It might not seem common to find the word “hunting” coupled with the word “woman” unless the conversation turns to chasing down bargains.
However, the fact is that more women are becoming skilled at tracking and snagging an elusive target — and not just bagging a pair of Jimmy Choo pumps at wholesale.
According to the National Sporting Goods Association, the number of females hunting with firearms was 2.4 million in 2011, up from 2.3 million in 2010, and the number of bow hunting women checked in last year at 765,000.
Women who also participated in target shooting in 2011 are numbered in the millions:
• 3.2 million used a handgun, up from 3.15 million in 2010
• 2.1 million worked on their shotgun skills, up from 2.0 million in 2010
• 2.6 million women aimed their rifles at marks
One of those gals polishing up her firearm is Jennifer Berry of Elgin, who has nearly 10 years of hunting experience, despite the fact that she’s just 22 years old.
The friendly young woman who helps customers fill out their paperwork at GAT Guns in East Dundee began tagging along on hunting trips with her dad and his buddies at the tender age of 14.
“My father, grandpa and their friends would come home from hunting, and I would help them butcher the meat,” Berry says. “They said since I could do that at around 12 years old or so, I should come along with them next time.”
Jim, Berry’s father, concurs.
“If she could cut it, I thought she could hunt, too, so she went through a hunting course and came with us the next year,” the Elgin resident says. “Her first time out, I was sitting with her in a brush pile and she got a four pointer, and her second year she was in her own stand.”
The father/daughter stories of that first outing line up perfectly.
“My first time out with my dad, I saw a deer but wasn’t sure if it was big enough,” Berry recalls. “So, I asked him if is it was a good one, and he said go for it. My first deer was a four pointer, which means there were four points on the antlers.”
Knowing the rules
In addition to completing a hunting safety course before her first foray into the forest, Berry was sure to go to a range for target shooting using a couple of different firearms to get a feel for the skill.
Experienced or novice, Berry says that every hunter has to remain aware.
“Once, there were other people hunting close to where we hunt, so you have to always know about your surroundings,” she says. “Plus, it’s easy to get lost in the woods because everything looks the same, so I suggest a GPS device.
“You can always go old school and watch where the sun is to get a sense of direction, too,” she laughs.
On another occasion, Berry noticed a deer take off even though the woods were completely silent.
“It was a bobcat, and I just stayed still knowing that it’s more afraid of you,” she says.
A lone woman
Although the numbers of female hunters are up across the country, Berry doesn’t know of many other women who hunt.
“There’s another employee at GAT that I know hunts, but most of the people around here grew up in the suburbs,” she says. “You definitely have to grow up with it to appreciate it. Most people I know are afraid of guns, and girls don’t want to get dirty and clean a deer. You have to let the deer sit for a while before you clean it, and it can be gruesome. If you break the stomach area, it’s bad, so you have to learn from other people.”
Case in point — what about Berry’s older sister?
“She’s the complete opposite from me,” Berry says. “She’s in beauty school.”
Berry’s next challenge in the woods is learning to hunt with a bow and arrow.
“You have to be able to pull back around 40 pounds,” she says. “I’ve been practicing, and I want to be able to do it gracefully. You don’t want to struggle and have the deer run away.”
Berry has been pheasant hunting for a few years now and snagged a sizeable bird during her first turkey shoot, a hunting season that takes place in the spring.
Her family has a traditional store-bought turkey for Thanksgiving because the hunting father and daughter enjoy plenty of their snagged protein all year long.
“We make pheasant pot pie, deep-fried turkey, deer jerky, stews and steaks, plus spaghetti, chili and burgers all year long,” Jim Berry says.
The proud pop is glad his daughter is a good and safe hunter.
“She’s the only female along, and she’s roughing it just like the rest of us when we go to southern Illinois and the Shawnee National Forest,” he says. “It’s just fun having her along and watching her grow up.” kc