have it much worse.
Nobody ever said this world was altogether fair. It is a simple fact that some people have more means than others, some through luck, others through hard work, and still others by marriage or birth. When a young person goes on safari with parents it isn't unnatural for some folks to turn a bit green with envy'¦and perhaps actually believe that he or she is unworthy and undeserving and thus open to criticism.
However, with women it sometimes seems to go beyond a wee touch of envy. Savvy male hunters recognize that the incredible growth of women among our ranks is, ultimately, the salvation of our sport.
"All surveys indicate that women are the fastest-growing segment in almost all shooting sports."
Most of us welcome them. But there's an undercurrent out there. Too many of us give lip service to welcoming women'¦just so long as they aren't too successful. It doesn't take an African safari to trigger the response.
When a woman takes a really big whitetail or a monster elk or a giant bear, the majority of her fellow hunters will show some good-natured envy but ultimately wish her well'¦however, there's a subset out there that really shows their claws.
Are Women Really Wanted?
This is too consistent to be denied; we've all seen it. Give it up, folks. We have enough trouble with the anti-hunters without squabbling amongst ourselves. As hunters I believe we all need to support all legal hunting, even though, for each of us, there are almost certainly various forms of the sport that we don't participate in and, privately, may not approve. And we need to give our full support to all hunters who pursue game legally, regardless of race, religion or sex.
When my girls were ready I took them on plains game safaris because that was what I could afford. Other fathers were undoubtedly jealous because they had avid and deserving kids they couldn't take on such hunts. And, without question, I wish I could take my kids on elephant or lion hunts while these are still possible. But I can't. So I deal with it, and support all hunters equally. I rejoice in their success, commiserate on their failures'¦for God's sake, keep the claws sheathed.
Like it or not, women are competent and effective hunters, and they are a force to be reckoned with at all echelons. Just a few days ago it was announced that my old friend Renee Snider, a petite and attractive woman of'¦well, let's just say about my age'¦was selected as the 2015 winner of the Weatherby Hunting and Conservation Award.
Over the years two other women — Natalie Eckel and Barbara Sackman — have been nominees, but Renee is the first female winner in the 58-year history of the Weatherby award. I can't even imagine some of the guff she will take, but she won it fair and square, beating out all of this year's nominees (including me). Sure, I wish it was my year'¦but I'm happy for her and proud to be her friend.
For you ladies who hunt, and for you fathers, brothers, boyfriends and mentors of ladies who hunt, a bit of advice from a veteran father, husband, and mentor of ladies who hunt: First off, women who hunt should be proud of who they are and what they do. But it must be understood that hunting isn't favored in all quarters, and there is still a double standard to overcome.
There will be criticism'¦probably more than male hunters might endure. Hunters of all ages and both sexes need to be armed with facts about hunting's critical role in wildlife conservation. All hunters, and perhaps especially female hunters, need to have a thick skin and be ready to deal with detractors — preferably with truth, not emotion.
But a word of caution is in order. Today the Internet and social media enable an instantaneous and overwhelming viral response.
I would never suggest not posting photos of game you're proud to have taken. But always think before you post, and understand those words and pictures are viewed not just by hunters, but by neutral non-hunters and foaming-at-the-mouth anti-hunters. Make sure the photos are tasteful and clean, showing respect for the animal.