column By: Staff | March, 20
Women are the fastest-growing segment in hunting.
And why is that?
The website www.wideopenspaces.com attributes the surge in numbers of women hunters to the general trend that has seen more and more people enjoying the outdoors than ever before. “It makes sense that more women would be interested in hunting as part of that trend.”
The site mentions “several factors that are likely responsible for the upswing in female hunter numbers.” While there are doubtlessly more reasons, it notes “the ability to put healthy, organic food on the table” and the opportunities to get involved with the issues of conservation and public lands.
For a look at the numbers, consider an article in www.shotbusiness.com.
“According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the number of female hunters rose from 1.8 million in 2001 to 3.6 million by 2018, an uptick in participation of 102 percent. Perhaps even more astounding: The number of women hunters 18 to 24 years old is growing faster than their male counterparts.”
The State of Wyoming has kept pace with the national trend. According to the wideopenspaces.com report, “Wyoming Game and Fish Department records show that the number of women hunters grew by leaps and bounds over the past several years.
“From 2008 to 2016, female hunters increased from 11,189 to 14,770, while the number of male hunters in the state stayed relatively the same (even declining slightly) at more than 64,000.
“That’s a 32 percent increase of women hunters in the state of Wyoming.
“Now, around one-in-five, or 20 percent, of all U.S. hunters are women.”
Survey Finds Education Is Key to Public Acceptance of Hunting
Earlier this year, the Michigan Wildlife Council released findings from a survey on the public’s awareness of wildlife management funding in the state.
The council commissioned the study in 2019 to gauge the effects of its public education campaign to help raise awareness of the fact that scientifically based conservation and wildlife management practices — including regulated hunting and fishing — are essential to conserving Michigan’s outdoor resources. It reported that more Michiganders than ever understand that hunting and fishing license sales pay for the conservation of the state’s water, woods and wildlife.
The survey indicates that 73% of state residents correctly identify hunting and fishing licenses as the largest sources of funding for wildlife management work in Michigan. A similar council survey in 2018 showed 67% of residents knew licenses pay for conservation.
“We’re finding increasing recognition of the positive impact that hunting and fishing have on Michigan — which is exactly what the Michigan Wildlife Council was charged with accomplishing when it was created by the state legislature in 2013,” said Matt Pedigo, council chairman.
The growing percentage of recognition of the importance of license sales among the target group of Michigan citizens — people mainly from urban and suburban areas in the southern part of the state — also implies a movement away from belief in two “myths” about Michigan’s wildlife, said Nick Green, Public Information Officer for the Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC).
“The first myth this dispels is that wildlife support comes from everyone’s tax dollars. The second is that wildlife needs no management, that the species can just take care of themselves.”
Another key survey finding is that the approval of hunting and fishing remains high across all geographic and demographic groups, with 86% of Michiganders approving of recreational fishing and 83% approving of legal, regulated hunting.
The research also shows a growing appreciation among the general public for the economic benefits sportsmen and sportswomen generate for the state, estimated by the MUCC at more than $11.2 billion annually.
“Obviously, sportsmen and sportswomen play a major role in making Michigan a great place to live, work and recreate,” said Amy Trotter, Executive Director of MUCC at the event.
Finally, 75% of residents agree that hunting and fishing license fees have a major or moderate benefit to Michigan, the latest research showed.
The survey was conducted Sept. 15 through Nov. 21, 2019. The sample of 800 responses from Michigan adults ages 18 or older was weighted to reflect Michigan’s age, race, gender and geographic makeup.
Woodcock: Spare the Hens, Help the Bird?
According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) woodcock wing harvest statistics and additional state harvest data, nearly one million woodcock are shot each year. A report from Frank Bowers, a retired USFWS biologist from Georgia, shows that approximately 60% are adult females versus 40% for adult males. Bowers also suggests that concerned hunters can often determine the sex of a woodcock before they shoot. What follows is part of his report.
Although the harvest is large, current regulated hunting has not been shown to be a serious regional population-limiting factor. Of greater concern are the loss and modification of woodcock habitats. At some smaller local covers, however, removing most of the local adult hens has a negative effect on future numbers of such productive females.
Shooting more woodcock males should not significantly impact population production because males are promiscuous and can/will breed with many females. It is difficult to recognize woodcock sexes in flight, but with some practice, it can be done.
Some work has shown that most woodcock females “tower flush” (reach at least 10 feet in height within the first 10 to 12 yards of an initial flush), plus females are larger in size and have longer beaks. Most males tend to fly more horizontally than vertically, are smaller and will often fly faster and more erratically. Perhaps it is time to give some consideration to voluntarily shooting males once a female or two have already been bagged.
Listed below are situations where one might want to voluntarily place more harvest action on male woodcock:
You already have one or two hens in your bag.
The hunt area is saturated with birds, and getting a daily limit will be no major problem.
The hunt site has been or will be hunted very often every year.
You desire to improve your ability to recognize and shoot fewer flushed/flying females.
By reducing the 60:40 kill ratio, more females should be returning to their nesting grounds. What long-term regional impacts such actions will have on population levels are not known. As previously stated, regulated hunting is not believed to be a major limiting factor, especially when compared to loss of preferred habitat, severe weather events, predation and crashes of low-flying birds into man-made structures. With practice, hunters can learn to recognize flushed/flying hens before trigger pull.
To be sure, Bowers’ findings are based on anecdotal records rather than scientific experiments in a controlled environment. Al Stewart, Upland Game Bird Specialist for the Michigan DNR cautions, “It’s not scientifically confirmed. It’s a theory, a proposal.”
He cautioned hunters that passing up shots on females is not a cure-all for the plummeting woodcock numbers. It would “probably not” have a significant impact on the woodcock population he said. It would be more of a “voluntary restraint” proposition rather than an exercise in solid, smart scientific practice.