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On Women Hunters: Rethinking Pink

More and more women’s hunting and shooting events are popping up on the radar. Around the country, Becoming an Outdoors Woman and NRA Women on Target programs introduce women to a variety of outdoor sports and skills. State sponsored programs and special gatherings hosted by lodges, hunt clubs and shooting ranges offer instruction and opportunities for women interested in traditional sports.

Photo by Nancy Anisfield / Anisfield Hunting Dog Photography

Photo by Nancy Anisfield / Anisfield Hunting Dog Photography

These women-only events help the newbies learn without the pressure some feel trying activities outside their gender comfort zone. Women have a different center of gravity and musculature, which means they may need to be taught how to mount a gun differently than the way a man would be taught. Many women are intimidated by handling guns – something not part of the feminine playbook – and do better in a lighter, more supportive environment. Many women respond more positively to the social aspect of learning with other women.

There are lots of reasons why women-only instruction is successful, although assuming this is the best way for all women to learn is wrong. Just as some boys can be taught by their fathers while others need outside mentors, the dynamics of learning are as individual for women as they are for men.

More important, stepping beyond the learning phase, it is dangerous to over-emphasize gender specificity. I’m talking about things like marketing pink hunting gear, girlie hunting retreats that need spa treatments to lure participants, feminine camo patterns and silly accommodations for the “fairer sex” that insult our strength and ability to adapt.

Simply put, a pink shotgun won’t fix a poor mount and I can pee behind a tree as easily as the next guy.

If we continue to create the image of women hunters as essentially different from men hunters, the patriarchal – male dominated – view of traditional sports will be perpetuated.

We need to show girls and women that once they’re out there hunting, shooting or handling their own bird dogs, they are no different than male hunters, shooters or dog handlers. Hunters are hunters, and gender has nothing to do with the ability to shoot well, outsmart a rooster, read a dog’s body language or trudge through thick cover in the pouring rain.

The more women are separated out of the overall view of who and what a hunter is – in other words, implying a “woman hunter” is different from a “hunter” – the more we reinforce the notion of hunting as fundamentally a man’s pursuit. I don’t believe getting more women into hunting is the single key to the future of hunting, but it is important. We need to reinvent the image of the hunter to include anyone with the desire to hunt and shoot.

I love hunting with my female friends, and I love hunting with my husband and our male friends. Like most hunters, I hunt with partners whose hunting style complements mine, whatever sex they may be. We’re into the dog work and the laughs, the challenge, the outdoors and the adventure. Gender is irrelevant.

Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.

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17 Responses to “On Women Hunters: Rethinking Pink”

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  1. Marie Wade says:

    I agree with Nancy that more & more women are getting interested in hunting for various reasons, rather it be the significant other, having an interest in a hunting dog or having sons & wanting to share it with them. The pink stuff….leave for the newborn baby girl. I like hunter greens & orange, like any other upland huntress. I would prefer more companies to make a true vested interest in clothing & gear designed for women of all shapes & sizes. It is so frustrating to have such challenges with clothing & gear. Also, if a woman walks into your hunting/fishing business, treat them with respect & provide assistance to them like any other customer. Regardless, rather it is your child or the woman in your life, get them the right gun & gear. You will have a great hunting partner for life. Having a great hunting dog, (with all the fun related to the training of the dog,) will be icing on the cake. Also, Remember, it is not about what is in the bag, it is about the experience in the woods with your dog & a hunting companion that shares your passion. Happy Hunting!

  2. Nancy Anisfield says:

    Thanks, Marie — well said!

  3. Annette Knutson says:

    Wonderful article! I agree with Marie on the struggles, as a woman, of finding gear. You can find the “cutsie” stuff and it always runs so small for anyone who is more “endowed” on the top side. You look for appropriate field gear and it is more difficult to locate and typically more expensive. I do see changes coming as more and more women get into the outdoors.

    PS: I do like the occasional pink in my camo… I think it sends a message to younger girls that hunting isn’t just for the boys anymore!

  4. My sister is a great hunter and better shot then me I think it’s awesome more women and girls are getting involved in shooting sports. there doesn’t need to be a gender gap. as Nancy said hunters are hunters. and I agree that more companies need to manufacture women’s fit clothing it’s tough for my sister who is on the small side to find anything that fits her.
    wonderful article.

  5. Elsa says:

    Nice article Nancy! As a bird hunter and trainer of my own dogs, it’s nice to see others enjoying the sport. IMO, women are important to the sport because we tend to be better at naturally mentoring others. You will seldom find a man willing to share his “best spot” with someone. Women are much more likely to take someone else to share the experience. No negative meant towards men, I have had men mentors in my career – but women do tend to mentor more naturally. I have to agree on the “pink” gear – I like my camo to be camo, not pink, but I’ve never been a girly-girl, always a tomboy. Good women’s clothing would sure be nice. How about waders that fit a woman?

  6. Gregg says:

    While I fundamentally agree with the author of this article I would like to point out that there is nothing wrong with pink shotguns, pink hunting gear/accessories, etc. Will they make a female hunter a better hunter? No, but my wife for example is very proud of her pink shotgun, and her other pink accessories. She love pink (especially if it is more fuschia than pepto-bismol pink). The fact that she could get a pink shotgun just enhances her enjoyment of hunting because it allows her to express her individuality. It is a bit like whether you shoot a pump, semi-auto, SxS or O/U double barrel, does a specific type of gun make you a better hunter? No, but they do allow you to express your individuality. What we do need more of is gear and clothing designed specifically to fit the female hunter. My wife has had a horrible time finding women’s brush pants for example. Like it or not men and women are different and so gear needs to be designed to accommodate those differences and if a woman wants her gear to be pink (so long as it still complies with local laws) what do I care what color her gear is.

  7. d'Alex says:

    I agree that it is sometimes hard to find hunting clothes that both fit and aren’t overly expensive. The “pink” craze in hunting gear began a while ago to raise money for and support breast cancer research. I hope that it continues to serve this purpose. I know plenty of guy hunters who wear pink gear. As long as you are within whatever safety zone and laws for hunting, what does it matter what color you have on. I just hope that women get better clothing soon.

  8. Cheryl Riley says:

    Well said, Nancy. I enjoy hunting with the guys, but have to say that my favorite hunt was with a group of women because none of us were competitive about the birds — we just enjoyed the whole experience and each other. They were probably just compatible with my style as you pointed out. Thanks for all your great blogs!

  9. Mo says:

    Really? Does it matter if there’s PINK in our camo or on our firearms/ accessories, etc.? Some girls like it, others don’t. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. If the next girl likes it, more power to her. It doesn’t make one gender a more “legitimate” hunter that the other. You’re turning hunting isn’t a pissing match; boys vs. girls and inferring that we let boys “dominate” because of the color pink? What next? Don’t wear a bra while you’re hunting because it differentiates us from men and we want to be treated equal? What nonsense.

  10. I totally agree with hunters are hunters. Regardless if it’s a woman or a man hunting out there. It’s basically all about how you handle things when you’re out there and to be able to enjoy and do what’s expected of them.

  11. Christy says:

    Hunters are hunters no matter what you wear or what gender you are. I agree with all the comments about the need for women’s hunting gear. To me as a duck hunter (I wear non-pink camo), upland hunter (I wear orange) and competitive sporting clays shooter (I have a pink camo gun case and a fuschia pink ammo bag)…having something to wear that fits me and the situation is much more important then whether it’s pink or not. Having helped instruct a few of the new women shooters at the Women on Target programs, you can see how important it is to have women only sponsored events. They allow a women the chance to get over their initial nerves in a more comfortable environment. This is very important to some women. Its like everything else in this world, there are many brands, styles and colors because everyone has different tastes and if pink camo helps bring even one new hunter to the sport that’s one more then we had before.

  12. Mariah says:

    Gag. Men should wear pink, show how manly they can actually be (only tough men wear pink). I HATE pink, always have. GAG. The first time I saw a pink camo rifle in a store I about vomited. I know many women who hunt (part of why I LOVE my community) but none of them are what I would describe as ‘girly’ women.
    This is not to say that I don’t think women-only events and training aren’t important because they most definitely are. A male spouse is often Not the best teacher and having an all-female environment to learn in can provide a nurturing positive experience that will turn out women who will then take the knowledge and run with it. I still do women’s events (like my local women’s handgun group) because it’s nice to get together and shoot and there is a different level of ‘competition’ to be felt without the ‘significant others’ in attendance.
    But I agree that out in the field it’s not “us and them”, and we do need to be careful not to somehow indicate that women are a different ‘class” of hunters than men. We each (individual, irrespective of gender) have our strengths. I’m a better long range shot with rifle or pistol, and my husband always takes more upland game per outing than I do. I field dress a deer better (saving more meat) than he does, but it sure is nice to have two people to pack out those quarters.
    Like everything, I suspect the pendulum has to swing far in overcompensation but eventually will come back to center. Hunter numbers have been falling and if we can recruit more women (via whatever means – gag, even pink) then eventually we’ll build up a base of women who pass the learning on and we can settle back to reasonable colors and become a group of ‘hunters’ without regard to gender.
    Though frankly, I’d be happy to see more hunting clothing made to fit women (and not in silly colors either). In some areas, we have to face up to the fact that there ARE differences.

  13. Nancy Anisfield says:

    Thank you all for taking the time to post your comments. All of these viewpoints have merit and are important to this discussion. This is a dialogue we need to keep going and growing…

  14. Jan Stallings says:

    When I began upland hunting, I had more difficulty finding clothes that fit comfortably to accommodate miles of walking in a field. I had to take my pants to a tailor who did not have a clue how to handle them. Not only were the brush pants expensive but i had to add tailoring costs too. Cabelas now has women’s brush pants that are much more affordable. My other challenges is finding snake chaps, snake leggings or boots that will fit…oh and waders! I am often directed to youth items which does not work much better then small men’s. I am still looking for the right stuff in the right fit. It sure would enhance a day in the field.

  15. Hear, hear. Thank you so much for saying this, Nancy. The overwhelming majority of hunting, shooting and even fishing gear marketed towards women is dressed up in pink and marked up 20% over equivalent men’s (or non-gender-specific) gear. What’s more, as in the case of bowhunting, we see bows being made with draw weights low enough to enable small women to pull back the string – but also low enough to effect the FPS and potentially result in a maiming wound to an animal, not a kill shot.

    But the truth is, as you say, when we’re in the woods or out on the water – the last thing I think about is that I’m with a bunch of guys. We’re just out there having fun, enjoying quality time in the most beautiful places on earth, far from computer screens and gender agendas.

  16. [...] do not appreciate the commercial look of camouflage, and the gratuitous marketing of pink camouflage as a signifier of feminine-appropriateness is especially insulting. Pink is often used to mark women as the ‘other’ and if you [...]

  17. Terri says:

    THANK YOU! Finally some common sense about what women really want. I too dislike the pink camo and anything pink as it relates to hunting. Give me something that is functiona and warm, not fashionable. I don’t need to be “in fashion” doing what I love. Also – agree with comments on women’s hunting clothes – they stink. They are not made well for a day in the field and much more pricey than men’s clothing. I have tried many different brands to find out they fall apart in the field and I am left cold.
    Ultimately the goal is to be SAFE in the field and have fun!

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