Women hunters taking over the Maine woods

When we moved to Mount Vernon 38 years ago, many of the deer tagged on opening day were registered by women – but not women who hunted. These women tagged the deer killed by their husbands, so the husbands could continue to hunt. One day, a young boy at an elementary school gathering announced, “My Mom got a huge buck on opening day. But she didn’t shoot it.” Too much information!

Today, that has changed dramatically, and some of the most successful hunters in our community and throughout the state are women. Deirdre Fleming, the outdoor writer for Maine Today Media, wrote a great column recently about the increase in Maine women hunters. She reported, “The percentage of hunting licenses sold to women has grown steadily over the past 10 years, rising from 8.1 percent in 2005 to 12.4 percent in 2014.” That translates into 24,000 women hunting today in Maine.

I was a bit amused to find, in the same issue of the Kennebec Journal, a story about the Skowhegan Lions Club’s seventh annual “Hunter’s Widow Basket Bingo” set for 9 am on Saturday, November 7. Yes, this event was organized for all those women whose husbands focused on deer hunting in November. Given the number of women hunting today, perhaps it’s time to expand that event to Hunters’ Widows and Widowers!”

Deirdre Fleming oneWhat Deirdre didn’t report is that, for the first time, she is deer hunting this year – with me. So far, we’ve seen ten deer in her two days of hunting, and come close to getting her a good shot. But she hasn’t shot yet, and I’ve been pleased with her level of caution. She’s not going to shoot unless she has a really good killing shot. We are having a terrific time, hunting at Steep Hill Farm in Fayette, and I’ve told her, repeatedly, that she is very lucky to have seen so many deer in her first two days – ever – of hunting.

Women of the Maine Outdoors

Erin Merrill, an outdoor writer and leader of the effort to introduce more women to hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities, recently wrote in the Northwoods Sporting Journal about a new organization, Women of the Maine Outdoors. “In an effort to help more women and girls get outside and continue the growing trend here in Maine, a group of women have come together to create Women of the Maine Outdoors, a nonprofit organization that will help to provide information on educational opportunities and funding possibilities for all Maine women who want to try their hand at any outdoor activity,” wrote Erin.

Erin and the other women who have created this organization were formally the leaders of the Becoming an Outdoor Woman (BOW) program, hosted by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The major responsibility of BOW was raising scholarship money for women attending the DIF&W’s BOW programs, but members of Erin’s group were increasingly frustrated with the limited reach of these occasional weekend gatherings. Last year they invited me to meet with their board to give them some advice, and I encouraged them to broaden their reach and expand their programming. So I am delighted that they have done that.

“Any woman or girl who is interested in camping, ATVing, fishing, trapping, hunting, etc. is eligible to apply for a scholarship to cover the cost of these classes,” wrote Erin. “Women of the Maine Outdoors goal is to help provide scholarships to classes like those offered by Women and our Woods, Becoming an Outdoors Woman, and the National Turkey Federation. But it goes beyond introductory classes to courses like Wilderness First Aid, Hand gun safety, and Conservation Camp for young girls.”

“Perhaps one of the coolest opportunities is for women to go for their Maine Guides License with a scholarship from the group,” wrote Erin. “Women of the Maine Outdoors has partnered with the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to become the go-to resource for women interested in the outdoors. This state-wide partnership will allow women to get connected with the programs, events and learning opportunities offered through SAM and their partners while having the funding support of Women of the Maine Outdoors.”

NOTE: Check out Erin Merrill’s blog, www.andastrongcupofcoffee.com.

PHOTO: Deirdre Fleming’s first day – ever – of deer hunting.


George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.