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Female 'Fowlers

Duck Hunting Isn't Just a Man's Game Anymore

Female 'Fowlers

Women are currently the fastest-growing demographic in the hunting community (photo courtesy of WILDFOWL Magazine)

Kansas is located along my favorite feathered highway, the renowned Central Flyway. It’s a picturesque state known for mother nature’s mood swings and merciless wind but, most of all, for being a major duck and goose pit-stop during the migration. This year was unusual all across the states when it came to birds. But Kansas didn’t disappoint.

The coffee was as hot and black as the 12-gauge barrels as I bonded with some cool-ass women I had never met before over a duck hole west of Wichita. Between mixed-bag volleys of birds and crankin’ double reeds, we got to know each other the best way possible: In a duck blind. Each lady had a different hunting background and was introduced to hunting at different ages.

duck hunters looking out of a blind
(Photo courtesy of WILDFOWL Magazine)

Waterfowl hunting is a diehard pastime that is not for the faint of heart, and it's not just for men anymore. The fastest growing hunting demographic is women. As the number of women waterfowl hunters grows, so do the quality of gear options for them, and most importantly, so do the traditions—traditions that are now being passed down from mother to child or from woman to woman. These five ladies and I were testing the new Sitka women’s waterfowl line in my beloved neighboring state south of my Nebraska home. 

 I became a hunter from a childhood introduction in 1997, but some of this crew were only introduced last year. Some were successful big game hunters who wanted to extend their seasons and fill their freezers with more “slaying,” as Generation Z would say. It’s extraordinary to watch the twinkle form in a new waterfowl hunter’s eye, especially when that eye happens to be lightly edged in waterproof mascara. The air is unsympathetic and feels as though it’s freezing your cornea and triggering those eyes to water. 

hunters shooting at ducks
(Photo courtesy of WILDFOWL Magazine)

Looking at my new friend, I can’t help but smile because she now gets it. A sigh of relief washes over me. I know I am contributing to the conservation of waterfowl by helping this young woman learn what it means to be a waterfowl hunter. She doesn’t know how to call, set out decoys, or what a plucked, smoked duck breast tastes like—but she’s asking me and all the other gals questions. She’s eager to learn. She’s starting to feel what I could never explain to someone as it takes over your soul. Her jaw drops as she takes in the mallards dancing mid-flight, and you know this is something she will never forget. But what she probably will not remember is the brisk temperature and the love-hate relationship we have with the legendary Kansas winds. 

There are only two mind-blowing hunts I’ve had in my whole life where I still remember the cold. Most of the time a good hunt trumps any recollection of the bad weather. One was a snow goose hunt where we killed 291 adult geese in extremely taxing conditions. Scouring 30 mph winds and sideways blizzard snow blasting into the back of your ground blind, melting instantly, while temps teeter-totter around 32 degrees. Those were the days when you were stuck wearing hand-me-downs and Walmart camo so thin you could have flushed it without clogging the toilets. You know the stuff. Today we are fortunate to have potty drop-seats on our bibs designed just for women, and waterproof and windproof technology in so many lines of gear. That is something I will never take for granted, as I squint my way to more wrinkles, recognizing there is nothing like a good gun, a good dog, and good gear.

hunter tossing spent shot shells into the trash
(Photo courtesy of WILDFOWL Magazine)

 On this hunt, Mother Nature was holding out on us, though. It was late December, and we smashed a 7-pack of teal right off the bat. “Damn, you ladies can shoot!” came the guide’s comment. It was oddly warm for this time of year, and we were hunting a stationary blind on a small pond with a thin layer of ice but an open kill hole. We took in a beautifully vibrant sunrise only to be disrupted by greenheads, steel shot flying, and inappropriate blind talk. It turns out women talk about the same stuff while hunting that men do…and there is a chance the topics are raunchier if you can believe that. Dirty jokes and “that’s what she said,” occupied the air between gunshots and laughter. Pretty soon, we had a mixed-bag limit, and we headed out before 10 a.m. 

I participated in this female camaraderie for three days, and I was more than happy to leave with new friends and a few new blind jokes.




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