By Rebecca Maglischo
I slashed the metal against the flint for what seemed like the ten millionth time. A single bead of sweat dripped down my nose and paused just long enough to catch a ray of sunshine before dropping onto my feeble pile. Spark, smoke, hope…. spark, smoke, hope….. for an hour now. I simply couldn’t tease a fire out of thin air. My hands were cramping from holding the flint, and the tiny metal razor of my survival bracelet was cutting into my fingers. Another droplet, running down my cheek this time. Fire. The very thing that separates humans from other animals refused me my own sliver of humanity. But it was more than just fire. Something had gotten lost somewhere, something that felt vital to my very existence, something that linked me to the thousands of generations that came before me. And thus it began.
In her book, Why Women Hunt, author and hunter K. J. Houtman interviews 18 women who hunt to explore their motivations for this most ancient of survival rituals, from the physical to the familial. “This fall, women will feed their families locally-sourced free-range meat that has been foraging on natural grasses, leaves, nuts and berries—clean, delicious food without a trace of chemical additives. But it goes beyond food for many women,” says Houtman. “For some it’s a sense of independence that comes from possessing the skills to hunt, the ability to provide food without having to rely on others.”
While many women grew up in hunting families where they learned to hunt from a young age, an increasing number of adult women are becoming hunters well into adulthood. Women want to hunt for many of the same reasons that men do. They enjoy the time in nature, the unexpected challenges that arise and the wonderful interactions that happen with wildlife. They love the fellowship of the time with family and friends and they like providing wild and healthy food that they then turn into delicious meals. Women also appreciate the self-reliance and self-confidence that comes with going safely and successfully afield, and they love to share stories after.
Just a few years ago, a woman wanting to learn the skills to become a hunter or angler may have faced challenges. But that has changed rapidly in a short time. Today, women have access to several programs that help teach the skills to hunt, fish, and process wild game. Organizations especially aimed at bringing together women with interests in outdoor skills are making strides to help them develop these skills in the company of other women. With the current migration from cities in turmoil to small town and rural America, interest in programs introducing people to hunting is on the rise. Hunting is seen as part of the larger “locavore” movement, a trend to source food—be it hunted or grown—from one’s own area.
Elizabeth Bland, President of the Florida Chapter of the American Daughters of Conservation, is passionate about bringing women into outdoor spaces for many reasons. “ADC is a supportive community of women teaching and mentoring other women,” she says. “When women get together, they can appreciate the challenges that are unique to females and impart knowledge to help other women feel more confident.”
American Daughters of Conservation offers events and activities in Florida and nationally for beginning and experienced female hunters and anglers. But there’s a whole lot more, too! “We have more of a voice than we realize,” exclaims Bland. “When women hunt or fish our waterways, they begin to care. And women who care are passionate to conserve!” ADC members additionally attend meetings held by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to provide a voice on matters of conservation. Women bring a unique perspective and experience to the conversation, as well as a real boots-on-the-ground sense of action!
Becoming an Outdoors-Woman is an FWC program with excellent opportunities for women in Florida. The Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) Program provides hands-on workshops and classes to teach adults outdoor skills while building their confidence in their ability to get out and safely enjoy all that the outdoors has to offer. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Becoming an Outdoors-Woman workshops are a fun way to connect with nature, meet others who enjoy the outdoors and learn a wide range of skills. Courses include fishing, boating, hunting, target shooting, birdwatching, canoing/kayaking, archery, outdoor cooking and more. Workshops are for anyone 18 years or older who have never tried these activities but want the opportunity to learn as well as those with some experience who want to improve their skills or learn new ones.
The FWC provides expert instructors and safe, hands-on learning opportunities at these workshops. The next workshop is being hosted April 22-24, 2022, near West Palm Beach at the Everglades Youth Conservation Camp in the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area. Attendees can experience nature’s best in a facility that offers air-conditioned cabins and modern restrooms at an affordable price.
The proportion of women who hunt or fish has risen more than 25 percent since 2006. Women are finding that these activities give them a chance to connect more closely to the food chain and to nature. It also gives them a chance to connect more closely to other women in a raw and authentic setting. Women can come together, as has been the long lost tradition, in the procurement and preparation of the foods that nourish the people that matter the most.