NEWTOWN, Conn.―A new survey suggests remarkable growth in female participation in hunting and shooting sports. According to the research, 72 percent more women are hunting with firearms today than just five years ago. And 50 percent more women are now target shooting.
The statistics, from National Sporting Goods Association surveys spanning 2001 through 2005, show more than 3 million women now hunt and over 5 million women now enjoy shooting.
Women today account for just over 15 percent of the shooting, hunting and firearms marketplace, which could equate to $420 million in commerce this year alone, projects the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the industry trade association.
Why the increase?
"More and more women are discovering that hunting and shooting sports are great family activities," said Doug Painter, NSSF president. "It's a new awareness borne from many programs introducing females to these traditionally male sports, along with a growing list of manufacturers who design products especially for, and retailers who cater to, women."
The increases also can be attributed to rising firearm ownership for self- and home-defense purposes, which often leads to more women discovering the fun of recreational shooting.
NSSF manages a variety of programs to keep hunters and shooters safe and active, and has witnessed firsthand the upswing in female participation.
For example, in just the past two years, participation among teenage girls in NSSF's popular Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) rose 178 percent.
In a 2005 SCTP survey, 94 percent of parents said competitive shooting is a positive influence in their child's development. Overwhelmingly, parents observed improved responsibility, teamwork, sportsmanship and leadership skills. In fact, 98 percent of SCTP parents believe shooting is just as important as other sports, and 94 percent would support shotgun sports as a school-based athletic program.
Women also regularly make up at least half of attendees in NSSF's First Shots program. Launched nearly year ago, the program partners with local shooting ranges nationwide to introduce newcomers to handgun shooting, safety and regulations.
In addition to its own programs, NSSF also actively sponsors many other efforts, events and organizations that introduce women and other newcomers to hunting and shooting, such as National 4-H Shooting Sports, U.S. Practical Shooting Association, the National Wild Turkey Federation's Women in the Outdoors program, U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance's Trailblazers Adventure program, and Becoming an Outdoors-Woman.