F ebruary, since it’s the month of Valentine’s Day, seems an appropriate time to churn some fresh discussion of women in the outdoors.
Groundwork for this topic was laid a couple of decades ago. Women who decided to sample the outdoors then, weren’t the first, but they were first to take those steps into the woods en masse.
The industry wasn’t ready for them. Hastily, and sometimes with little or no thought, manufacturers rolled out product lines for the outdoors-loving woman. Some guessed that making their men’s products smaller and coloring them pink was enough to lure women to their brands. They guessed wrongly.
Makers who chose “small and pink” tended either to alienate or infuriate women—or worse, to do both.
Women wanted and deserved quality products offered in sizes and
designs suited specifically to them. Where pink was an option, some women chose it. Some opted otherwise. Those are personal choices, same as men always have had.
Women who really want to be outdoors, choose their gear not because it’s pink, (if that were a selling point, shouldn’t most men be wearing and carrying blue?), but because it is dependable, high quality gear.
Being a woman in the outdoors is a little bit like being a left-handed golfer, which I am. Golf shops, all my adult life, have
been disappointments for me. I’m different, and there aren’t enough other lefties in the game to justify equal numbers of choices at the retail level.
To the credit of golf manufacturers, most offer all their clubs in right- and left-hand models. They’ve solved problems that once made it financially unfeasible to make everything from both sides of the ball. The game on the whole is better for that, or at least for me.
Women’s outdoor equipment and apparel isn’t quite there yet, but it’s better. It doesn’t cost so much now as it once did to add true lines of women’s waders or rifle stocks or boots. Where retailers stock those products, and where sales staffers know the products and can help women make good buying decisions, those products sell.
Being a woman in deer camp or fishing camp, to draw again from my other outdoor addiction, is somewhat like being a woman on the golf course. They’re as capable as anyone of enjoying what they’re doing, but some men simply would rather those women not be there.
If not there, then where. Women are
different from men. Three cheers for that, but there’s no difference so great that it justifies
exclusion from sharing our enjoyment of the outdoors.
I’m still puzzled by the number of men who aren’t fans of hunting, fishing or playing golf alongside women. They dismiss their chauvinism with a laugh, but it’s apparent they’re stuck in an increasingly distant past.
the merrier, I say. Most women I know who enjoy the outdoors are welcome additions. They’re perfectly willing to roll up their sleeves to help as needed. The older I get, the more help I accept.
And, acknowledging the occasional exception, having women in camp tends to raise the overall level of civility there.
When women are present, most men tend to become more conscious of personal hygiene and bodily noises.
Civility aside, there’s not much men can do that women cannot. They can fish and they can shoot. I’ve met plenty of women who can do both more skillfully than two thirds of the men I know.
I hunted ducks once with a woman who won Olympic gold in trapshooting. The ducks didn’t stand a chance—and I’ve fished with women who held or hold world records.
Now that women have the right gear and have taken interest, it’s time we offered them the same welcome we’ve given men who want to learn about our passions.
Women are welcome anywhere I hunt or fish or play golf. Young men would be wise to adopt a similar position.
Even in 2017, there are men who find humor in handing high-caliber rifles and handguns to women just to watch the recoil knock those inexperienced shooters backward.
Cut it out. There is no humor in inflicting pain. In fact, deliberately encouraging someone to do something you know could cause injury borders on criminal.
Instead, start with an appropriate firearm and cartridge. Insist that the shooter wear ear and eye protection, and teach proper gun safety.
Check all those boxes, and at the least, you’ll probably wind up with someone who will take you hunting or fishing after you’re too old to drive yourself.
Back in November, I issued a challenge to Texas Fish & Game readers: Come up with a really good, new lure for fishing in our great state. The prize, about all I can spare while bringing up a nine-year-old boy, was $10.
Best entry I saw, hands down, came from Jerry Adelman, who calls himself the Saltwater Fly Guy. His shrimp fly was one of the best I’ve seen in its size class. He likes it for trout and reds, which I’m certain, works, but I’m going to feed it to some Texas tarpon come summertime.
Soon as I remember, I’m going to send Jerry $10. He earned it. Also hope he sells those flies. I might need a couple more before the end of summer.
Email Doug Pike at [email protected]