Not your grandpa’s big burly man profile anymore
By Randy Beaudette
In the not so distant past, burly men with their equally burly buddies set out to their favorite hunting grounds to pursue whatever species of quarry they had a license for. They would leave their families back home to engage in the most ancient of rituals. Hunting! They would sleep in tents, eat out of their mess kits, relieve themselves in the woods, play poker after the sun went down, and for the most part revisit their ingrained caveman tendencies.
A recent trend indicates more women and families are taking to the field to participate in the annual hunt. Ladies have their own line of hunting clothing and footwear, bows and guns are more lightweight and sized to the stature of females and youngsters. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) encourages women and youngsters to hunt by providing Hunter Outreach Programs and special incentives such as the reduced price of youth Big Game licenses. During a recent big game season, I encountered more families dressed in camo and/or wearing orange than any time in recent memory. One little fella seen out on the field couldn’t have been more than about three maybe four years old. Mom put an orange vest on him that looked more like an apron but he was having fun and enjoying the outdoors just like the rest of us.
My wife Kathie (aka Red Leader) and I have been hunting off and on since we were married almost 23 years ago. At that time, it was rare to see a woman, let alone a family, out in the field. We would bring our two young boys with us and spend days hunting for big game or upland birds. Red had to buy off-the-shelf men’s hunting gear, and the kids wore extra small men’s size clothing, and comfort was not factored into our field gear. Now she can get clothes and boots especially designed for women of the outdoors. Women’s safari gear doesn’t sport the Ralph Loren or Gucci label, they are however, marketed and sold by SHE Outdoor Gear, Russell Outdoor, Cabela’s, and Bass Pro Shops. Red is especially excited this year about CPW allowing Florescent Pink colored clothing, along with the traditional Florescent Orange clothing, in the field. At the time of this writing, we have yet to find any manufactures or outlets offering any legal pink outdoor wear, but then again, it’s a new regulation and given the current market, it is only a matter of time before florescent pink hunting gear will be available on the shelves of your favorite sporting goods store.
The Women Afield Program sponsored by CPW is dedicated to teaching basic skills in hunting, shooting sports, and angling to women. The program is designed to allow women to learn with other women in a comfortable environment. They offer seminars and clinics designed to teach basic skills in the classroom, range, or out in the field. The seminars are designed to provide “hands on” experience. Clinics and seminars are typically held during the summer to prepare women for hunting and fishing opportunities in the fall, according to CPW website. Spokeswoman and CPW Hunter Outreach Coordinator Crystal Chick states that, “Women are our biggest and fastest growing population of new hunters. So we want to provide them with the information to make them lifelong hunters.” Ladies nights out are a series of mini-clinics offered throughout the year. These typically occur during evenings or on weekends and they are intended to introduce women to basic skills and techniques. The Hunter Outreach program occasionally offers guided hunts so the ladies can put their newfound skills to practice out in the field.
A similar program is offered to Colorado youth through the Youth Hunter Outreach program. This program guides the youngsters through the Hunter Safety process, teaches them skills needed out in the field, and even basic skills on how to prepare the harvested game for the table. Youth hunting licenses for big game and turkey are sold at a reduced price to youth 12 to 17 years of age. Certain State Wildlife Areas and State Land Trusts are set aside for Youth/Mentor hunting only. These areas are closed to the typical hunters and are all located outside Gilpin County.
Most youth and women hunters encountered out in the field during the recent second Big Game season do not participate in the CPW outreach programs. They are fortunate enough to have a father, husband, brother or another family member guide and mentor them out in the field. Talking to one such youngster in a convenience store in Kremmling, she stated that her daddy takes her out elk hunting and she’s having a good time. These were communicated to me with a series of head nods. When ask about the wind, snow and cold that we all encountered on Saturday, she really had no comment. She must have spent the day in the pick-up next to the heater.
Another group out in the field was a father, his son, and the son’s new bride. The dad told me that this is his daughter-in-law’s first deer hunt. The newlyweds were working a side hill while the dad kept the truck warm at the bottom of the hill as I interviewed him. He and his sons have traditionally hunted the area for years, but this year is different, not only with the addition of the daughter-in-law, but his wife also came along too – she’s back at the motel in town staying warm. Then he was off in a flash before I could get his name to meet his kids at the bottom of the sagebrush covered hill.
The evolution of hunting now includes women and families that, rather than go to Disneyland or the Grand Canyon for a vacation, they now mail in their big game applications early in the year in preparation to pursue game in the field. Parents pull children out of school, folks set up house sitters to attend to the affairs at home, and everyone piles in the 4X4 for a few days at the hunting grounds. Not only is this an excellent family bonding experience, there’s a chance that it might yield a tasty harvest that can be enjoyed around the family table throughout the winter months. Of course there are still those traditional burley manly hunters that make up the majority of the hunters out in the field, but it is refreshing to know that hunting is appealing to a new demographic and a new generation of folks that will keep this ancient of rituals alive for years to come.
Applications to participate 2018 Women Afield Program or the Youth Hunting Programs will be available soon on the CPW website. Visit http://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/HunterOutreach.aspx for more information.