Why more Women are Buying Guns

In his one-man show entitled “Defending the Caveman,” comedian Rob Becker explores the differences and misunderstandings between men and women. He does this by exploring his decidedly unscientific analysis of prehistoric couples. The fact that this show has been seen by more than 45 million people since its launch suggests that many of its ideas contain more than a grain of truth. One of those ideas – that men are the hunters and women are the gatherers – has recently lost a little credence with the increase in the number of women who are now buying guns.

Becker’s one-liners all relate to this basic premise of men as the highly-focused hunters and women as the nurturing gatherers. He hilariously points out that this accounts for many problems that modern-day couples face. For example, he notes that the evolution of men as hunters means that they track one thing at a time. If they need a shirt, “they go kill a shirt with their credit card and drag it back home.” Whereas with a woman her natural instinct is to take advantage of “found objects.” He quips, “When I go shopping with my wife, I keep bugging her about what’s she’s looking for, and she says, ‘Don’t bother me; I’ll know it when I see it!”

Until recently, this male/female, hunter/gatherer stereotype was unquestioned. There was even a study published by the National Autonomous University of Mexico in “Evolution and Human Behavior” about mushroom gatherers in that country that noted that in order to get the same amount of work done, men often expend 70% more energy than women. In the study it was found that men went looking for mushrooms, far and wide, while the women focused on finding them closer to the starting point. At the end of the day, both groups had about the same number of mushrooms.

In another study in the British Journal of Psychology (2009) the researchers noted that “Men, the primary hunters, are good at chasing a distant target, while women, primarily nurturers and gatherers, make the best of what they have closer at hand.” Given this research and the anecdotal findings that make Becker’s play so funny, why are more women deciding to buy guns and become hunters?

The Facts Don’t Lie 

The facts about women and guns are enough to make the heirs of Oliver Winchester and Eliphalet Remington smile. According to the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA), “46.5 percent more women are target shooting today than they were a decade ago.” Plus a 2011 Gallup Poll found that 23 percent of American women own a gun. Several sporting goods sources note that this gun ownership trend is driven by both a desire for hunting and for personal protection on the part of women.

This trend is even more interesting in light of the fact that the NSGA reported that more women than men took up hunting last year. “While total hunters in the U.S. decreased slightly (.05 percent) between 2008 and 2009, the number of female hunters increased by 5.4 percent, netting 163,000 new participants.” These new hunters were not just buying shotguns for bird hunting. They were buying deer hunting rifles (up 3.5 percent), muzzleloaders (up 134.6 percent) and bows (up 30.7 percent).

Women Get Their Own Gear

In addition to making the world a little safer, or perhaps more dangerous, these pistol packing mama’s, shotgun sisters and dead-eye divas are changing the way manufacturers make and market outdoor sports guns and gear. The old days of women being content to wear hand-me-down, re-sized men’s camo apparel and shoot either oversized or kids-sized guns are long gone. Just ask Kirstie Pike.

Pike is the founder and CEO of Prois, a women’s hunting-clothing brand. She noted that in the past four years, her company has enjoyed a 100 percent growth every year. In the year just passed, Prois had a 600 percent increase in sales from the same time last year. The company is now joint-venturing women-friendly hunting trips with well-known hunting outfitters around the country.

Tellingly, many women enjoy hunting with other women more than they do with male hunters. Most say that male hunters are completely focused on nailing the prize buck and this competitive nature gets in the way of the fun of hunting. Many, if not most women enjoy the fun of being in the field and trying to outsmart the game. Such groups at DIVA…WOW (Women Outdoors Worldwide) have fueled this passion for women hunting with other women and have been responsible for bringing the sport to younger women by giving support and training in the proper use of firearms.

Many state fish and game agencies have instituted programs such as the “Becoming an Outdoor Woman” program which is found in the state of New Hampshire. In states such as Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado there are special efforts to recruit more female hunters. This is based on the effort to drive more hunting license sales which typically support the wildlife conservation and habitat preservation efforts in these states.

It’s No Joke

It’s tempting for male hunters and males who write about hunting to make a joke about all of the “girls with guns.” This trend of more women getting involved in shooting sports is no joke. In fact, it’s a much-needed development for everyone who cares about keeping the tradition of hunting going.

Getting women and younger girls involved in hunting and fishing is one of the best things to happen to the sport. The obvious boon to the firearm, hunting apparel and gear manufacturers notwithstanding, when more people purchase a hunting license and a duck stamp more funds are transferred to the agencies that (hopefully) keep the woods and waterways from being replaced by another shopping center or fast food joint.

With more women buying guns for sporting purposes, the old paradigm of men as hunters and women as gathers is definitely changing. However, because of their attitude about outdoor sports – focusing on the fun and camaraderie with other hunters –  women are also changing the image of what it means to be a successful hunter.