From the Editor
Our November/December cover caused quite a stir. It was the first cover in our 20-year history that featured a woman, and readers either loved it or hated it. The image generated more feedback than any article we’ve ever run— including those on the .410—and we’re featuring a sampling of the correspondence in the Letters column. Reactions ranged from “It’s about time” to “What were you thinking?” —with one guy simply tearing off the cover and mailing it with the words “Totally Idiotic” scrawled across it (hmm…).
Among other things, people wanted to know whether the woman was really a hunter, whether the photo was a bogus setup shot, what kind of clothes the young lady was wearing, and whether she was related to Sarah Palin. (Oddly, no one wanted to know her preferred chokes and loads for mallards.) I spoke with photographer Lee Kjos and learned that the picture was, indeed, legit. That it was taken after a frigid morning’s duck hunt at Prairie Sky Ranch, in South Dakota.
The woman in the photo, April Moritz, did not pose for the picture; in fact at the time Kjos had his camera focused on several other hunters who were bringing in decoys and boats. “April just picked up that bird strap and started back toward the truck,” Kjos said. “I saw her coming through the grass, and I thought, My God is that pretty, and started shooting.” Nor was Moritz made up for the shot. “It was raw-boned chill out there,” Kjos recalled. “That face and her lips and that chin—that’s not makeup. That’s cold!” According to Kjos, Moritz is a dedicated hunter—in addition to being a motocross rider and part-time professional snowmobile racer—and, no, she is not related to Sarah Palin.
But questions about the cover aside, I think the underlying issue here is women’s involvement—or perceived lack of it—in the shooting sports. We spend a lot of time talking about how women are our sport’s future, how we need them to participate if we hope to have our outdoor traditions passed to the next generation, yet when we see a woman in the field or see a picture of one hunting, our gut reaction is to cry foul—to assume that her motives are questionable (She’s out there just to please her husband/boyfriend) or that the photo is of some dolled-up model who’s never held a gun before. The shooting sports have become so far removed from mainstream America that we hardly can believe that a new population segment is gaining an interest in them. Yet gaining an interest it is, and we should be celebrating that fact.
According to the National Sporting Goods Association, in the past five years the trend has been toward an increasing number of women participating in hunting, with an even greater number enjoying target shooting—and especially shotgunning. We need to capitalize on this interest and perpetuate it.
I can tell you from experience that hunting with women can be a joy and can change the dynamic of an outing. I’ve seen the presence of women dull the competitive edge of hunters, as “A-type” men who normally race to dogs’ points have deferred to female partners. I’ve seen the pace of hunts slowed, as women have taken time to enjoy the finer things—literally stopping to smell the roses, take in the views and admire dropped birds. Now don’t get me wrong; I’ve seen women ratchet up the intensity as well—“poaching” birds from fellow Guns and even doing victory dances when making nice shots—but most often they’ve had a calming effect. There’s plenty to be said for diluting testosterone afield and in camp…
The bottom line is that hunters need to not only accept but also encourage the participation of women in shooting. Instead of harboring skepticism, we need to welcome these allies and make them feel comfortable. Only by growing our numbers do we stand a chance of preserving the pastimes we love.
This issue is our annual “safari” issue, which we’ll be distributing at the Safari Club International Convention (January 21 to 24), in Reno. Coincidentally, the SCI Convention is a great place to introduce women to hunting, as they will see the cream of the crop in terms of guns, gear and destinations around the world. Be sure to stop by our booth and say hello.
- By: Ralph P. Stuart