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Women Upland Hunters: Not Yet Ubiquitous, But Not a Different Breed

Photo by Nancy Anisfield / Anisfield Hunting Dog Photography

Photo by Nancy Anisfield / Anisfield Hunting Dog Photography

A magazine editor recently rejected a story I wrote about several women who train their own hunting dogs. The article discussed their approach to training and handling dogs and the rewards of hunting with them. The editor said he couldn’t use the story primarily because “Most of the quotes could’ve just as easily come from a man, sort of missing the point of making this story unique.”

Isn’t that a point in itself – that the growing number of women hunters and trainers aren’t necessarily different from men in their focus, frustrations, excitement, fascination, and love of working with gun dogs?

The editor went on to say he’d have preferred I discussed the difficulties these women faced entering a traditionally men’s world. Perhaps they didn’t face difficulties. Perhaps they learned to hunt when they were young or got into it as adults because of the thrill of seeing a dog taut on point or prancing proudly with a bird in its mouth. It is satisfying to know there are women who came to hunting on a smooth road.

The best part of the rejection email was the editor’s asking how the women’s “female sensibilities” are different than men’s when it comes to training dogs. From what I’ve seen, they aren’t different. With apologies to the editor, we don’t squeal “oooh, icky!” if we have to take a bloody, damaged bird from our dog’s mouth. We don’t weep when applying an electric correction to a hell-bent-for-leather dog breaking on the flush. And we don’t balk at slogging through sucking mud to toss decoys out for water training.

Sorry, but the women dog trainers and handlers I know have the same range of “sensibilities” as the men. There are women who are hard on their dogs and there are women who are too easy. Just like men, there are those with a knack for administering correction or praise at the right moment, and others (like me) who get fuddled and inconsistent. No difference, yet all the same differences.

On the same topic of gender stereotyping, a back page column in a popular wingshooting magazine I read a couple of months ago still bugs me. The writer invoked every cliché ever applied to wives of male hunters. They resent expenditures on guns and dogs. They resent the time their husbands go off hunting. They don’t understand the passion. The wives must be lied to and deceived, and, wink wink, all Guys Who Hunt and have such wives, understand the need to, wink wink, lie and deceive.

The column implied the only thing women/wives care about are frivolous domestic things like new bed linens. But not to worry, because offering to take the old ball-and-chain out for dinner would solve everything.

Some of you will say I can’t take a joke; I say tired clichés aren’t funny; they’re just lame. Other readers will say I’m too sensitive – maybe that’s where the “female sensibilities” kick in…Some days it seems that as often as I’m jazzed to talk to a hunter who says gender is irrelevant when it comes to hunting, I stumble upon a sexist and/or ignorant diehard who wants to keep this miraculous world of bird dogs and flushes, shotguns and the outdoors all to himself and his good old boys’ club buddies. Sorry, but the hunters and conservationists I know – women and men – just won’t let that happen.

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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3 Responses to “Women Upland Hunters: Not Yet Ubiquitous, But Not a Different Breed”

  1. Scott Siman says:

    Don’t know about you “guys” but I love the women in our HRC. We don’t have men and women handlers in our HRC. We just have handlers who love their dogs and love to train them with other, like minded, people. My “go to” trainer is female. She grew up helping her parents run their kennel, training dogs for show and obedience. She “knows” dogs. You guys who don’t include women in your group are missing out on a great opportunity and really need to get with the program

  2. In response to Nancy’s Anisfield’s blog “Women Upland Hunters: Not Yet Ubiquitous, But Not a Different Breed,” I thought you’d be interested in knowing that the online magazine, Shotgun Life, has been an early advocate of women in the shotgun sports:

    31% of Shotgun Life readers are women — more than any other publication in the industry. That’s because from our inception we saw a gaping hole in the industry of how it treats and addresses female wing and clays shooters.
    If you go http://www.shotgunlife.com you’ll see we have an entire section devoted to women and shotguns.
    Google “shotguns for women” and Shotgun Life comes up #3 in the results. Google “shotgun fit for women” and Shotgun Life shows up as #2 and #3 in the results.
    We have 2 regular women columnists, Holly Heyser and Ann Kercheville.
    We were the first wingshooting publication to promote Georgia Pellegrini as a hunter and chef.
    We’ve worked with the GRITS (Girls Really into Shooting)to help spread their message about women empowerment through the shotgunning sports.
    We were the first shotgun publication to write about the women’s gun advocacy group, The DIVAS in Texas.
    We have a regular e-letter that goes out every Sunday called “Shotgun Life Women” that distributes shooting tips specifically addressed toward women’s issues.
    Shotgun Life is the only publication to write about women’s spirituality as it applies to clays shooting.
    Our story “Sporting Clays Magic at Pintail Point” is the only one that I’m aware of that discusses the tradition of women nurturing their daughters into the shotgun sports.
    We’ve published a story about women turkey hunting in Oklahoma.
    We have a story in the pipeline about one of the few women estate gamekeepers in the UK.
    And finally we probably have more stories written by women about women than another other publication in the industry.

    To the best of my knowledge, nearly every publication about wing and clays shooting has been very supportive of women in our sports — and I think you’ll agree. Of course there’s always some diehards who see our world though the eyes of the “Good Old Days” but in due course they will be gone.

    Irwin Greenstein
    Shotgun Life

  3. We’re hunters, we’re handlers, we’re trainers; and we’re wives, mothers, duaghters, and sisters. In most cases, our joy and desire to do what we do is no different from that of a man. I was raised a hunter and often was questioned about the role women play in a “man’s world”. Since I never saw a division, it was difficult to answer those kinds of questions so I came up with this line…”The only difference between me and a guy is I go pee behind a bush.” Now I am a registered Maine guide and I specialize in guiding big game hunts. To put my male clients at ease and “break the ice” I still use that line. But why I like that line best is, it’s true! Women can be viewed (and some women enjoy being viewed) as an oddity or spactacle but most just want to go forth and do what they love without a lot of hype.


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