By Shari LeGate
In an encouraging sign, more women than ever are taking part in big-game hunting. Proper education from
your part will go a long way toward ensuring a successful hunt. (Photo courtesy of Sitka Gear)
Walking into a hunting camp can be scary for a woman hunter — even the experienced ones. As more and more women enter the hunting sports and are welcomed into the hunting camp, there’s still a bit of trepidation on everyone’s part when it’s known a woman will be joining the hunt. Whether we want to admit it or not, dynamics change when a woman is in camp.
What makes it easier for everyone, though, is when a woman has confidence. Being confident in knowing what she’s doing — and this comes from learning the basics. As an experienced hunter, I’ve walked into many a hunting camp and got that “look” from other hunters if they didn’t know me — waiting for me to prove myself.
I started hunting when women hunters were not as common as they are now and I’ve hunted everything from small game to big game such as antelope, elk and bear. The most important thing I’ve learned over the course of these hunts, though, is to be prepared and know the basics.
Dealers As The Providers
There are essentials to the hunting sports and there are basics to the experience of hunting and they’re not one in the same, but both can come from dealers. The essentials can be purchased, but the basics have to be shared. The “essentials” encompass the equipment needed, which may not be as simple as it sounds, but with enough questions asked, can easily be determined. The “basics” is an understanding of the hunt and both play an important role for the local dealer.
When I went on my first big-game hunt, I was an experienced hunter, but I was an inexperienced big-game hunter — and there is definitely a difference. When I went on my first bear hunt, I was an experienced big-game hunter, but not an experienced bear hunter. I didn’t know what I was supposed to look for, what I was supposed to hear or what I should be doing while in the field. I needed a mentor, someone to share the experience with me before I arrived in the camp, so I knew what to do. I did not want to show up asking endless questions and do something wrong. I know the feeling of intimidation in a camp and wanted to avoid it.
Women know all too well the feeling of intimidation. Tire and wheel retailer Discount Tire Company was faced with addressing it when one of their customers asked for help. Known for fast, friendly service and affordable prices, one of their locations in Dallas, took it a step further.
Manager Todd Eaddy explained, “A woman came into the shop, asking me to teach her how to change a tire. She had gotten a flat and tried to change it herself, but as she told me, ‘everything I did was wrong.’ She had all the equipment — the ‘essentials’ needed — and the car manual showed her where everything was located, but it didn’t explain what to do.”
Eaddy began holding monthly hour-long automotive classes to share the knowledge he and his staff had about tire changing. They covered the basic guidelines such as where to pull off the road, what to do when on the side of the road and the safety aspect of changing a tire on a busy highway. Word-of-mouth spread: 20–25 women were attending the classes and the shop quickly became a resource for women in the community. Business grew as a result and his customer base expanded. Discount Tire had the essentials to change a tire, but realized they needed to offer the basics of how.
Keys To A Successful Hunt
Having the right essentials is what makes a good hunt and depending on what it is, female hunters need the same gear as a male hunter. But to make your store more than just another dealer selling goods to hunting enthusiasts, turn it into a resource by offering the how and why.
Linda Powell, Mossberg director of media relations, has hunted big game all over the world and knows what it takes to prepare for a big-game hunt.
“Take the time to find out what game they’ll be hunting,” she lends. “Don’t assume your customer (male or female) is either a novice or expert — ask the appropriate questions to determine their level of knowledge and then base your gear suggestions on their responses.”
Powell earmarked an essential component to an enjoyable hunt.
“The key to a successful and enjoyable hunt is a firearm that fits (length-of-pull, balance, weight, etc.) and one you’re comfortable shooting,” Powell explained. “But comfort doesn’t refer solely to recoil, it also applies to knowing the rifle’s capability and limits as well as the shooter’s own range of skills. Take the time to find out what their capabilities are. Selling a caliber based on just the game is a disservice to them, you and the animal.”
Don’t overlook the importance of quality optics, Powell shared.
“The biggest investment should be in quality optics. Necessities include a riflescope, rangefinder and binoculars,” she said. “For your customers, identifying their quarry and confirming its legality — when hunting big game with a point requirement or other trophy restrictions — means they need the best, affordable binoculars around. Considering prime time for many species is the low-light conditions at dawn and dusk, you need to offer optics providing clarity and brightness.”
8-inch Danner Women’s High Ground
Footwear & More
One of the most overlooked pieces of equipment in my opinion is footwear. Like Linda, I began hunting 20 years ago and the options were limited. Now, there are more types of boots available. Before recommending a boot, find out the type of hunt — will she be stalking, climbing or sitting in a stand or blind? Ill-fitting footwear can ruin a hunt before it even starts.
Danner has an outstanding line of hunting boots for women (I have a pair myself). The Women’s High Ground is waterproof and offers different Thinsulate Ultra Insulation options. Another company is Irish Setter by Red Wing Shoes. Their Vaprtrek boot for women is very nice. Like Danner, they’re waterproof and insulated and have a number of other features such as Scentban and RPM Technology. Plus, they’ve built women-specific styles for a better fit.
Another overlooked item is the backpack. Slumberjack has a great backpack for women: the Wild-Her hunting pack. It has a contoured hip belt and shoulder straps designed for a woman’s body. Likewise, the Tenzing Outdoors TZ 1215W is a 1,215-cubic-inch pack with an internal aluminum frame stay, slim padded shoulder straps and padded hip support designed for women. Both have women-specific torso length.
Women still struggle to find a wide range of affordable clothing designed for big-game hunting. We can find clothing for outdoor activities like hiking, skiing, snowmobiling, etc., suitable for hunting, but the color options are not appropriate (pink, purple or other bright colors). There are a few companies catering to women such as Próis, Sitka and FirstLite, but availability is still limited. If shelf space prohibits carrying clothing for women, have catalogs readily available.
Share The Essentials
Outfitting women — whether they’re novice or experienced — with the proper equipment is part of the selling process, but anybody can sell equipment. Preparing them, listening to what their needs are and instilling confidence by sharing knowledge of what to do and what to expect can elevate a store’s stature.
Discount Tire not only sold the essentials, they provided the basics. In doing so they substantially raised their profile in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area far above other tire stores. If something as simple as changing a tire garners this much attention, think of what sharing the basics of hunting big game could do.