When we look at our everyday lives through a different lens, we can learn a lot. I have.
I am an adult-onset hunter, and I’ve hunted for 10 years. At least, that is how some would define me.
Once my husband Scott taught me to hunt, I drank the “Kool-Aid”. I had no plans to be on the path I am on now when I first learned to hunt. I found that hunting and being outdoors was what my soul had longed for as an adult with a busy life. It may have been the first time in my life I sat still and kept quiet – and sitting still and quiet for four or more hours at a time was something I had never done. Each year and season, I learned about other hunting methods and new species to hunt. I began to seek more learning opportunities and create my own group of outdoor friends. I continually studied everything new I needed to learn regarding species and tactics. Somewhere along the way, I began to find joy in teaching others. For this reason, I bought a business that teaches women to hunt, fish, and enjoy the great outdoors.
As part of my own progression into the hunting world, my company, The Sisterhood of the Outdoors, and I went to Africa for the first time this year. I had no idea what to expect; it was everything I had hoped it would be and more.
My guide was Carmen of Cheetau Safaris (#seehuntingdifferently). After this trip, I absolutely believe in seeing hunting differently. Hunting in Africa was very different than how I hunt in the US. It was so exciting to try something different but also the same. I think it will help me to make more of an impact if I see it differently. Carmen shared with me why she uses the hashtag #seehuntingdifferently.” She said, “hunting is much more than just hunting an animal. It’s about the whole experience, the people you meet, the stories you share, the things you learn from other hunters, and the friends you meet along the way,” Hunting for me is not about the harvest; it is all about the pursuit of game and fellowship outdoors. The freezer full of meat also weighs in as very important to my family and me.
Over the last few years, I have seen the face of hunting change. Stereotypes are being left behind, and more recruitment programs are seeing success. In past interviews, I have been asked, “What’s it like to be a female hunter?” I have an answer they may not expect: “I was raised to do and try anything I wanted to do; it never occurs to me that I am a girl. I believe if you learn to hunt and you take a day to go afield, you are a hunter.”
Why is it essential to see hunting differently? The traditions of deer camp are the same, but the people are not. When I began taking women on guided events with Sisterhood Outdoors, we were the only group and, many times, the first group of women to show up at a hunting lodge. Now, it’s more common, and I am so grateful that we’ve grown to have plenty of opportunities for women to hunt together. I see more encouragement for women hunters online. More importantly, I believe we are showing that we can be profitable for guides and outfitters, and we are welcome. The landscape of the outdoors is more diverse than ever, which is a good thing.
When I take a new hunter, I see hunting differently. I know what I may take for granted as a seasoned hunter. I can see the hunt from the eyes of someone who has never spent time outdoors. The questions they ask may seem elementary to me, but they are important to teach to them. I can’t make any assumptions about their reasons for learning to hunt. There are so many reasons someone has a desire to learn to hunt. With the national R3 initiative, more people are becoming interested in hunting. It’s an incredible problem to have. With more new hunters eager to go afield we all need to be prepared to mentor them. Teach someone new to shoot a bow or a rifle. Help new hunters to understand what being a good sportsman is about. Include conversations about conservation and help them connect to outdoor programs. Many of these newcomers are joining the sport of hunting for the first time and for different reasons. Some of these reasons can be as a source of food, to be in the outdoors, to push their limits, to join a partner, or to pick up a lost family tradition. Our role must be to see it from their perspective, not our own. Learning the WHY of a new hunter will help create a meaningful dialog when mentoring.
If we see hunting differently, we will see that not all of us hunt the same way. Sometimes not every type of hunting is considered “normal” to us. That just makes it different – not right or wrong.
If we see hunting differently, hunting won’t change – we do.
What if we change the way others see hunting? Many non-hunters have a misguided perception of what hunting really is about. When we mentor new hunters, we can change their attitude toward hunting. My program to recruit new hunters includes helping them see hunting differently. I want them to see how hunting contributes to conservation. I want them to see how hunting is about feeding their family healthy meat. I want them to know that everyone belongs in the outdoors. As a mentor, it is not my job to tell them what to do; it is my job to show them what they can do. It’s about sharing my own experience so they can see themselves in me. If I invite someone into the outdoors that doesn’t look like me, I might find they challenge my assumptions and make me grow.
If we can see hunting differently, maybe someone else can, too.
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