Female hunters on the rise in Wisconsin
January 20, 2021
According to Larry Meiller, host of Wisconsin Public Radio’s The Larry Meiller Show, the number of hunters in Wisconsin has dropped overall. Despite that, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reported a rising number of female hunters in the state. The DNR said that over 92,000 women hunted this year, up 12 percent from the previous year.
Why have women turned to hunting? For many, it’s part of the Wisconsin culture. They come from “hunting families.” WBAY Green Bay recently reported that more women have been playing sports generally. Emily Iehl, R3 Coordinator with the DNR, told WBAY that women have opened the hunting door in Wisconsin.
Cousins Megan Mickelson and Paige Mickelson both hunt. They came to the sport via different paths.
Megan grew up in a hunting family. Her grandfather, father, and brother all hunted deer and turkey. She said that her dad engaged her as his “blood tracker” when she was young.
“That’s where I first experienced the exhilaration of a hunt,” she said. “From hearing about the ‘elusive buck’ all season to actually seeking it out and finding it in the woods after a kill shot.”
She hunted alone for the first time at age 24 and successfully tagged a 6-point buck using a bolt-action rifle.
Although they’re cousins, Paige’s siblings and father didn’t hunt. It wasn’t until her partner Logan, who came from a hunting family, brought her along that she experienced the hunt. At first, Paige was eager to hunt with a bow.
“But the animal has to be so much closer,” she said. So she tried deer hunting with a gun because the hunter can be more distant. But once she had a deer in her sight, she found she couldn’t pull the trigger.
“I couldn’t kill the deer with the gun,” Paige explained. “I worried about wounding the deer instead of killing it.”
That’s something many women face when hunting for the first time, according to Megan. She calls it the “Bambi’s mother syndrome.” She had to overcome it herself.
“The agreement I made with myself is I would never harvest a doe of a fawn or doe pair, and I have been true to my word,” she said. “I would prefer harvesting a mature deer, particularly if it’s part of a larger herd… Understanding that thinning the deer herd makes a healthier deer herd is important.”
Both young women cited distinct reasons they hunt, aside from keeping a healthy animal population. Paige said that, during the pandemic, hunting has been a practical way to put good food on the table, stating that she’s only bought about 5 pounds of ground beef in the last 18 months.
Megan, a DNR forest ranger, agreed. Her partner also hunts and fishes, keeping their freezer stocked with game. She added that women benefit from being close to nature, spending time with a loved one who also hunts, and experiencing quiet time alone in the woods. She agreed with Paige, who has learned to clean and process a deer, that women can feel empowered by hunting and preparing their own food.
“Hunting is a tool to manage wildlife populations,” Megan said. “I like knowing where the meat I’m putting on the table comes from, and hunting allows me that… It is very satisfying to be more self-sufficient in feeding your family and processing your own meat.”
Since she couldn’t pull the trigger on the deer in her sights, Paige has turned to other game. “Bird hunting is a lot easier,” she explained. She grew up eating chicken and has a fear of birds so doesn’t find it as intimidating to shoot them. She enjoys fishing (her father is a fisherman) too, and plans to go on her first turkey hunt in the spring.