THE RISE OF THE ‘HUNTRESS’
More women drawn to sport in 2013
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.”
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.”
Danielle Bergen, a semifinalist on reality-TV show Extreme Huntress, wants to inspire other girls to get into hunting.
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.