My daughters are part of the fastest-growing hunting segment in America — females.
Only about 4% of the U.S. population identifies as a hunter. While the male, baby boomer segment of hunters continues to decline, women hunters are increasing.
According to North Dakota Game and Fish, the number of women in North Dakota who hunt is almost double the national average. In 2016, 1.1 million American women hunted. That number continues to rise. In the past 20 years, 20% of hunter education students were female, according to Brian Schaffer, outdoor education project administrator with North Dakota Game and Fish. Now, the average hovers in the 40% to 45% range annually.
Personally, I don’t care about the gender, race, age or any other socioeconomics of the hunting segment in America. It’s a way of life and pastime I don’t want to die with my generation.
Because of COVID-19, our youngest daughter, Anika, couldn’t take a hunter education course last year. She turned 11 years old and youth deer season came and went. This winter, during her 4-H archery practices and competition, she reminded me she wanted to get the course done so she could hunt birds and deer with our family. In between playing volleyball and some basketball this spring, we found an intensive weekend class for her to enroll in at the Wishek Armory, in Wishek N.D. Our friends were the instructors, the same who taught the course when my older daughter Elizabeth and I took the course a few years ago.
Anika was one of 36 students in the all-day Saturday and Sunday course. When it came time for her to attend, she wasn’t enthused. She had to miss sports activities, which were a priority since she just returned to playing.
By the time she joined us for a family supper at Nathan’s parent’s house after the first day of class, her drive had kicked in. She wanted to study the actions on different types of guns and practice her carries. She had her reading materials out and knew Sunday’s class and testing would be her ticket to passing and completing hunter’s safety.
On Sunday afternoon, Anika passed her hunter’s safety test. Afterward, Anika and Elizabeth shared about their favorite part of the course.
Elizabeth’s favorite: The different generations of people and their backgrounds. Men, women, young and old, with interests in the outdoors, hunting and wildlife conservation took the course.
On average, North Dakota certifies 4,500 students annually in hunter education courses, with most of the classes occurring from January through May. Several of those classes were canceled during the pandemic, so parents were playing catch-up this spring to get their child enrolled.
“In mid-March 2020, when our in-person classes were shut down due to COVID-19, we modified the online content of our home study course by adding supplemental learning modules,” Schaffer said. “From April to July, we provided statewide online COVID-19 hunter education courses that individuals could complete and earn temporary certification. Temporary certification provided individuals the ability to apply in lotteries and purchase licenses in 2020. To complete their certification, students were required to attend and pass an in-person North Dakota state written and practical exam by Dec. 31, 2020.”
For our family, hunting gives us shared experiences, traditions and memories. We eat what we hunt. But even if our kids do not choose hunting as a pastime in adulthood, I never considered not enrolling our kids in hunter’s education and learning about gun safety and wildlife conservation.
Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.