As Overall Hunter Numbers Decline, More Women Are Hunting

Deer hunting in Michigan isn’t quite dying, but it is in decline.

“A majority of the DNR’s funding comes from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses so this is a big deal for us,” says Katie Keen, communications coordinator with the Department of Natural Resources. “We had big booms of hunters in the mid-to-late 90s and we’re not seeing that boom come back. It’s just slowly declined from there.”

They are seeing an increase of  women hitting the blinds. According to a study from Michigan Tech, in 2000 the state had about 725,000 hunters and just 8 percent were female. In 2013, those numbers shifted, just 625,000 hunters but more than 10 percent female. The study says by 2035, hunters will drop to 480,000 but a fifth of them would be females.

“My dad hunted but at the time I was much younger and it wasn’t for girls, says Dawn Freeland, “I wasn’t encouraged to partake in that but I was always curious about it.”

Freeland runs a website called Women Hunt Too. She has formed an online community for women to talk everything outdoors and how to get started.

“They get that sense of achievement. They get that feeling of self sufficiency,” says Freeland, “They can do this and then they encourage other women to do it with them and that passion just keeps growing and growing.”

Some women want to spend more time outdoors. Some want to provide their family, healthy food. Others just want to join a lifestyle that once wasn’t welcoming to them.

“I just think it’s a great thing for a couple or just ladies, I have ladies that are great hunters that just enjoy hunting,” says David Ebels, co-owner of Ebels’ Hardware, “But I just think it’s a great thing for basically something you can do together.”

Where men are giving up, women can be the ones to fill in and save the sport.

“The opportunity is there,” says Keen, “Anybody that wants to hunt deer in Michigan can.”