It was not long ago that a woman could walk into a sporting goods store and be unable to find a single item specifically designed for women hunters. Women have hunted for years, but until recently there were not enough women to warrant creating women specific hunting gear. Fast forward to today and woman are now the fastest growing demographic of all hunters. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 11 percent of the nation’s 13.7 million hunters are women. Women hunters have astoundingly grown approximately 25 percent just since 2006.
This rapid growth has ignited a spark in women to pick up a weapon like never before. Many women are interested specifically in archery. According to a survey conducted by the Archery Trade Association (ATA), women accounted for one-third of all archery participants in 2012. Archery however, is not just for hunting, it is an exciting and competitive sport as well. Whether shooting competitively or hunting, archery requires a lot of skill, technique, and dedication. It is a sport that develops patience, acuity, and personal insight. So what does it take to be a woman archer?[caption id="attachment_79" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Rebecca Francis instructing an archery class for young women[/caption]
I have profound passion for archery because of the intimate moments it creates both personally, and with the animal with which I am interacting. I have had a myriad of extraordinary experiences while bowhunting. There is one unique evening hunt that I will always treasure. I was hunting elk alone and had just began a stalk. I could hear the elk calling and chirping to each other. I was slowly working my way closer as I crawled through the brush on my belly. I was cognizant of everything around me. There was a slight rustling of the dried quakie leaves, and the clouds were lazily moving past me in the sky. There were black ants crawling all over me, and there was an occasional whoosh of a bird flying by. The tattling chatter of squirrels echoed through the canyon, and the unique scent of the crisp autumn day mixed with the surrounding flora and fauna lingered in the air. It was so peaceful, yet so exhilarating.
My eye caught a quick movement off to the side and I slowly turned to identify what it was. I could see the ears of a small deer about 20 yards away. I slowly raised my head to discover twin fawns feeding nearby. They didn’t seem disturbed, but they knew I was there. They would chew for a moment then stop and lock their big dark eyes on me, their tails occasionally fluttering . I could not see their mom anywhere. I continued on, worried that if I spooked them, my location would be revealed to the elk. Every few yards I would peek up to see if I had lost the twin fawns, and every time they were right beside me. As I moved forward, they moved forward. What began as an annoyance, quickly turned into a precious interaction between me and these baby deer. They continued to follow right along side me for the entire stalk. Every time I looked up, there were two little faces filled with curiosity staring back at me. I lost the elk somewhere along the way, but I will never forget my two little companions that accompanied me that evening.
Priceless moments like that are only one of the many rewards that come with archery. That hunt I shared was undoubtedly rewarding, not because of harvesting an animal, but because of the unique and priceless experience I shared with nature. In addition to the experience itself, there are no words to describe the humbleness and gratitude that comes when you kneel over an animal that you have harvested with a bow. There is a sense of accomplishment and pride that comes with touching arrows in a target. There is a hard earned confidence that comes with fine tuned equipment. In order to be successful in archery and achieve these rewards comes a lot of hard work, commitment, and practice. So again, what does it take to be a woman archer?
There are several facets that play a role in succeeding in archery. Equipment choice, dynamics of archery, physical conditioning, and mental preparedness are perhaps the core elements that contribute to truly developing an appreciation and passion for this sport. Any woman can succeed in archery, from a woman picking up a bow for the first time, to a target shooter evolving into a bowhunter, or even a seasoned archer wanting to improve. Arming yourself with as much knowledge and experience as possible is the key to establishing a total comprehension of this challenging sport.
Over the next several months I am going to break down each of these core elements, equipment choice, dynamics of archery, physical conditioning, and mental preparedness and discuss them in detail. Each of these elements is a complete topic on it’s own, but is fundamental to embody the sport as a whole. I am so passionate about bowhunting and want nothing more than to see other women participate and succeed in this sport. Watch for subsequent corresponding articles at the first of each month on altitudeoutdoors.com, and bowhunting.net[caption id="attachment_82" align="aligncenter" width="640"] 2008 Wyoming Archery Bighorn Ram[/caption]