Cheryl Lee can still remember the time she shot her first deer at just 11 years old with a 243 rifle.
Now having worked on commercial fishing boats for 28 years, Lee still has fond memories of her first hunt.
"We were sneaking up and we got up to the top of the bluff behind a tree, and Dad said, 'Shoot! shoot!" said Lee with a laugh. She downed it with one shot, and remains an avid hunter today, primarily for the access to good quality meat.
As Lee readies for the opening of hunting season next month, so do many othe women.
"They actually have started carrying gear for women now, and they wouldn't have done that if there wasn't a demand," said Lee, who lives in Nanaimo but plans to travel to Williams Lake to hunt moose next month.
The number of women graduating each year from the Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Education program, which is required before any hunter obtains a licence, rose from 791 in 2004 to 1,725 in 2012.
Those numbers are also reflected in the amount of women attending classes at the Nanaimo fish and game club, said Joe Michaels, who teaches a firearms safety course there.
"Lately there are a lot more women coming to take that course. Every class seems to have a few more ladies in it, which is nice," said Michaels, who has been an instructor for approximately 15 years.
Many local women are following in the footsteps of Sharlene MacLellan, who five years ago became the first female president of the president of the fish and game club since its inauguration in 1905. Though she had to hang up her hunting boots in 1989 due to difficulties associated with her arthritis, MacLellan's final hunting trip in Prince George went out with a bang.
"I had a limited-entry draw for a cow moose," said MacLellan.
"And I got it, my first day out."
The motivation to learn hunting stems from both a general increase in women's confidence and an awareness of food quality and environmental impact, said Lee.
"We're more aware of what we want to eat. I can tell you where my deer are from, what they're eating, how it's been handled," she said.
"I have zero waste. I use everything. I tan the hide, I smoke the bones, I use every single piece of meat, and it's totally free-range. Even when you have leftovers, you don't waste it, because you just worked your butt off for that deer. You were up at four in the morning."
Hunting is also just the beginning, said Darlene Clark, co-ordinator of the popular Becoming an Outdoors Woman program. Typically filled to capacity every year, the program just wrapped up a full season of workshops that included not only hunting but chainsaw and axe use, archery and fly fishing.
© Copyright 2013