I suppose it was about 20 years ago when my friend Mike made a comment that will forever stick in my mind. He was much younger then, recently married, and his wife wanted to spend as much time as she possibly could with him. Indeed, Mike’s wife wanted to discover all aspect’s of his life…including sharing his interest for the outdoors.
Of course, Mike did not want that to happen. He wanted the time spent outdoors to be just with the boys…the last bastion of male independence and freedom…a time away from women and all associated “girly” things. The infamous comment he made to me was summed up much like this…“my wife is bugging me to go out duck hunting and I don’t know how much longer I can put her off. I just know that when she goes it is going to be the coldest damn day of the year so she never wants to go hunting again.” In other words, Mike’s goal was to get any future thoughts of his wife going hunting ever again completely out of her mind.
Now let’s fast forward 20 years or so. I was talking with Mike just the other day and he was telling me that this year he plans to bring his daughter, Kelsey, deer hunting for the first time. He gave her the option…she gave it lots of thought…and then told her dad that she wanted to hunt deer. In fact, she wanted to experience everything about the hunt…although she wasn’t real keen on having to gut the deer if she was successful. Last I heard Mike is planning to bring his daughter hunting and he is very excited about this opportunity to share special time with her.
Hmmm…. What has changed during the past two decades? Did Mike’s attitude finally mature so he now better understands that women in the outdoors could be an acceptable occurrence…or has society in general become more accepting, if not downright encouraging of women who are discovering new opportunities to enjoy the outdoors?
Not to discredit my friend Mike—although that has never stopped me before— I do think that societal attitudes have certainly changed towards women who enjoy hunting and fishing. What was once a taboo form of recreation for a lady is now very much acceptable, in fact I dare say in some circles it could be encouraged. Personally, nothing could please me more than to see this gender evolution taking place in our outdoor world.
There are two popular programs that are at the forefront of inspiring women to live and enjoy the outdoors. The primary program is Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) and the other program is sponsored through the National Wild Turkey Federation and is called Women in the Outdoors. Both programs offer weekend workshops to help ladies grow outdoor skills in a friendly, pressure-free environment. Oddly enough, many of the women who attend these programs actually are more comfortable gaining their outdoor knowledge from these programs, rather than a well-meaning male in their life. In fact, learning from a significant other can often challenge the patience of both the teacher and the student with so many new skills that must be presented and developed.
Even so, outdoors women are learning something that men have long ago discovered—the outdoors…whether it be hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, etc…can be a perfect opportunity to build camaraderie among pals and to foster new friendships. If you’ve ever been around a group of women in one of these programs you will also learn one other thing…and that is these ladies know how to have fun. They can laugh at themselves…but they also pull together and will help each other develop the new skills much better than many of their male counterparts will do in similar circumstances.
I truly believe that seeing women become active in the same sports that many of us males enjoy is a very positive happening. It’s no accident that outdoors women are one of the fastest growing segments of the outdoors industry. Today camo clothing is made exclusively for women…women have their own waders, their own hunting and fishing equipment…and they don’t just settle for the same items that guys use. Indeed, today’s woman has an attitude that they belong in the woods or on the water…and many of them are prepared to prove it.
As far as my friend Mike is concerned, it’s refreshing to see he’s now developed a healthy attitude that his only daughter should have the very same opportunities that both of his boys experienced. Kelsey plays hockey…and this year she will be deer hunting for the first time. Best of all, seated next to her in the deer stand will be her loving dad who is very proud to finally provide that opportunity for his little girl.
© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.