Women join deer opener for adrenalin rush, quiet of the woods

Sandy Williams and Erika Rivers of the Twin Cities hunted deer near Winona on Saturday during the opening of the firearms deer season. More and more women are hunting and the state is trying to help encourage that movement.

WINONA — Sandy Williams hopes to get more women hunting by telling her elementary school students stories about her own hunts.

For her part, Erika Rivers wants to make sure Department of Natural Resources publications have more photos of women hunting, fishing or camping, which lets other women imagine themselves doing that, she said.

On Saturday, the two met at Maynard Johnson's land south of Winona and hunted during the 2012 firearms hunting season. Williams, a Twin Cities elementary teacher, was there because she's Johnson's little sister; Rivers, an assistant DNR commissioner, was there as part of the Minnesota Governor's Deer Opener event, which was held in and around Winona Thursday through Saturday.

Though they have different ways of spreading the word, their message is the same: Women can hunt, they do hunt and they love to hunt.

A report prepared for the DNR found the number of female hunters rose 15.9 percent (214,422 to 248,541) from 2005 to 2009, while the number of male hunters rose 4.6 percent (1,488,857 to 1,557,550)


The DNR has begun tailoring its message to women because it realizes that "it takes a family effort" to get people outdoors, Rivers said.

Women, along with young people and people of color, are key to the DNR's efforts to get more people camping, fishing, hiking and hunting, Rivers said. The DNR hopes getting people outdoors will give them more exercise and get more people caring about the environment. If you love something like fish, game, parks or trails, you're more willing to support it.

It's not always easy to get women out hunting.

On a practical level, it's harder for women to find clothes and other gear that fits them, they said

"We care about being warm," Rivers said.

"I don't care about fashion," Williams added.

When they tell other women that they hunt, they often get skeptical looks. Men don't seem to be surprised, Rivers said. Women "don't understand why I hunt," she said.

Williams explains that it's "that heart-pounding adrenalin rush when you see a deer."


It's that rush, but also the quiet of being alone in the woods, with time to think, slow down and reflect that appeals to Rivers.

When they try to convince other women to try hunting, they run into that fear of the unknown, she said. "A lot of women don't understand how fun it is," she said.


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