Barbara Crown was standing in a hammock in the middle of the Everglades, bow and arrow in hand, listening for the sound of feral hogs. It was her first-ever hunt. As day broke, she heard the rustle of passing pigs, saw the undergrowth shake and sway, and felt a tug of anticipation. But suddenly, her prey disappeared. After waiting fruitlessly for hours, she and her hunting partner trudged a quarter-mile through thigh-high water back to their car. Crown tripped and fell face first into the muck.
On the drive home, her hunting partner waited quietly for a long time before asking if she ever wanted to try hunting again. Crown shot him an incredulous look. “Hell, yes,” she responded.
That was over 20 years ago, and Crown has been hunting ever since. On August 20, she’ll host a seminar at Bass Pro Shops in Miami to encourage other South Florida women to take up the sport, too.
“For a long time, hunting has been a man’s world,” Crown said, “but just like many other pursuits dominated by men, more and more women are entering that world.”
In fact, the number of women hunters in the U.S. nearly doubled from 1.8 million in 2001 to 3.3 million in 2013, even as the total number of American hunters has steadily declined. As a result, women now make up roughly 20 percent of the country’s hunting population.
Crown, now the editor of the Hunting Report newsletter and secretary of the Miami chapter of Safari Club International, says she hopes to show women that their gender doesn’t preclude them from hunting. She also plans to let them know what to expect when they set out to stalk hogs, white tail deer, wild turkeys, or alligators in South Florida.
“You can always count on it to be hot, wet, and buggy,” she said, "but you experience things in the field pursuing game that seeing an animal in a video or a documentary just [doesn't] do justice. Anyone who has gone to a museum to see a great work of art firsthand knows what I’m talking about.”
Stacy George, a sociology professor at Whitworth University studying the growing number of women in hunting, says one explanation for the trend may be that outdoor stores like Bass Pro Shops are trying to expand their customer base by marketing hunting gear toward women.
George said early efforts to appeal to women, which included selling camouflage gear flecked with bright splashes of pink, were more insulting than inviting. But now if you search Bass Pro Shop’s online store, you can find over 100 pieces of hunting gear “For Ladies,” and only some of them are pink.
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“Manufacturers need to understand that pretty is wonderful when you’re out at the club,” Crown said. “But in the woods, where everything hurts, pretty don’t cut it. It’s got to be efficient, and it’s got to work.”
But Crown says that she and the industry as a whole have come a long way from when she started out wearing men’s gear and shooting a youth Ruger .30-06 rifle. Since then, she has hunted cape buffalo in Tanzania, red stag in Argentina, and reindeer on the Aleutian Islands, and she has built up an impressive collection of mounted heads along the way. The reindeer sits on a wall in her Miami office.
“Every time I see that reindeer, I remember everything from that trip,” Crown said. “Every pain, every discomfort, every joy, and every experience, from the anticipation I felt before we arrived to getting there and thinking, ‘Holy smokes, this is really cool!’ I want other women to have that experience, too.”
Crown's seminar is scheduled for 3 p.m. at the Bass Pro Shops located in Dolphin Mall at 11551 NW 12th St., Miami.