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Enthusiasts Encourage More Women To Give Hunting A Shot

Oct 18, 2013
Originally published on October 23, 2013 3:00 pm

The departure time for Wyoming's inaugural Women's Antelope Hunt was set for 5:30 a.m. — but that was before a snowstorm hit. By 6 a.m., the electricity is still out, wind and snow are howling and antsy women in camouflage are eating eggs by candlelight.

Marilyn Kite, Wyoming's first female state Supreme Court justice and one of the people who dreamed up the hunt, is among them.

"We've found it to be just great recreation, lots of fun, and the camaraderie of it is why you do it, really," Kite says. "But we also really like the meat."

Women still make up only a small percentage of all hunters, but that number has increased significantly in recent years. Now, organizations like the Wyoming Women's Foundation want to encourage more growth through mentorship.

The group says hunting is an important way to teach self-sufficiency and economic independence — and taking meat home is a part of that, Kite says. "There's a lot of young women who are single mothers, who are trying to provide for their families," she says. "And [hunting is] certainly one way to do it."

Just to show how outnumbered women currently are in hunting, most of the guides on this women's hunt are men. One of them, Fred Williams, says women who try hunting usually do really well with the sport.

"I think women tend to be actually better hunters because they tend to be a bit more patient, and oftentimes are a much better shot, because they tend to be a bit more focused," Williams says.

By 10 a.m., conditions outside have improved and the hunt is on. Williams and his team of two set off for a private ranch to look for antelopes.

Tara Heaton, a Navy veteran, already has some experience hunting, but she says this is different. It gives her an opportunity to meet "different women from around Wyoming, and more hunters, because a lot of my friends growing up weren't hunters," she says.

Heaton is partnered with Crystal Mayfield, a single mother. Before today, both women hunted almost exclusively with their fathers and brothers.

As the three drive through the snow, they spot some antelopes in the distance. They park and start stalking them on foot.

Williams has Mayfield load a bullet in the chamber and they proceed quietly through a snow-covered field strewn with cottonwoods and cows. When they reach a rise overlooking the grazing antelopes, Williams preps Mayfield for her shot. She takes aim, shoots — and misses.

In fact, both women miss their shots today. The 35 mph winds don't help. But on the drive back to the ranch, Mayfield says she's not upset. Even missing is easier in the company of women, she says.

"When I missed that shot, I didn't feel like a loser when I went and told [Heaton] that, 'Oh, I missed it,' " she says. "I didn't feel like she was going to be like, 'Oh, you're a huge loser.' ... My brother easily would have been like, 'Oh, I can't believe you missed that. You're stupid.' "

As is typical in Wyoming, the next day is sunny, wind-free and beautiful. Both Heaton and Mayfield get their antelopes, and all but two of the 34 participating women come away with a kill.

One first-time hunter says she can't wait to teach her son how to hunt.

Copyright 2013 Wyoming Public Radio Network. To see more, visit http://www.wyomingpublicmedia.org.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Hunting is a male dominated sport, but in recent years, women are increasingly getting involved. Now, organizations like the Wyoming Women's Foundation are trying to encourage that growth through mentorship. The group says hunting is an important way to teach self sufficiency and economic independence. Wyoming Public Radio's Irina Zhorov tagged along on the state's inaugural women's antelope hunt.

IRINA ZHOROV, BYLINE: The time of departure for each team of hunters was set for 5:30 a.m. But a snowstorm hit overnight, and at 6:00, the electricity is still out, snow and wind howl outside, and antsy women in camouflage eat their eggs by candlelight. Among them is Marilyn Kite. She's Wyoming's first woman to serve as State Supreme Court justice, and she's one of the people who came up with the idea for the Wyoming Women's Antelope Hunt.

MARILYN KITE: We've found it to be just great recreation, lots of fun, and the camaraderie of it is why you do it really. But we also really like the meat.

ZHOROV: Kite says the meat is kind of the clincher here.

KITE: There's a lot of young women who are single mothers who are trying to provide for their families and that's certainly one way to do it.

ZHOROV: Just to show how outnumbered women are in hunting, most of the guides on this women's hunt are men. One of them, Fred Williams, says women who try hunting usually do really well with the sport.

FRED WILLIAMS: I think women tend to be actually better hunters because they tend to be a bit more patient and oftentimes are a much better shot because they tend to be a bit more focused.

ZHOROV: Williams guides two women on the hunt. By 10 a.m., they set off to a private ranch looking for antelope.

WILLIAMS: It's about 29 degrees right now.

ZHOROV: Tara Heaton, a Navy veteran, already has some experience hunting. But she says this is different.

TARA HEATON: Just meeting different women from around Wyoming and more hunters because a lot of my friends growing up weren't hunters.

ZHOROV: She's partnered with Crystal Mayfield, a single mom. Prior to today, both Heaton and Mayfield almost exclusively hunted with their dads and brothers. As they drive, guide Fred Williams quizzes Mayfield on her shooting skills.

CRYSTAL MAYFIELD: I was doing 200 yards yesterday.

WILLIAMS: Really?

MAYFIELD: Yeah.

WILLIAMS: You were hitting in the (unintelligible) 200 yards?

MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm.

WILLIAMS: Really? Good for you. You're like Annie Oakley.

MAYFIELD: There's two bucks to the right. Right. And the other one's a skinhead.

ZHOROV: When they spot some antelope in the distance, they park and start stalking them on foot. Williams has Mayfield load a bullet in the chamber, and they proceed quietly through a field strewn with cottonwoods and cows and covered in a lot of wet snow. When they reach a little rise that looks over the grazing antelope, Williams takes Mayfield up to prepare for her shot and Heaton stays behind to wait and wait.

HEATON: My legs are falling asleep.

ZHOROV: Finally, Mayfield takes aim.

MAYFIELD: Here goes.

ZHOROV: And shoots.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNSHOT)

ZHOROV: She misses that buck. In fact, both women miss their shots this day. The 35-mile-an-hour winds don't help. On the drive back to the ranch, Mayfield says she's not upset, but adds that missing is easier in the company of women.

MAYFIELD: When I missed that shot I didn't feel like a loser when I went and told Tara that, oh, I missed it. Like, I didn't feel like she was going to be, like, oh, you're a huge loser.

ZHOROV: Is that what your dad would have told you?

MAYFIELD: Oh, my dad wouldn't have, but my brother would have easily been like, oh, I can't believe you missed that. Like, you're stupid.

ZHOROV: As is typical in Wyoming weather, the next day is sunny, there is no wind, and it's beautiful. Both Heaton and Mayfield get their antelope. All but two of the women on this hunt walk away with a kill. One first-time hunter can't wait to teach her son how to hunt. For NPR news, I'm Irina Zhorov in Laramie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.