Alright, it may be true confession time, but for quite a while the whole concept of the female hunter may have been a little lost on me.
Outdoor TV, the source of much good and much bad, is to blame. Something about young women who look like models shooting whitetail bucks in the class that the average hunter watching will never see, much less get the chance to hunt, is somehow perplexing to me.
Now before you get out the tar and feathers just remember that maybe I come from a time when this was not the norm.
Try not to be too hard on an old ex-game warden shotgunner who maybe is just not used to this. Hope springs eternal however, and recently I came upon a bright spot in this journey.
I met Haley Heath in the Weatherby booth at the NRA convention in Nashville. Haley has been a veteran of the outdoor and shooting industry for many years and through her I saw things in a new light.
Haley Heath is the real deal, a hunter and a shooter. She was kind enough to talk to me for a bit and tell me her story.
“Since I was a little girl, sharing the outdoors with more females and children has been my mission. As a wife and mother of two, I have loved working in an industry that not only supports and encourages families in the outdoors, but now more than ever supports me as a woman,” she said.
Haley told me that when she started in the outdoor industry over nine years ago, she owned two restaurants and worked full time at Bass Pro Shops, but she still had a desire for a career that she would have more time doing not only what she loved, but could spend more time with her children.
After almost a decade, she is very proud to pass on her love for the outdoors to son Gunner, 10, and her daughter Dakota, 8. She was quick to say that she had the support of her husband Kemp, who also works with Weatherby.
“At the beginning of my outdoor career there were female hunters and shooters, but the numbers have skyrocketed over the past few years,” she said.
“Trade shows rarely had well-known female hunters and shooters signing at their booths like we have today. Instead, the only women you'd see were paid models to help attract visitors to company booths.”
Haley noted that as the number of females getting into hunting and shooting started to grow, companies thought shrinking the product and coloring it pink was the way to go, or simply trying to place a youth firearm in our hands.
Fast forward to the present and she thinks women can feel comfortable and confident being a hunter or shooter thanks to the support of companies like Weatherby.
Just in the past year she has seen a huge shift in the mindset of programs like the Women of Weatherby.
The Women of Weatherby is a platform where novice to expert female hunters and shooters can seek and share information, tips and product recommendations. Weatherby is also seeking input to design a rifle made for women, by women.
You can visit www.womenofweatherby.com which launched recently and is already getting a great response.
“Being part of the Women of Weatherby is what I have spent my whole career trying to achieve for women like myself.” Haley said.
“I am a serious hunter and all I've ever wanted was a gun truly made for me, a woman. I don't want a pink gun or a youth model. I am a woman and I am a hunter!”
Weatherby has answered the call and women are joining in and giving their input on what they want the new rifle to look and feel like. A rifle made for women by women.
The women of Weatherby are Rachel Ahtila, a Canadian hunting guide, Karissa Pfantz, a college student and outdoors woman new to the outdoor industry, Jessie Duff is a world champion shooter on Team Weatherby, and Haley, a wife, mother and TV host.
All of these ladies will be doing weekly blogs and responding to women's questions, thoughts and opinions.
By now most everyone knows that women hunters and shooters are the fastest growing group we have. The girls are here guys, may as well get used to it.
Haley Heath and the Women of Weatherby are one of the groups that will blaze the trail for the upcoming group of women hunter and shooters.
I also think I heard up there that Weatherby is working on a rifle especially for women, now that should be interesting. Stay tuned!
Larry Case is an outdoors writer for the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at larryocase3 @ gmail.com.