When Stephanie Mallory, a professional outdoor communicator, was invited on a turkey hunt, she never dreamed the morning would begin with her guide unzipping his pants to urinate in front of her. Being a good sport, she decided to not immediately assume he was a total barbarian. She even cut him some slack when he burped in her face and then tricked her into stepping chest deep into a creek. But when he made a pass at her, all bets were off. Mallory is a woman who is slow to anger, but this man had managed to offend and embarrass her.
Very few hunt camps are that horrific, which is good news for the more than 1.5 million women hunters in this country. But when you’re the only woman at hunt camp, there can be some awkward moments. It’s bad enough that we have to drop trou when nature calls, but if it’s that time of the month; a male-dominated hunt camp can leave you feeling ill at ease. That’s not the only rough terrain we have to negotiate. Even your sleeping arrangements can be a source of potential embarrassment.
I’m Bunking with Whom?
Not every thorny situation arises from where you’ll pee or sleep. There’s also the matter of how men and women at camp relate to one another. When my husband and I joined a new hunt club, I was excited about meeting new people and tried to be one of the gang. However, I quickly realized the welcome mat wasn’t out. The guys made almost no effort to speak to me and even eye contact was a rarity. Maybe I cramped their style or they thought I was boring, I don’t know. But, I can take a hint. Being invisible isn’t the worst thing in the world, but I do miss the camaraderie.
Then there are the hunt camps where there is no mistaking that the men consider themselves vastly superior to their female counterparts. Many mature women didn’t learn to hunt until they were adults. They’re proud of the skills they’ve developed, and find it irksome to be treated like they don’t know the difference between a scrape and a rub. The flip side of that, though, is if someone is providing valuable advice; don’t be too proud to take it.
Men Who Love Helping Too Much
Diane Humphrey Lueck, a University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point instructor and former director of the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program, found a way to deal with one of the most difficult types of men: the overly accommodating husband. (You can substitute the word boyfriend here, too.)
Lueck’s husband introduced her to hunting 34 years ago, and today she’s an accomplished hunter in her own right. However, the one thing her husband could not abandon was his self-proclaimed role as man-who-field-dresses-deer. According to Lueck, he’s always been an equal opportunity kind of a guy, assuming his services were needed by the men and women at their hunt camp. That was of small comfort to Lueck, who wanted the satisfaction of doing the job on her own.
Lueck got that chance early in her hunting career when she bagged a deer before her ride was scheduled to arrive. She used the extra time to field dress the deer herself. Lacking the ability to hang the deer, she had to improvise by tying its leg to a tree. Plus, she had to do the job quickly before her husband showed up. But Lueck proved she was more than capable of handling this task. Today, she lends a hand to those at hunt camp who are new to field dressing deer, and she teaches this skill at Becoming an Outdoors-Woman workshops, too.
Women Hunters at Hunt Camp Today
Women are more common at hunt camp today, and in general, men work to make them feel welcome. Dovey credits these positive changes to the women before her that opened doors to the freedoms we enjoy today—leaders such as Shirley Grenoble, Sheila Link, Betty Lou Fegely, Brenda Valentine, Sherry Crumley, Kathy Etling and many more.
Mallory, Dovey and Lueck agree that sharing a hunt camp with men can be a great experience. So, if you get an invitation, don’t send your regrets. But do move forward with your eyes wide open and your antenna up. Plus, know where your boundaries are. Some women are comfortable playing poker and joining in on the naughty jokes. Others prefer tamer stories being told around a campfire. By joining a group that’s right for you and then being a good citizen at hunt camp, you just may have the time of your life.