Promoting The Hunting
Lifestyle To Women

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Brenda Weatherby (right) with Charlotte Clute at Rocky Mountain Discount Sports. Clute’s
perspective has been invaluable helping women select the right options for their next hunt.

In 2016, Weatherby introduced the Vanguard Camilla, a rifle with a meticulously designed stock that accounted for multiple female characteristics.

By no means is Weatherby saying there’s a “normal” woman in size or frame, but the company attempted to address multiple complaints women had about traditional rifle designs in the past. To do so, Weatherby assembled a group of ladies, all with their own expertise in the hunting and shooting world, and asked them to collectively design a rifle for the “Women of Weatherby.” The result was the Vanguard Camilla, and it became Weatherby’s most popular Vanguard model a year later.

This rifle holds a special place in my heart because it launched my own hunting journey. Ever since, Weatherby and I, personally and specifically, have been promoting the attractiveness of the hunting lifestyle to women like never before in the company’s 76-year history. The more women see women hunting, it normalizes the idea and gives them more of an incentive to try it for themselves and strengthen their commitment to the lifestyle.

Value Of A Shared Experience

Let’s face it, it’s not easy for everyone to enter the sport. It takes a lot of know-how to successfully tag your first animal. And sometimes feeling like you’re among friends when trying something new is really important. This is why Weatherby partners with a number of specific shooting and hunting skills camps for ladies.

Ladies Hunting Camp (ladieshunting.com) and She Hunts Skills Camp (shehuntsskillscamp.com) are both great places to learn basic to intermediate skills for the lady hunter and shooter. Both offer an in-person experience with like-minded women who spend a weekend away to learn new skills and make friends with others who share a passion for the outdoors and firearms.

There are also opportunities for ongoing training where travel is not required. The Successful Hunter’s Course (sageandpinehomestead.com/learn-to-hunt-online-course) is an online training platform covering both bow and rifle hunting and goes through many useful basics from beginning to end.

Still yet, manufacturers like Weatherby realize how limited we are in our reach to personally connect with women in the industry or those interested in entering the industry. The biggest impact is certainly made face to face.

The Dealer’s Role

Most women have a friend or family member who has been instrumental in their hunting journey. My big question, though, is what about the gal who doesn’t have that available to her? The next best connection is their local firearms dealer.

As consumers, brick-and-mortar establishments not only give us the opportunity to purchase our products directly, but also to compare and contrast multiple options — and physically pick them up to see which feels right. This is especially important for most women who want their guns to feel and fit right.

So, for the most relevant information in regard to how a dealer can impact increased female participation in the industry, I headed to my local dealer in Sheridan, Wyo. — Rocky Mountain Discount Sports. My aim was to ask the staff how they connect and encourage a woman’s involvement in the shooting and hunting industry.

Manager Ron Lee and Sales Associates Matt Selcher and Charlotte Clute had interesting perspectives.

What Not To Do

I appreciated Lee’s genuine response when he said he has learned what not to do. (Isn’t that the truth?) A lot of times we learn more by a clear miss than by following protocol.

Lee relayed a story of a female customer who came in asking some questions and when she handled the gun proficiently he told her, “Well done.” To his surprise (at first) this insulted the woman and she replied, “Do you speak that way to the guys who come into the store?”

In explanation to me, Ron said, “She was absolutely right — my comment assumed, just because of her gender, she was a beginner.” He added it was clear she probably had more firearm experience than he did.

Lee felt he had handled the interaction very poorly even though it was very well intentioned.

The Pitfall Of Unintentional Bias

Lee’s story launched us into a conversation about unintentional bias and the assumptions we all naturally make about each other. I told him a few different stories of my own when people assumed I was a firearms expert just because of my last name. (Lee was surprised when I told him even though I have been married to a Weatherby for 25 years, I’ve only been hunting for just over five years.)

People talking over my head about ballistics or hunting terminology was a common experience and I had to get good at admitting I had no idea what they were talking about. It took confidence to ask questions and not try to live up to people’s false expectations of me. The opposite assumption is certainly true as well.

The more women see women hunting, it normalizes the idea and gives them more of an incentive to try it for themselves and strengthen their commitment to the lifestyle.

One of Weatherby’s most senior customer service representatives has worked for the company for 35 years, and almost every day men doubt she’ll be able to answer their questions because of her gender. Most of the time, she proves them wrong and is certainly patient to deal with false assumptions.

Asking Good Questions

Lee concluded the awareness of unintentional bias is probably half the battle. If we go into conversations naturally, we’ll typically fall prey to bias, but if we we’re ready to catch ourselves making assumptions in our mind we may stop before we put our foot in our mouth. This takes getting really good at listening and asking better questions to determine where each person is in their hunting journey. It’s the best kind of assistance a dealer can give a customer, but it takes intentionality and discipline. Lee admitted he doesn’t have a real tactic to specifically help women when they come into the store, but he seemed to think it might not be a bad idea when he is training his guys and gals behind the counter.

Selcher, one of Rocky Mountain Discount Sports sales associates, added he tries to ask questions to determine a person’s goal or purpose with a firearm no matter what gender they are. He also refers questions to his female coworkers knowing they can speak to different attributes about a firearm that may be more helpful than what he can provide.

For instance, when a female asks him about the recoil of a firearm, Selcher said, “It depends … I may think recoil isn’t a consideration, but I am a big guy and someone else likely would. I’ll say, ‘I know Charlotte’s shot that gun, let’s go ask her what her experience was.’”
This helps people make conclusions without promising a certain experience.

“Expert Advice Brings Them Back.”

Men and women alike return to places where their problems are solved. Selcher nailed it when he said, “Expert advice brings them back.”
A dealer’s employee can walk through the customer’s unique scenario and goal, and send him or her away with practical products, tools and tips to make a great plan. This includes realistic expectations of what it’s going to take to turn that plan into success. (Rightfully so, this puts a large responsibility on the hunter.)

Finally, the dealer has the opportunity to make a lasting connection if they can go beyond the purchase and celebrate customer successes. Lee and Selcher shared posting hunting pictures of their customers is a highlight in their store, and the stories of last season are a great bridge to encourage the individual’s next firearm purchase.

What is your store doing to encourage participation among women? Let the SI team know! [email protected]

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