Females, young and older, often try hunting and fishing, but statistics show they’re more likely to drop out of the sports. How to keep them is a question resource agencies nationwide are struggling with.
The potential audience is huge.
Roughly 52 percent of Pennsylvania’s population is made up of females 16 and older, said Carl Richardson, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s education section manager. In a survey last year, 15 percent of them identified themselves as anglers.
Yet only 4 percent actually bought a license.
If the commission could turn more of those women into regular license buyers, the impact on the agency’s bottom line would be significant, he said.
That’s where a new internal work group comes in.
The commission recruited 11 female employees, some of them active anglers, others not so much, to figure out how best to reach other women, Richardson said. They’re goal is to produce recommendations by 2017.
One thing they’ll be looking at is why women fish. For most men, the No. 1 answer is to catch fish, Richardson said. Women, though, according to studies, go first to enjoy nature, second to spend time with family.
“It’s not good. It’s not bad. It’s just different,” he said.
The commission has a lot of data to tell men where the best fishing is, Richardson said. The work group will have to take that and other information and “repackage” it in a way that motivates women, he said.
Finding answers can impact more than just women themselves. Richardson said children who come from a household where the mother fishes one to three days a year are three to four more times more likely to fish as adults compared to children whose mother didn’t fish.
Involving women in the effort to recruit other women may be the key to any chances of success.
Take Wisconsin, for example.
There, state lawmakers – namely, members of the state’s all-male Sportsmen’s Caucus – proposed a bill last year that would allow but not require hunters, male or female, to wear fluorescent pink camouflage while hunting. A study done by university researchers determined it’s just as safe as fluorescent orange.
Lawmakers proposed the change as a way to highlight the growth of female participation in hunting, and perhaps even recruit more women into the sport.
One of the bill’s fiercest opponents, though, has turned out to be Wisconsin’s largest organization of female hunters. The Wisconsin Women’s Hunting and Sporting Association said the legislation is demeaning and sexist.
“As an individual or as group, it’s good to stand up for your beliefs, and one of ours is NO HUNT PINK,” reads a message on the home page of the Association’s website.
The bill passed Wisconsin’s General Assembly – its version of a House of Representatives – in November and the state Senate earlier this month. It’s now headed to Gov. Scott Walker for approval.