Pennsylvania Game Commission photo
The sight of females in the woods is becoming more common. The number of women hunting is Pennsylvania has grown significantly in recent years.
Do women who join the hunting ranks stay involved long term? And if not, how to change that?
Those might be questions answered by female anglers.
Here in Pennsylvania, the number of women taking to the woods is on the rise and has been for a while. According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, 96,555 females purchased Pennsylvania hunting licenses or mentored permits in the 2015-16 hunting season. That was more than 10 percent of all license buyers.
That’s also reflective of a trend. Since the 2009-10 license year, when 67,165 females bought licenses, participation by females has grown by more than 44 percent.
The fastest-growing age range among all Pennsylvania hunters, in fact, is women ages 26 through 30. Participation in that age group is up nearly 26 percent in the past three years.
That mirrors what’s going on across the rest of the country.
Southwick Associates, a fish and wildlife statistics firm based in Florida, reports females are the fastest-growing segment among all outdoors users in the United States. It adds there now are about half a million female hunters nationally.
Will they stay involved, though?
That’s the next question. And the answer is maybe not, or at least not consistently.
Participation in fishing here in Pennsylvania has also been on the increase among women, according to Fish and Boat Commission statistics. Women accounted for 16.1 percent of license buyers in 2008. By 2015, they accounted for 19.6 percent.
The downside is that, at least when it comes to fishing, some research shows women tend to move in and out of the ranks of license buyers more frequently than do men, said Carl Richardson, education section manager for the Fish and Boat Commission. They buy licenses some years and not in others.
The commission wants to change that and, when its board meets on Sept. 26-27 in Erie, Richardson and his are expected to roll out recommendations on how to keep women buying licenses year after year.
It’s an initiative the agency has been working on for a year or so. The recommendations – driven by women on an internal work group — will be mixed: some might be implemented right away, others more in the long term, he said.
Finding answers to female angler retention is important, Richardson said. Getting women to commit to fishing annually, he said, not only means more licenses dollars, but more families fishing, which leads to more anglers down the road.
The Game Commission – and other agencies counting on women hunters to bolster the ranks – might want to pay attention and see what works.