Dec. 27, 2002
Women now make up more of hunting public
By BRENT FRAZEE, The Kansas City Star
In many ways, Donna White represents hunting's future.
Not long ago, she was a typical big-city resident, far removed from the world of shotguns, deer rifles, tree stands and duck blinds.
But look at her today. She lives with her husband, Ken, in a cabin in the middle of the woods, surrounded by deer, turkeys, quail and ducks.
And every spring and fall, when hunting season draws near, she feels the excitement she once couldn't identify with.
"I was brought up in a family that didn't hunt or fish," said White, who lives near Stockton, Mo. "It wasn't that I was opposed to it. I just wasn't exposed to it.
"But now, I can't wait until deer season or turkey season gets here. Hunting is just something I really enjoy."
An increasing number of women are saying the same thing. Women are showing up in record numbers in the deer woods, duck marshes and pheasant fields.
• The number of licensed women hunters nationwide has jumped from 869,000 in the 1970s to 1.3 million today.
• Those women also make up a larger percentage of total hunters than they once did. Today, they represent 12 percent of the total, the highest in modern times.
• In Missouri, 72,000 women are hunters, a big increase from 1991 when that total was 40,800.
• In Kansas, officials also believe women are participating in hunting as never before. Though they don't have breakdowns of the genders of their hunters, they do know that participation of females in hunter-education classes is steadily increasing.
• Programs to introduce women to outdoor sports such as hunting are multiplying at a rapid rate. A national Becoming an Outdoors Woman program is now offered in states across the nation, including Missouri and Kansas. National organizations such as the National Wild Turkey Federation and the National Rifle Association also have active programs.
"In the past, I think women got intimidated when they had to use one of their husband's heavy guns or had to wear hunting clothes that didn't fit," said Lin Kozlowski, a wildlife biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation and an avid hunter. "But that's changing. More of these companies are catering to women, coming up with specialty clothes and lightweight guns.
"I think a lot of people are realizing that women are a big part of hunting's future."
A new life as a hunter
Donna White laughs when she looks back on one of her first dates with the man she eventually married.
"When I met Ken, I knew he was really into hunting and fishing," she said. "And I wanted to try new things. So I went with him one day when he scouted for turkeys.
"I had nail polish and makeup on, and I had to wear his smelly coveralls. I thought to myself, `What am I doing out here?' "
But she found out they were able to spot turkeys and watch the birds go through their courtship rituals.
"I sat there and watched one of the gobblers strut," she said, "and right away, I knew why everyone got so excited about turkey hunting."
It wasn't long before Donna was accompanying Ken on hunts. And not much longer until she was finding success in the woods.
Today, she and Ken often go their separate ways on hunts. They have fond memories about the days when they both came back with game.
Donna has even taken her love of the outdoors one step farther. Holiday meals at the "White House," as they have dubbed it, often consist of the bounty from the outdoors.
Donna prepares the wild turkeys that she and Ken took and complements that main course with such delicacies as venison stew, quail prepared in a pear's nest, wild-grape jam, persimmon pudding and wild-blackberry cobbler.
"Everyone says I'm Martha Stewart with a gun," Donna said with a laugh.
A memorable hunt
Tina Kavanaugh followed a different path than White into the hunting woods.
From the time she was a child, she was surrounded by opportunities. She grew up on a farm and was born into a family that loved to hunt.
Still, she didn't show much interest at first.
"None of the women in our family hunted," said Kavanaugh, 29, who lives near Ludlow, Mo. "When the guys would go out hunting, we'd stay inside and prepare the meals."
But that changed when she met the man she eventually married. Brad was an avid hunter and talked her into going along with him.
She fell in love with the sport the first time she went turkey hunting. She fell even deeper in love when she tried deer hunting.
After what happened this fall, it's doubtful you'll ever pry the hunting gun from her hands.
As she stood in a patch of hedge trees on opening morning of Missouri's deer season, she saw a doe suddenly appear. Then she spotted the creature that had the doe on the run -- a big buck.
She leveled her rifle, squeezed the trigger and hit her target -- a trophy whitetail with a big 10-point rack.
"I was so excited I was jumping up and down by the time Brad got there," she said. "I've hunted for three years now and I've taken some other deer. But a buck like this, that's what hunters dream about."
A full schedule
Once fall arrives, Debbie Newton knows where she's going to be in just about every spare moment she has.
She's going to be sitting in a waterfowl blind or a crop field someplace, waiting for the ducks or geese to come in.
That's the way it's been for the last 10 years, ever since she and her husband Tom moved to Missouri.
They both thrill to the sight of waterfowl responding to their calls and decoys, circling and cupping their wings as they glide in for a landing. They get extra enjoyment out of watching the retrievers they train go to work.
"We like duck and goose hunting because you can watch everything happen," Debbie said. "You can see the mallards or the geese turn when you call. And it's so much fun to watch the dogs go out for a retrieve."
But Debbie wasn't always so intrigued with the sport. She grew up in Florida and lived in the Virgin Islands with her husband before coming to Missouri.
"I had always been more into the beach scene than anything," she said with a laugh.
But that changed once the Newtons moved to Missouri. It started when Debbie was riding her horse near the James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area in Lee's Summit and became fascinated by the work of hunting dogs in a field trial.
Soon, she and her husband bought a dog and began training it. It wasn't long before they were entering that Labrador retriever in field trials. But Debbie didn't get into hunting until a friend invited her and Tom to take part in a hunt at Truman Lake.
"I didn't carry a gun that day, I just handled the dog," she said. "But I got so excited by watching all of the mallards come in that I said to Tom, `I have to have my own shotgun.' "
Debbie has been hunting ever since. Not only do the Newtons now own five dogs, they hunt every chance they get on two private farms within an hour of their home in Grandview.
Debbie even spends her work hours in an outdoors setting. She is a public service assistant at the Reed Area.
"In hunting, it really doesn't matter whether you're a man or a woman," she said. "If you have the spirit of the outdoors in you, you can do it."
Jeff "Jesse" James - Owner of Jesse's Hunting & Outdoors
You can always tell who's in 2nd place by who's whining and crying the most. - Old hockey coach.
Dum spiramus tuebimur
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