April 21, 2015 – by Michelle Whitney Bodenheimer
It is commonplace knowledge in the hunting community that females are the fastest growing demographic of new hunters and have been for more than a decade. Sadly, as the number of women hunters has increased, so has the aggressiveness and frequency of attacks presented by anti-hunters.
Kendall Jones, Olivia Opre, Melissa Bachman, and most recently, Rebecca Francis. Each of these high profile female hunters has come under fire by the anti-hunting community and liberal media. The sad fact is anti-hunters’ vile, harassing and even threatening tactics have not been limited to these celebrity sportswomen. Many every-day housewives who choose to share their outdoor lifestyle with friends through social media have also been targeted.
This past season, my friend Joan* hunted big game for the first time. When Joan posted a picture celebrating her success on Facebook, the image was reported by another as “expressing graphic violence” in a feeble attempt to have it removed from the site. It is tragic that Joan’s first hunting experience was tarnished by such childish condemnation.
There is no science or logic behind the battle waged by anti’s, just unadulterated emotion. Anti-hunters hide behind the anonymity of the internet, launching vulgar assaults they would likely not have the courage to give when placed face to face with a hunter.
Just this week, I, myself, have received a slurry of hateful messages on Facebook and Twitter:
Why does the anti-hunting community target women? Your guess is as good as mine. I can surmise that they feel women should be nurturers, not “murderers” (as they like to accuse). Or perhaps they are cowards and deem women as the weaker sex, thus making us an easy target? I would venture to guess each individual anti-hunter’s motivation is as different as an individual hunter’s drive to hunt. That being said, I quite honestly don’t care what the motivation is; whatever it is, the anger and hatred is misplaced.
How do we, as a hunting community defend against such senseless violence and idiocracy? I propose we don’t… We need to stand down and focus our collective efforts elsewhere. We cannot change the minds of people who already have their hearts set to hate. No amount of education will change the minds of those who have their ears closed off to reason.
Rather, as a united hunting community, we need to focus our energies on educating those willing to listen, lobbying to protect our hunting rights, and exercising those rights in an ethical and respectable manner.
Earlier this week I took some time to chitchatting with a colleague before a business meeting. The conversation was moving along well and I was quite flattered when she commented that she, “love(d) how (I) appreciate life and (am) not afraid to live!” Then she qualified the statement with a comment that knocked me off my feet… “except you like to hunt. I don’t understand how you can really appreciate life if you can so easily kill an innocent animal.”
I had no words; her comments caught me off guard. After composing myself, I was able to explain that, as a hunter, I approach a kill with reverence and gratitude. I would argue that, as a hunter, I have a deeper appreciation for life than most of society. After several minutes of constructive conversation, my co-worker began to understand, and even accept, my chosen lifestyle. She then questioned if my hunting helped me channel my “inner redneck” and connect with my more masculine side. I couldn’t help but laugh as I explained that being a hunter and a “redneck” (however she may define the term) are not mutually exclusive characteristics. Simply stated, just because I wear my hunting boots doesn’t mean I have abandoned my more sophisticated, girly side.
My co-worker’s misconceived perception of female hunters makes me question what we, as hunters, are doing to give her this impression in the first place. Are we leaving a positive example for others to see? Are we taking the time to properly educate those who question?
Anti-hunters will not make any impact or win their war by attacking the individual. As individual hunters, however, we can influence change one person at a time. By educating ourselves we can be prepared for constructive discussions with friends and acquaintances that straddle the proverbial fence. We are able to help them understand why we are so passionate about our hunting lifestyles. The best weapon we have is an educated understanding of the benefits of hunting on health, wildlife, the economy… After all, knowledge is power (something the anti’s have proven to lack.)
If we can individually change other’s misperceptions of our hunting passions, just think of what can be accomplished collectively! Through organizations such as the Oregon Outdoor Council, we can stand together and celebrate our efforts protecting our wildlife, habitat, and our hunting heritage. Unified, we can win the war waged by anti-hunters.
*Some names have been changed to protect privacy.
About The Author:
An experienced huntress, Michelle Whitney Bodenheimer has pursued big game, upland birds and waterfowl throughout North America and Africa. Although Michelle loves to hunt and shoot (both rifle and bow), her biggest passion in life is sharing her love for the outdoors with others. Michelle is the dedicated gear review columnist for Women’s Outdoor. Michelle’s writings and photography have also been published in a number of outdoor journals, including On Target, Lady Angler, The Gun Dog Journal, The Shooting Channel and African Hunting Gazette. When Michelle is not writing, she is serving her time as an outdoor educator. Michelle volunteers as an instructor for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Outdoor Skills Program, and also teaches regularly for Women in the Outdoors (WITO) and Becoming and Outdoors Woman (BOW) programs nationwide. Michelle is a proud member of the Pro Staff team for Cabela’s and Tanglefree, and is a member of the Field Staff team for Próis Hunting and Field Apparel for Women.