Sherry Finck isn't surprised that members of the Ya Ya Sisterhood are picking up their weapons and heading to the woods in growing numbers in search of wild game.
Whether it's shotguns, rifles or bows and arrows and whether they're looking for deer, turkey or ducks, Louisiana women, especially in north Louisiana are hunting, with this week being one of the most popular of the season.
Finck, 51, didn't begin hunting until several years ago when the couple's only daughter left for school and left her with an empty nest.
"My husband was always hunting and I wanted to spend more time with him," said Finck, a registered nurse at Willis Knighton-Bossier. "I've grown to really love it. What sealed me was hunting with him in Montana when he killed a state record white tail."Now, Finck is one of 13,548 Louisiana women with hunting licenses. That's an increase of more than 12 percent over the 2007-08 number of 12,037.
"It doesn't surprise me that the number of female hunters is increasing because of a number of factors," said Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologist Steve Hebert. "There are a lot more opportunities for them out there where they can feel comfortable hunting and fishing."
The National Wild Turkey Association's Women in the Outdoors program is just one of several efforts encouraging women to get into the woods. The Purrin' Hens of Shreveport and Bossier City hold an event every spring at Bodcau Dam, just north of Haughton, where women can learn to shoot various weapons, self-defense and survival skills among others.
"I'm 46 years old and when I was coming up, women and children didn't hunt much," said Bossier City's Shelley Chamberlain. "Now a lot of single moms are raising sons and there are a lot more educational opportunities available to us. The economy probably also plays a part. You can spend a lot of weekends in the woods for not much money."The LDWF sponsors a "Becoming an Outdoors Woman" event each year, which teaches both similar and different techniques for enjoying the outdoors.
"Those type programs have helped lift the stereotype that hunting is a men's sport," said LDWF Education Program Manager John Sturgis. "Many husband and wife teams are hunting together. We have one in our office. It's just a change in attitude, which is something that we've tried to encourage."
The Fincks regularly take advantage of their two leases near their Benton home.
"I get to go hunting a lot & probably 15 to 20 times during the season, depending on whether we go on a guided hunt somewhere, because you hunt night and day on those," Finck said.
According to the National Sporting Goods Association (2005) there are 3.3 million female hunters (16 percent ) out of the 20.9 million hunters in the United States. More than 859,000 females hunt frequently (20 or more times per year) and 786,000 women bow hunt.
Locally the female hunting licenses are also selling well. Caddo Parish is ahead of last year with 573 licenses sold this year after selling 529 last year while Bossier Parish has an increase from 375 to 429. Ouachita Parish has the largest segment of female hunters with 838 registered to hunt, while Rapides Parish is second with 822. Calcasieu is third with 574 female hunters and Caddo is at 573.
An estimated $3.4 billion is spent annually on the sales of firearms, ammunition and hunting accessories with women accounting for about $500 million of that total.
Chamberlain enjoys the peace and quiet of hunting, although she takes her cell phone along for the ride.
"Even though I don't stop communicating, hunting affords me a couple of hours daily to slow down and be quiet," Chamberlain said. "Men usually don't think about anything but the hunt, while they're in the stand, but if I don't see deer, I'm usually thinking about everything else I should be doing."
Finck currently has a 140-inch, 210-pound, 11-point at the taxidermist waiting to be mounted. She harvested the trophy buck on a recent trip to Kansas.
"I was sitting in my stand about 5:30 p.m. when a six-point and a doe came up behind me," Finck said. "I turned to look at them but then I saw this huge buck lift its head. There was a doe behind but I couldn't get off a shot. Then the doe bleated, which made the buck turn just enough so I could shoot. It was all very exciting."
Finck said harvesting a deer or a turkey, which she also loves to hunt, isn't the only reason she heads to the woods.
"It may have once been a male-only sport but more women are getting into hunting for a number of reasons," Finck said. "They're making more camo for women and it isn't labeled like it once was. Don't get me wrong, I like to shop and do girly things, too. But I really enjoy being outdoors and watching nature. Even if you don't get anything, it's rewarding and relaxing after being in the hospital."We get out there in the woods before daylight and the woods come alive. You get to see the mommas with the twins, and we had one doe with triplets on our lease. You don't see that very often. The woods are just so beautiful this time of year anyway. It's relaxing to sit out there and see the different personalities in the deer."
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