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November 1, 2011

After sitting two hours in 25 degrees during the 2009 youth deer hunt, everything aligned.

My younger daughter, Olivia, then 8 years old, informed us she saw a deer headed our direction. Olivia quickly and quietly swapped places in our ground blind so her older sister, Sophie, could be in the right position. Then 10, Sophie was new to carrying a gun during the hunting season thanks to the new mentored hunting law.

When the adult doe was 40 yards out, I made a quiet cluck with my tongue and she stopped in an opening. One perfect shot and all we could say was "Wow!" High fives all around!

My daughters were introduced to Wisconsin's hunting tradition years earlier when we started taking them along on our family hunts. Sophie enjoyed it so much she counted the days until she was old enough to help add to the harvest as part of the family outing.

And that is the key word - "family." Sophie is among the growing number of females who are becoming hunters.

A study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Applied Population Laboratory (PDF; exit DNR) found the number of licensed women gun deer hunters in Wisconsin is projected to increase by 50 percent from 50,000 to 75,000 in 20 years.

While this is good news for hunting in general, it doesn't solve the problem of declining hunter numbers among males. That same study projected resident male gun deer hunters would drop from 550,000 in 2009 to around 400,000 by 2030.

The last National Survey of Hunting, Fishing and Wildlife Associated Recreation from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showed an 11 percent decline in hunters nationwide from 1991 to 2006. But the federal fish and wildlife survey, published in 2007, indicated about 9 to 10 percent (1.2 million) of the nation's 12.5 million hunters are women. The ranks of female hunters, notably among the youngest girls, have been growing slowly but steadily since 1991 (The survey is done every five years. The process to compile the 2012 survey is under way.)

Our hunting is a tradition centered around family fun. My hunting party includes my wife, two daughters, my father and other relatives.

More men are taking their daughters hunting. Hunting shows are featuring more and more female hunters. Groups such as Becoming an Outdoor Woman and all-women outings sponsored by various groups are popular.

We live in a health-conscious era. Harvesting your family's meals can be a very healthy way to eat - the free range meat like venison has no preservatives. Plus, there is a lot to be said about living and eating more sustainably than we have in the past.

The mentored hunting law also has helped. Under Wisconsin's Mentored Hunting Law, anyone 10 or older can hunt without first completing a hunter education course. He or she must get a special license, be accompanied by a licensed hunter, have one gun between them, hunt within arm's reach of the mentor, and follow other rules.

Why not celebrate the Wisconsin tradition by expanding your family hunting event in the state's gorgeous outdoors? Consider recruiting someone to hunt with you this deer season. It is one of those gifts that never stops giving.

Plus, you may just harvest your favorite holiday meal.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Keith Warnke - (608) 576-5243

Last Revised: Tuesday, November 01, 2011

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