Women take aim at bowhunt­ing

Fe­male archers on the rise in Penn­syl­va­nia, up 48 per­cent since 2013

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Mark Demko

When Penn­syl­va­nia’s archery sea­son opened Satur­day, Jess DeLorenzo was perched in a tree stand in a Le­high Val­ley wood­lot, look­ing for white-tailed deer.

It’s some­thing the Slate Belt res­i­dent couldn’t en­vi­sion her­self do­ing a few years ago.

An avid archer, DeLorenzo is part of a grow­ing trend of women pick­ing up bowhunt­ing in re­cent years. Af­ter briefly ex­plor­ing hunt­ing as a kid with her fa­ther, Gary Shaw, she moved on to other in­ter­ests and pur­suits. In her mid-20s, she tried archery and fell in love with the sport, open­ing the door to bowhunt­ing a few years later.

“I started do­ing tar­get archery and soon just kind of be­came ob­sessed with it and re­al­ized I could ap­ply it more to the out­doors,” she said. “It was re­lax­ing for me, chal­leng­ing and it evolved into a crazy pas­sion for me.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Penn­syl­va­nia Game Com­mis­sion, the num­ber of women hun­ters in the state has been climb­ing steadily for the past five years. In 2013, 87,111 or 9% of all hun­ters were women, while last year that num­ber was 88,122, or 10.3 per­cent. Over the same time span, the num­ber of women archers has grown 48 per­cent, from 16,953 in 2013 to 25,027 last year.

Penn­syl­va­nia’s hunter sta­tis­tics re­flect a na­tion­wide trend, with women com­pris­ing the fastest-grow­ing seg­ment of hun­ters across the coun­try.

Penn­syl­va­nia Game Com­mis­sion Hunter Out­reach Co­or­di­na­tor Derek Stoner, who is in charge devel­op­ing pro­grams and ini­tia­tives to in­tro­duce women, youth and fam­i­lies to hunt­ing, said the most re­cent U.S. Fish & Wildlife sur­vey on fish­ing, hunt­ing and wildlife watch­ing es­ti­mates the num­ber fe­male hun­ters as of 2016 was 1.1 mil­lion.

A pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher, DeLorenzo has trans­formed her pas­sions for the arts and the out­doors into more than just a hobby.

She serves as an am­bas­sador and/or pho­tog­ra­pher for hunt­ing brands such as SITKA Gear, onX hunt­ing maps and Mathews and Gen­e­sis bows. She has hunted pronghorns in Mon­tana, white­tailed deer in Ne­braska and tur­keys in Mis­souri. The days of women bowhunters be­ing seen as a nov­elty in the field, she said, are gone.

“Over the past few years I def­i­nitely think there has been a spike in in­ter­est [for women hun­ters],” DeLorenzo said. “I have friends who don’t hunt at all who ask me ques­tions all the time. … I think a lot of peo­ple want to know why I do it. They ask me all the time ‘Do you eat the meat?’ and those types of ques­tions.

“They’re in­ter­ested in the whole, en­tire process. I don’t re­ally get any neg­a­tive com­ments. I think they’re more in­ter­ested in why I do it and how I do it.”

The growth in fe­male archers can be at­trib­uted to a num­ber of fac­tors in­clud­ing an in­crease in pro­grams de­signed to in­tro­duce women to the out­doors, na­tional hunt­ing mag­a­zines and tele­vi­sion shows promi­nently fea­tur­ing fe­male archers and, at least in Penn­syl­va­nia, the le­gal­iza­tion of cross­bow hunt­ing statewide in 2009, mak­ing the sport more ac­ces­si­ble to women and youth. Where once there were few re­sources specif­i­cally de­signed to in­tro­duce women to hunt­ing, to­day the vast ma­jor­ity of states and con­ser­va­tion or­ga­ni­za­tions of­fer pro­grams and in-the-field ex­pe­ri­ences de­signed to ex­pose women to the out­door pur­suits.

“With more op­por­tu­ni­ties to har­vest deer — the key game an­i­mal pur­sued by fe­male hun­ters in Penn­syl­va­nia — and a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of fe­male bowhunters in Penn­syl­va­nia, the trend of hunt­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion by women con­tin­ues up­ward,” Stoner said. “Anec­do­tally, we are sim­ply hear­ing that more women are be­ing mo­ti­vated to take up hunt­ing due to shifts in so­ci­etal norms with a tra­di­tion­ally male-dom­i­nated ac­tiv­ity evolv­ing in terms of gen­der and racial diversity.”

One of the pri­mary fo­cuses with the ma­jor­ity of pro­grams and men­tor ex­pe­ri­ences is high­light­ing the fam­ily-friendly as­pects of the out­doors pur­suits and pro­vid­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for fam­i­lies to learn to­gether. In this re­gion, the PGC co-hosts a men­tored pheas­ant hunt for women each Oc­to­ber, and in just one ex­am­ple of what lo­cal con­ser­va­tion groups are do­ing to en­cour­age women to go afield, the Na­tional Wild Turkey Fed­er­a­tion’s Le­high Val­ley chap­ters host a Women in the Out­doors pro­gram each June.

DeLorenzo has taken her 8-year-old daugh­ter, Emelia, afield. Al­though she has not hunted un­der the state’s men­tored youth pro­gram, she has her own bow.

“She shoots with me and scouts with me oc­ca­sion­ally,” DeLorenzo said. “She’s in­ter­ested, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet.”

As for women who may be in­ter­ested in learn­ing more about archery, DeLorenzo rec­om­mends talk­ing to a bowhunter and vis­it­ing a lo­cal archery shop.

“Don’t be afraid to ask ques­tions,” she said. “There’s [also] a lot of help on­line to ac­cess in­for­ma­tion. There are re­treats and work­shops for women all over the coun­try — all you have to do is look for them.”

Mark Demko is a free­lance writer.

PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF JESS DELORENZO

Jess DeLorenzo is among the grow­ing num­ber of women who have taken up archery hunt­ing in re­cent years.

Jess DeLorenzo: “I started do­ing tar­get archery and soon just kind of be­came ob­sessed with it and re­al­ized I could ap­ply it more to the out­doors,”

Jess DeLorenzo says fe­male bowhunters are no longr a nov­elty.

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