For many families in Wyoming, hunting season is awaited in eager anticipation, more so than summer or even Christmas. As the leaves turn and the weather gets colder, hunters of all ages, sizes and gender brush off their cold weather gear, zero-in their rifles and head for the hills.
The State of Wyoming continues to promote hunting as a family activity, and it seems to be working. The number of women buying hunting licenses continues to increase every year, up 32 percent since 2008. Last year, Game and Fish sold 14,770 resident licenses to women, to go along with 8,790 resident youth hunting licenses. Programs continue to be developed to attract women and children to the outdoors; workshops geared toward women are being offered where those interested can learn the basics of everything from canoeing, to shooting, to fly-tying, catering to any and all skill levels.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation and the National Sporting Goods Association estimate more than 3 million female hunters exist in the U.S. In short, hunting is no longer gender-exclusive, if it ever was. Long gone are the days when a woman attending a hunter’s safety class was an anomaly. Women not only attend, they now bring their kids with them.
“As women get interested in outdoor sports, they’ll bring their kids along,” Game and Fish Communications Supervisor Rebekah Fitzgerald told the Tribune last week.
Hunter safety classes for young people continue to be filled, and each season brings a new generation of hunters to the field, trained in the proper way to handle their firearms.
Last weekend, 12-year-old Shelby Fagan took her first deer near Heart Mountain, under the watchful eye of her father Frank. Though it was her first kill, it wasn’t her first hunt; she and her sister have been going on hunts with their parents all their lives. Hunting provides families a way to spend quality time together in an environment free of the trappings of civilization. Cell phones are reserved for emergency use only, and entertainment is provided by the simple interaction of enjoying each other’s company.
It’s a tradition passed down from generation to generation, spread through family members who strive to teach each other and share the life lessons learned from a lifetime in the outdoors. Family values are important now more than ever, and hunting is an activity that, when done right, can instill those values.
Hunting season is one of those times when families can step away from the rush of work, school and sports, and relax together. As our kids grow older and begin to find their way in the world, it’s something that can bring everyone back together, if only for a short time each year.
As you and your friends and family prepare for your upcoming hunts, be safe. Be respectful, not just to other hunters, but to the wilderness around you. And if you go with family, enjoy each other. It’s moments like these that can last a lifetime.