Women: the new face of hunting?

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Women: the new face of hunting?

Ask a roomful of people about the historical roles of women and men at the dawn of civilization and they will probably answer that the men were hunters and the females were gatherers. The same roomful of people would likely also conclude that men tend to be the “hunting type” whilst women are more the “nurturing type”.

Jägerin: auch Frauen gehen auf die Jagd Jagdschmuck

Historically considered a predominantly male pursuit, hunting has gradually shed its gender-specific stereotype as societal attitudes toward gender roles have evolved. Women are now more empowered to participate in activities traditionally associated with men, including hunting, fostering a sense of equality and inclusivity in outdoor recreational pursuits. But is the perception that hunting was historically a predominantly male activity correct?

One recent study received much publicity because it made the case of women actively participating in hunts in about four fifths of hunter-gatherer societies.

An interesting conclusion could be that there is not as strong a division of labour in today's hunter-gatherer societies as we might have expected. What this current study has not considered is the frequency with which women participate in hunting.

While it is probably true that men tend to engage in more frequent hunting activities in some hunter-gatherer societies, the study is interesting because it concludes that this is not an exclusive male domain. Even in industrial societies such as in present day Germany, we are told that about 10% of licenced hunters are female. Again, we are told how many women are allowed to participate in hunting (based on the hunting licences issued), but not how often they do so. 

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Whereas some people may in future question the veracity of the claim that such a high % of today’s hunter-gatherer societies have female hunters, we should mention at this point that the existence of female hunters is not necessarily a recent phenomenon. Other studies are interesting because they show that there is evidence that female hunters has been around for thousands of years.

One of the most significant archeological discoveries, comes from a 9,000-year-old burial site at Wilamaya Patjxa in Peru. Next to an adult female, archaeologists uncovered a hunting tool kit consisting of stone projectiles and other animal processing implements. Historically stone projectiles buried with males have been interpreted as hunting tools, whilst similar stones found buried with women frequently led to misinterpretations. However, this particular Peruvian burial ground provided clear and compelling evidence that female hunters actively participated in hunting activities.

Other recent findings revealed that several women were buried alongside hunting weapons. In Sweden, genetic code analysis in 2017 confirmed that the burial believed to belong to a male Viking warrior was in fact that of a woman.

Women are Just as Capable as Men at Hunting

Women seem to have been historically just as capable as men at hunting, debunking the misconception that hunting is solely a masculine endeavor. Historical and anthropological evidence highlights the crucial roles women have played in hunting throughout various cultures.

The modern hunt no longer relies solely on physical strength, but also on skills such as patience, precision, and strategy. These traits are not gender-specific, and women can excel in them as much as men. Furthermore, advancements in hunting technology have minimized the significance of physical prowess, making hunting more accessible to individuals of all strengths.

Biological differences between men and women do not inherently limit women's hunting capabilities. Studies have shown that women often have superior endurance and stamina, which are advantageous in tracking and ambushing prey.

In contemporary society, women have consistently proven their proficiency in fields historically dominated by men, including sports, science, and leadership roles. The same principle applies to hunting, where their abilities should be acknowledged and respected based on skills rather than gender.

Overall, the notion that women are less capable than men at hunting is an outdated stereotype that fails to recognize the diverse skill set and potential that women bring to this activity.

More and More Women Taking Up Hunting

As already mentioned, about 10% of German hunting licence holders are currently female. 20 years ago, the figure in Germany was around 1%. In preparation courses for hunting examinations, the quota of women is apparently already at 20%.

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Women Hunters: A Growing Force in the Outdoors

Changing perceptions of outdoor activities have also influenced the rise in female hunters. As society places greater emphasis on healthy lifestyles and a connection with nature, hunting offers a way for women to experience the outdoors, challenge themselves, and acquire new skills. This shift aligns with the broader movement towards wellness and self-discovery, encouraging women to step outside of their comfort zones and explore new interests.

Another explanation why this number is rising could be simply that the current generation of fathers with children in their teens take their daughters with them into the countryside. This way a daughter learns from an early age that the hunt is an integral part of keeping nature and wildlife in balance. Such parental behavior would have been unthinkable (or very rare) a generation earlier. It is undeniable that recent parental emancipation has had a positive effect on the growth in the number of huntresses.

Attraction of hunting - why people hunt

However, this explanation is not sufficient to explain what the attraction of hunting is for the huntress. Must female hunters have to justify themselves? After all would male hunters be asked the same question? Unfortunately, most hunters (male or female) have to explain their position to city dwellers who live a life detached from nature.

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A previous blog of mine dealt with the questions “how do hunters contribute to society”. Here you can read why this activity is so valuable for the flora and fauna of the european alpine region.

An alternative explanation that huntresses in industrialised nations might share with their brethren in hunter-gatherer societies is the need for healthy food. Slowly but surely, the awareness is catching on that we should consume ethically produced and non-industrialised food. Venison is one such ideal food that meets all the criteria.

Hunters value game meat not only for its delicious taste, but also for the assurance that the animals have lived in a manner appropriate to their species in the wild. The process of killing is designed to give the animals a painless and lightning-fast death. This ethical approach ensures that the meat is of high quality. Unlike conventional livestock, game meat does not contain antibiotics or harmful additives, resulting in a healthy and natural food source.

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Thus, the hunt is not only an important tool for preserving the balance between game and nature, but also a source of healthy and ethical food.

Surge in female hunters

In conclusion, the surge in the number of women participating in hunting over the last few decades is a result of the confluence of changing gender dynamics, interest in healthier lifestyles, increased accessibility to hunting, and evolving attitudes towards outdoor pursuits. As these trends continue, the hunting community is likely to become even more diverse and fostering a greater sense of camaraderie among hunters.


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(more to come!)