THE RISE OF THE ‘HUNTRESS’

More women drawn to sport in 2013

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - ALYSSA MC­MURTRY

Bai­ley Ste­ciuk’s heart was beat­ing so loudly she thought it was go­ing to ex­plode. She just hoped the bear couldn’t hear it.

Only 10 me­tres away from the 110-pound, 12-year-old girl was a 300-pound black bear.

Al­though her hands were shak­ing un­con­trol­lably, she pulled back her ar­row and re­leased.

“As soon as it hap­pened, I was very ex­cited. There’s so much adrenalin that it feels like you’re on top of the world and then you think, ‘Well, jeez, I hope it didn’t suf­fer,’ ” said Ste­ciuk, who is now 16.

“Then I saw it was dead, and it’s a whole bunch of mixed emo­tions, you’re so glad, sad and ex­cited.”

Ste­ciuk is one of the 13,943 fe­male hunters who got a hunt­ing li­cence in the 2013 sea­son in Saskatchewan.

Al­though that num­ber rep­re­sents only slightly more than seven per cent of the prov­ince’s 188,998 hunters, all signs in­di­cate an in­creas­ing trend in fe­male hunters.

Brent McNamee, CEO of Fresh Air Ed­u­ca­tors, a com­pany that of­fers on­line credit for the Saskatchewan hunter safety course, said about 30 per cent of peo­ple sign­ing up for the course in the prov­ince are fe­male.

The pro­vin­cial Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment only started col­lect­ing gen­der-based data on hunters last year, but statis­tics from Al­berta show the num­ber of fe­male hunters there has dou­bled over the last decade and in­creased by 23 per cent be­tween 2011 and 2013.

The trend can be at­trib­uted to pop­u­lar cul­ture, more fluid gen­der roles, mar­ket­ing, in­creases in dis­pos­able in­come and the rise of the slow-food move­ment.

Ste­ciuk said she got into hunt­ing be­cause her fam­ily hunts and be­cause she loves be­ing in na­ture. She’s also a good shot.

At the 2014 Archery in the Schools national com­pe­ti­tion, she won first place.

“Per­son­ally, it’s a mar­vel­lous ac­tiv­ity and in terms of dis­course, I think it’s im­por­tant for more women to be vis­i­bly in­volved in or­der to break down stereo­types that peo­ple as­so­ciate with hunt­ing,” said Mary Zeiss Stange, a women and gen­der stud­ies pro­fes­sor at Skid­more Col­lege in New York state and author of the book Woman the Hunter.

McNamee said the stereo­typ­i­cal im­age of hunters is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly in­ac­cu­rate.

“Tra­di­tion­ally, hunters were seen as red­neck guys with pickup trucks, but now you’re see­ing a new crowd, with a lot of hip­pies with bikes with bas­kets get­ting in­volved,” he said.

A study of women hunters by an Amer­i­can firm, Re­spon­sive Man­age­ment, found women were twice as likely as men to cite meat as their main rea­son for hunt­ing. Forty-seven per cent of women in the study said meat was their pri­mary driver, fol­lowed by 27 per cent who said it was to spend more time with fam­ily and friends.

Ste­ciuk said her fam­ily uses all the meat from the an­i­mals they hunt.

“Every­thing we con­sume is very healthy and straight out of the earth. What­ever is added, we know about,” she said.

Her favourite recipe is deer back­strap and ten­der­loin, cut into thin slices, mar­i­nated and bar­be­cued.

Stange said one ben­e­fit of an in­crease in women hunters is that they tend to iden­tify more with en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism than their male coun­ter­parts.

“In the male es­tab­lish­ment, you hear comments about en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, like 'They shouldn’t be trusted,’ but we need to seek com­mon ground and women have a bet­ter track record at do­ing this,” she said

Danielle Ber­gen, 20, an­other fe­male hunter in Saskatchewan, is cur­rently a semi­fi­nal­ist for the Amer­i­can re­al­ity show Ex­treme Huntress.

“I don’t rel­ish the thought of killing an­i­mals

“I DON’T REL­ISH THE THOUGHT OF KILLING AN­I­MALS, I LIKE TO SIT IN THE GREAT OUT­DOORS IN THE SI­LENCE OF THE MORN­ING OR EVENING, RE­LAXED AND EX­HIL­A­RATED BY THE HUNT. PLUS, THE MEAT TASTES WAY BET­TER.”

DANIELLE BER­GEN

I like to sit in the great out­doors in the si­lence of the morn­ing or evening, re­laxed and ex­hil­a­rated by the hunt,” Ber­gen said. “Plus, the meat tastes way bet­ter.” She signed up for the com­pe­ti­tion be­cause she wants to be a role model and in­spire more girls to get into hunt­ing, she said. Ber­gen will get into the fi­nals if enough peo­ple vote for her on the Ex­treme Huntress web­site.

“Some peo­ple think women are meant to be kitchen ap­pli­ances, but the whole com­pe­ti­tion is based on out­door her­itage and the fact that women can be providers,” she said.

Tony Bernardo, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Canadian Sports Shoot­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, said he’s thrilled to see more women and girls get­ting in­volved in shoot­ing and hunt­ing.

Canadian shoot­ers such as Linda Thom, Dorothy Lud­wig and Su­san Nat­trass, who was the first woman to shoot in the Olympics in 1976, have all per­formed well in in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions.

“Women are bet­ter shoot­ers than men, and I say that em­phat­i­cally,” Bernardo said. “Af­ter a life­time of coach­ing, I know.”

He attributes this to women hav­ing lower cen­tres of grav­ity and be­cause they tend to be more re­cep­tive to train­ing.

“Men are al­ways think­ing they are John Wayne, but women ap­proach shoot­ing with less ego. It’s won­der­ful to watch a brand new fe­male shooter com­pletely hu­mil­i­ate their boyfriend or hus­band, and it hap­pens all the time,” he said.

Ste­ciuk and Ber­gen are some of the prov­ince’s strong­est shoot­ers, but they aren’t ones for stereo­types. Both be­grudg­ingly ac­knowl­edged the Hunger Games books and movies as in­flu­en­tial in get­ting more women into hunt­ing, es­pe­cially with bows and ar­rows.

“Sadly, it’s true. You get some girls sign­ing up be­cause they think it will lead to hot guys fol­low­ing them around. Later, (Kat­niss, the main char­ac­ter) also kills peo­ple, which is not how the weapon is meant to be used,” Ber­gen said.

Ste­ciuk also ac­knowl­edged the rise of pink camouflage in hunt­ing stores.

“I do not like it at all; it’s weird and kind of girlie. Not that I’m not girlie, but I just like nor­mal camo be­cause it’s bet­ter,” she said.

How­ever, Stange is im­pressed that pop­u­lar cul­ture may have en­cour­aged more women to pick up hunt­ing.

“This gen­er­a­tion is far more im­pa­tient with images that dis­em­power women,” said Stange. “So it’s very re­fresh­ing to see Kat­niss and com­pany coun­ter­ing Dis­ney princesses.”

SHAUNTI BER­GEN

Danielle Ber­gen, a semi­fi­nal­ist on re­al­ity-TV show Ex­treme Huntress, wants to in­spire other girls to get into hunt­ing.

SHAUNTI BER­GEN

Danielle Ber­gen says en­joy­ment of the out­doors is one of the main rea­sons she hunts.

Bai­ley Ste­ciuk, 16, shows off her

Bai­ley Ste­ciuk says her fam­ily con­sumes all the meat from the an­i­mals she hunts.

r catch.

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