As I was writing this, the words and concepts kept juxtaposing themselves
different combinations, much as letters of the alphabet do when you're playing
Scrabble. Myriad interpretations can be offered of the same players, quotations, and events
depending on who's doing the observing (the Rashomon Phenomenon). But I believe in
truth, and not the notion that it's just your perception vs. mine. One test of
veracity is to kick the stimuli that are presenting themselves in different places to
ensure that the perception is real, as distinguished from "virtual." In
computerese, "virtual" means the appearance of reality for the purpose of
accomplishing a short-term goal, but you can't bank on it, you can't save it, it all
disappears when you turn off the computer. I believe and trust that our wildlife
management agencies are operating in virtual reality. They know the
to be shut off, but they're determined to go out with a bang.
The real reality is that the traditional white male hunting population
declining and the Conservation Fund's bottom line is plummeting. More young people
are more interested in Nintendo than in getting up at the crack of dawn, freezing their
butts off in the forest while Waiting for a hapless animal to wander by so they can
destroy it. Those trends are making game agencies and the weapons industry quiver.
Realizing that their traditional customer base is dwindling (though too slowly for
us), game agencies are aiming their marketing power at women, children, and, to a lesser
degree, minorities. Their assumption is that getting women to hunt means getting
children to hunt, and getting children to hunt (in their terms to "appreciate
nature") ensures, in virtual reality, the continuation of weapons, ammo, and hunting
license sales. Agencies blame the fact that young people are not hunting on a
growing number of single-parent families headed by remiss moms; moms who arc not
instilling the hunting "ethic" in their children.
In the August, 1994 issue of Wyoming Wildlife, an article appeared
entitled, "Single with Children." The author, Kathy Etling, says: "If more
women and children hunted it would be pretty tough for animal rights cults to enlist any
public support against the sport." She goes on to extol the virtues of passing
the hunting "tradition" down from grandmother to granddaughter (She's into
virtual traditions as well.) The article focuses on a "no-nonsense
conservationist-type grandma leading her daughter and granddaughter from a
"successful" upland bird hunt. The granddaughter is cheerily swinging two
dead pheasants as she skips along in back of the adults. The problem with that image
is that it doesn't represent the typical matriarchal family. They are oddballs, all
three of them, and will happily have no impact on the bottom line. Nevertheless,
theme keeps popping up.
The real reality is that game agencies are working on ways to improve
income, and that means generating more weapons sales by providing more hunting
opportunity, widening the traditional customer base and creating new ones. Their
income is based primarily on the sale of hunting licenses and excise taxes on weapons and
ammo. Every handgun. semi-automatic, rifle, shotgun, bow, arrow. and ammo carries a
10 - 11% excise tax that goes to "wildlife restoration" which means creating
more hunting opportunity so that weapons have a continuing market. Furthermore,
state game agencies get a pro-rated percentage of the excise tax depending on the member
of hurting licenses they sell. States compete with each other to sell
Christine Thomas, Assoc. Prof. of Resource Management at the U.
Wisconsin-Stevens Point, created a course in 1991 to recruit Women hunters. That
course is given around the country and there are claims that the classes are packed.
"Sportsmen" have also embarked on a campaign to encourage hunters to
befriend young (usually male) children of single moms to take them hunting. (It's
getting bizarre.) And, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) is
push hunting programs into 40,000 schools across America this year and reach
schools by 1996.
Hunter safety manuals are becoming laced with illustrations of women,
minorities. Dick and Jane style illustrations show male instructors helping
women to learn
the ropes. He stands next to his female "student" helping her to
comprehend the fine points of taking aim. Both are smiling and you can imagine the
way the rest of the day will go. Will they go hunting? Or will they merely
spend the rest of the day over a glass of wine sharing stories of their besotted love for
nature? My feeling is they still simply self-distruct as real reality
sets in, but
we have to stay tuned for that one.
The marketing strategy smacks of Revlon founder Charlie Revson's
getting women to wear nail polish to match their lipstick. He didn't sell
"gunk" for nails and lips. He sold romance. Charlie was smart. He
said. "Your lipsticked lips with matching fingertips will have men falling at your
feet"; to the men, he said, "You aren't real men if you aren't enamored of
lipstick enhanced women with matching fingertips." As it began
to work, Charlie
went laughing all the way to the bank.
Hunting magazines devote pages to women who hunt, and every issue
covers "successful" female hunters who have bagged bigger and better "game"
than their male counterparts. (That could be the reason men are leaving the
"sport"--Maybe this isn't a bad idea!) But for now, hunting
considered a man's domain and getting them to open up the good ole boys'
club to women
won't be an easy sell.
I can imagine that for a macho hunter to see a photo in his magazine of a young
woman smiling sweetly over a big bear she just blasted in the gut might be a little like
the reaction of a socialite flipping through Vogue who sees a hunter
bloodshot eyes and a two day growth in a velvet evening gown, proudly holding
bloodied head of Bambi. "What the hell is it doing here?" It doesn't work!
It's virtual reality! I mean, do you really think she'll be
inspired to wear
a velvet evening gown to the next cotillion?
In real reality, selling hunting to women isn't going to be easy
either. Most women don't want to directly inflict pain on
animals, and most women don't want to
pal around with the slobs that do.
But we learn by trial and error, and their marketing effort has
Right now, about 94% of the hunting population is male. The few women who hunt, or
don't object to hunting, are rising to positions of prominence within game agencies,
witness Mollie Beattie, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and the NRA has
made Tanya Metaksa its second most powerful executive. More and more women are in
leadership positions to promote hunting both within the government and without. -- is it
all working? If the numbers are right (each source varies somewhat) there has been a
definite increase in the number of women hunters just within the past three years.
In 1991 the estimate was about 2% of the hunting population, it is now up to 6% (some say
9%) national average. Although the total numbers are still relatively low, the trend
is of concern. The marketing attack on women should be nipped in the
I would like to think they're barking up the wrong tree, but hey, with enough
marketing you can probably sell anything, even cancer looks romantic in the cigarette ads.
What can we do'? Tell legislators that you don't want your tax
dollars spent on encouraging woman to turn bucks over to Marlin, Winchester, Remington
Arms, and so the USFWS. You don't want "game" agencies also
going into the
Simultaneously, let women who may be falling for the hooey know
that they are
victims and pawns. Let them know they have become another "game" species.
Explain how they will be putting their hard-earned money into the hands of the
weapons industry and government pimp and game departments. Show how
they will be
contributing to the bottom line of the weapons industry at the expense of
public, the environment, ecology, species, individual animals, and their
We encourage any woman who is ' thinking about it" to "Just say 'No!'
" C.A.S.H. works with a psychologist who will help women (and men) work out
whatever problems they are having in real reality without resorting to hunting (virtual
reality). Before you take that first shot, call or e-mail us.