By Ashley McGee
Although hunting participation has continued to decline, the female demographic is steadily rising. Whitetail deer is the most common game species pursued by female hunters and with deer season just around the corner, it’s time to take a hard look at the inventory you’re stocking.
I’m a member of a Facebook group with more than 700 female hunters and sportswomen, and I recently asked them about their favorite brands and products for deer season. While we can’t include every response here, this list of the most recommended products is a great starting point for dealers who want to appeal to female hunters.
The Savage 110 Hunter with AccuFit is about as custom as you can get without actually building a custom rifle. Hunters can adjust the length of pull and the comb height. Other features include a user-adjustable AccuTrigger, AccuStock rail system and soft grip overmolded forend and pistol grip surfaces, making it a great rifle for female deer hunters. It’s also a great option for youth hunters of either gender, as it can “grow” with them. The gray synthetic stock makes it durable for a variety of climates and weather conditions. It’s available in a dozen different calibers ranging from .223 Remington and .243 Winchester to .30-06 Sprg. and 6.5 Creedmoor.
For female bowhunters, the overwhelming favorites were the Infinite Edge Pro from Diamond Archery, Cruzer G2 from Bear Archery and Eva Shockey Signature Series from Bowtech Archery. All are lightweight and suitable for smaller frames.
Both gun and bowhunters said the color wasn’t as important to them as fit, quality, performance and ease of use. Many of the women polled said they prefer to add minimal amounts of color with accessories that can easily be swapped out like their sling or release.
One might assume most women hunt from ground blinds and ladder stands — and many do. But, the fact of the matter is the flexibility and visibility a climbing stand provides is very appealing to female hunters.
Weighing a mere 13.8 lbs., including all accessories, the X-1 climbing stand from X-Stand is the lightest stand on the market. The X-1 is made from durable 6061 T6 aircraft aluminum and has a maximum capacity of 300 lbs. Women can fasten the backpacking straps to easily carry it in and out of the woods.
For a climbing stand with a seat bar, the Apache from X-Stand is a great option for female hunters who are in the market for a new stand this deer season. It features a wide 20″ by 27″ deep platform and has a gross weight of 18.5 lbs.
No hunter should ever climb into the deer stand without a safety harness. Like a life jacket, a safety harness is useless if it doesn’t fit properly — and if it’s uncomfortable or restricts movement a hunter is less likely to wear one. The Safeguard from Muddy Outdoors is the women’s version of its popular safety system. Constructed from lightweight padded nylon, it weighs just 1.9 lbs. The flexible tether allows 360-degree movement, which is perfect for both gun and bowhunters.
The Lady Hybrid from Hunter Safety Systems is a little more robust. Its features include a USB charging port, dedicated cellphone pocket, six additional pockets and dual bino clips. Of note, the fabric is heat infused with ElimiShield Hunt Scent Control Technology.
When it comes to camouflage for whitetail season, there are more options for women than ever but some still miss the mark. The answer to what women want out of their hunting apparel is simple: quality camouflage that both fits and serves its purpose.
SITKA Gear offers one of the most comprehensive and size-inclusive lines of technical hunting gear for women on the market, available in sizes XS through XXL. Designed as a system of layers, it can be worn from early to late season in a variety of climates. According to the SITKA website, the company also utilizes the only concealment pattern scientifically engineered to confuse the vision of deer: GORE OPTIFADE Concealment Elevated II.
Color isn’t as important as fit, quality,
performance and ease of use.
Though its women’s line for whitetail hunters isn’t as extensive, NOMAD offers technical hunting gear in the more common camouflage patterns — Mossy Oak Break-Up Country, Realtree Edge and Realtree Xtra.
One of the newer players in the women’s hunting apparel game is DSG Outerwear. The company started making women’s outerwear for snowmobiling and skiing before expanding in 2017 to offer highly functional performance layering pieces for all types of hunting. The line is available in Realtree Edge, Blaze Orange and Blaze Pink, as well as base layers in black and olive. The size range extends from XS to 5XL.
These are all great options to stock in your store, but it’s worth mentioning the majority of women we polled were more concerned with sizing than brand name. Some of the top suggestions included petite and tall sizes, plus sizes, maternity hunting apparel and more size availability in stores rather than being directed to order online — something to think about.
Women’s hunting apparel has certainly made strides in recent years, yet there are other product categories with few options for women — such as scent-control products.
When it comes to personal-care products, such as shampoo and body wash, women generally have different needs and expectations than their male counterparts.
Just For Does’ scent-free product line includes shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion, lip balm and an odor-neutralizer spray. The products are made with Z-Technology, a concentrated compound that works on contact to entrap bad or unwanted odor molecules.
Its website states, “Z-Technology has no effect on the normal bacterial processes of the skin. It does not kill anything but instead, permanently entraps molecules which makes it the safest product on the market.”
The brand also offers fragrance-free cosmetic products such as mascara and eyeliner.
For several years, Just For Does had the only scent-control products for women on the market. But in 2014, Jessica McQueen Bates founded Southern Racks — producing natural, scent-free products made with vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. They are also free of parabens and sulfates. If this sounds like a foreign language to you, it certainly won’t to your female customers.
An experienced and licensed cosmetologist, the scent-free hair products Bates created are safe for color-treated hair. In addition to a volumizing shampoo and moisturizing conditioner, the Southern Racks Scentless Huntress product line also includes a moisturizing body wash and moisturizing lotion. The Scentless Hunter 3-in-1 shampoo, conditioner and body wash was created for men
By adding them to your shelves, these value-added products are a cost-effective way to show female hunters you have considered their needs.
As you can see, there are great options in every category you can offer as female hunters across the country gear up for deer season. However, for many dealers, it’s not realistic to stock a wide variety for a segment that — despite recent growth — remains a niche demographic.
While this list of popular products is a good place to start, it would be to your advantage to ask the women in your area what deer-hunting gear they would like to see in your store.
As retailers, you’re in a unique position to advocate for the needs of female customers. By letting manufacturers know what products are in demand, everyone wins. Both you and the manufacturer have more opportunity to increase sales, while a historically underrepresented demographic feels like its voice is finally being heard.