LOCKED, LOADED AND WELL PREPARED: THE WOMAN HUNTER OF THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY – by Randy Johnson
Have you ever noticed that we, as men who consider ourselves to be Mountain Hunters, may at times have the misconception that the hunting world revolves around our “Alpha Male” egos? This of course isn’t always the case but the casual observer may interpret our actions much differently. Such observations can be linked directly to culture, the perceptions and traditional expectations of the male and female roles/behavior that were founded and entrenched in centuries long ago, now but whispers of time that have slipped behind us as grains of sand through our hands.
As the world of man progressed through documented history I believe the urge to hunt became an expectation for males, closely correlated with the achievement of manhood itself. When we look at pictures of primitive man who is depicted with the atlatl, spear, rock or bow and arrow in their hands? As we were growing up wasn’t it generally the young boys who received a BB gun, knife or coon-skin hat for Christmas? Didn’t this in itself articulate the societal concept of who was destined to become a hunter?
Despite the cultural influences we have grown accustomed to it’s now time for us to step “up to the plate” and recognize that the woman hunter of today’s 21st Century has the ability to lead and successfully achieve success on any hunting adventure. The evolution of the woman hunter, if I am to refer to it in this manner, has come full circle. Not only does the woman hunter of today appreciate the pristine beauty and ever changing complexity of Mother Nature but she loves to be out on the mountain, captivated by the “call of the wild” just as much as her male counterparts. The women hunters that I have been associated with are exceptionally passionate, skilled, educated and involved in all aspects of hunting including the ardent protection of our hunting heritage and rights. I respect and admire so much great huntresses such as Peggy Barnett Lee from California, Kristen Davis Hunsaker, Utah, and Rebecca Pendray Francis, all, who I have spent quality time with hunting wild sheep.
My wife and I were lucky to have had the privilege of raising 4 beautiful daughters. I don’t know whether it was due to the fact that we had the opportunity to live in a small rural area or not but my girls loved to go hunting with their dad. They were always excited to learn about gun safety, camping, backpacking, mountain survival and how to properly field dress an animal if I wasn’t there with them when they achieved hunting success. Today, although each one of them are extremely busy raising families of their own, they continue to be avid supporters of hunting and have passed on their knowledge and expertise to their children.
As a desert sheep guide for over 20 years I have had the opportunity to observe a lot of hunters, both male and female. In fact, last fall I had the good fortune of spending a week out on the mountain with an extraordinary woman archery hunter, Alti2ude Outdoor’s own Rebecca Francis. What a great learning experience her hunt was for both of us! Becky is not only one of the best Mountain Hunter’s I have ever spent time with but she is an outstanding example of the progress 21st Century women hunters have made on their personal journey’s to becoming exceptional huntresses! Those “pilgrimages” came through much toil and hard work.
The women hunters that we focus on today exemplify exceptional qualities that are absolutely essential if they are to ascend the steep mountain of success out in the field. In fact, in many instances, the woman hunter is better prepared than many of the alpha males that our culture has labeled as “hunters.” Here are just a few of the qualities that I’m speaking of relative to their climb toward recognition:
• Physically Fit – You can’t be out of shape or “soft” when it comes to navigating through rough, dangerous terrain or climbing steep mountains in excess of 10,000 feet in elevation. The woman hunter of today’s complicated world “zero’s in” on being in “sheep shape” very seriously. They run marathons, are active in Cross Fit, P90X, Yoga and are capable of kicking the butts of a lot of different people in a boot camp situations. They understand the definition of aerobic and anaerobic exercise as they are polished, conditioned, and well prepared “wilderness athletes.” Their stamina and endurance are etched with sweat, blood, exertion, pain, and the tears of success.
• Adrenalin Junkies – The women hunters at Alti2ude Outdoors, as well in other well recognized hunting venues and magazines live for adventure! They are fearless, exemplifying incredible courage yet they are capable of combining this trait with sound common sense when they do encounter a dangerous situation out on the mountain. Their energy is limitless. They exhibit surprising, undeniable physical strength, backbone and resilience in demonstrating the ability to trudge on mile after mile through blazing desert heat or bone rattling cold temperatures. Their determination to succeed is undeterred as no obstacle is too big or too small to inhibit their progress on the trail toward achieving a hunting goal. The woman huntress lives to explore nature’s playground, to capture the magical challenge of the chase or discover that which may have never been seen.
• Well Prepared – When it comes to outdoor gear, research, and hunting knowledge our 21st Century women hunters don’t take a backseat to anyone. They are proficient at caping or deboning a trophy animal and can carry that raw weight off the mountain in heavy backpacks under extremely difficult conditions. These well informed mountain huntresses not only know how to use their gear but are well versed in quality and what works best in diverse situations. Also, when it comes to using a weapon, these women are incredible marksmen and archers. They know the importance of practice and are familiar with every facet of their weapon.
• Mentally Tough, Competitive – Research and history have proven that the best athletes in the world are extremely tough mentally. Competitive personalities are just a natural component of their “persona.” These two critical attributes can be found pumping profusely through the veins of the top women hunters in society. They actually enjoy the challenge of standing up to the harshest conditions that Mother Nature may to choose to throw at them mentally or physically, whether it be sitting in a one man tent at 12,000 feet, waiting for a raging snowstorm to subside so that they may pursue a rocky mountain ram or surviving on little water or food on a merciless desert hunt. When you are out on a mountain for days at a time mental toughness doesn’t become a quality you can turn on or off. You either have it or you don’t as the mental resoluteness of an individual is mandatory to the success and survival of any hunter. Believe me, the best women huntresses are extremely determined and are as competitive as any CEO in the corporate world. They have “unquestionable heart” and know how to survive and take care of themselves in nature’s most primitive environments.
I find that women hunters are no different than any of us. They hunt as a compliment to conservation, obsessed with understanding and respecting the majesty and behavior of a wild animal. They pay special tribute to the peace and sanctitude associated with nature. The ethics and thrill of fair chase is always at the forefront of their minds. As 21st Century huntresses they revel in the struggle to climb across a treacherous, slick, shale-strewn slope in their attempt to access a mountain pass where one slip could end in serious injury or death. Like you and I, the smell of pine needles and wet grass after a sudden mountain thunderstorm or the bright assortment of wildflowers dotting the landscape of a high alpine valley revitalizes their souls.
Another important point that should never be lost in our “shuffle of words” is that the woman hunter today is not a rough tomboy, but is very feminine, professional, scholarly and works hard in many cases to successfully raise a family.
At Alti2ude Outdoors we are lucky to have a pro staff highlighted by successful women mountain hunters such as Rebecca Francis, Jennifer Bickel, Michell Anderson, and Tad Mecham. I’m personally honored to have the opportunity to observe and learn “how they get the job done out on the mountain.” Their self-discipline, preparation, research, planning, scouting and vision for the future of hunting should inspire hunters in all walks of life. Their willingness to share with colleagues and friends their cherished hunting adventures through their personal hunting blogs can become a resource of knowledge for anyone to utilize.
Please note how extremely important it is for the entire hunting community to step forward in support of them and other women huntresses when they are attacked and vilified by those from the anti-hunting establishment who have no understanding of what we represent. The anti’s simply want to destroy our way of life and seem to believe that the woman hunter is an easy target. How misconceived these anti-hunters are! Corner a female wildcat and I guarantee you will wish you hadn’t! Women hunters of the 21st Century are true heroine’s, worthy of our support and respect in a unified effort to keep our hunting heritage alive and well!