A growing number of the 14 million Americans who hunt are women.
According to the Census Bureau, the number of female hunters increased 25 percent between 2006 and 2011. After speaking with a female hunter who picked up the hobby a few years ago, we wanted to find a huntress who didn't treat hunting like a trend. We found Deidra Bridger, a Missouri-native who has been part of the hunting world since before she could even walk.
Bridger, 30, remembers playing dolls with the doves and pheasants her father would come home with. "I grew up outside. You spend time outside. Now I crave it, it's something that I need," she says.
Today Bridger runs a fishing business with her boyfriend in Cape Coral, Florida, and as she put it, "Rather than going to a movie or a fancy dinner, it's like 'Ok, what can we do to fill the game freezers?' We love to hunt and we love to fish, not only because we love the activity, but because it truly is a lifestyle for us and it sustains our way of living."
Bridger said that although she's been meeting a lot of female hunters online, she doesn't meet many in person. "We're like unicorns," she joked. Women only make up 11 percent of all U.S. hunters. But that's a much higher number than it used to be, and hunting gear and apparel companies are taking advantage of the increase.
Hunters spent more than 30 billion on hunting items in 2011, according to the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.
And as a growing number of women are becoming hunters, companies are making sure they have specially designed gear.
Why not just use the same gear? For one thing, it doesn’t always fit. For instance, women generally have shorter arms than men and consequently shorter draw lengths for bows, according to Mike Ziebell, a spokesman for Mathews, a bow manufacturer.
Mathews began designing bows specifically for women six or seven years ago, he said, in response to retailers saying there was a growing market of women who are serious hunters.
A decade ago, women used bows that were often marketed as "youth and ladies" models. In reality, they were often junk, Ziebell said.
That’s no longer the case now. Mathews has several bows just for women, and other companies, like Hoyt, have entered the market.
It's not jut bow-makers.
As National Geographic pointed out, “Retailers have taken notice, too. Companies like SHE Outdoor Apparel, Cabela's, and Próis are outfitting women hunters with clothing and accessories created for the female body.”
It seems to be paying off.
SHE Outdoor Apparel, which was formerly SHE Safari LLC, said in a late 2008 press release that they had experienced “unprecedented growth over the last year.”
The company has promoted itself as both a functional and attractive alternative to traditional hunting companies that have marketed strictly to men.
There aren't too many companies in that arena right now, but expect to see more in the future. According to Ziebell, the increase in the number of women hunting seems to be sustaining.
"It's still a growing market," he said. "Probably the fastest growing segment of the hunting market is women."
Deidra Bridger has noticed the increase in female hunting apparel, and although she doesn't always use it, she thinks the industry is moving in the right direction. "Because I grew up hunting and I'm not just getting into hunting, to me it's weird to have pink on your camo. But… I am for anything that will draw more women into the outdoors."
Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.