PINEHURST, N.C. – Hunting used to be a club "for boys only" but in the last few years, a record number of women are putting on their cammo and heading into the woods.
We recently sat down with world-class hunters, Jim and Eva Shockey, a father-daughter duo with their own television show, to find out what's behind the trend.
Jim Shockey, who hails from Saskatchewan, Canada, has been called this era's most accomplished hunter. He has two hunting shows on the Outdoor Channel, "Jim Shockey's Hunting Adventures" and "Jim Shockey's Uncharted."
"I Was Born A Hunter"
Jim has been hunting since he was a young boy. "I was born a hunter, I honestly think it's innate," he said. "My earliest memories were catching beetle bugs and earthworms; from there I graduated to mice and gophers and rabbits and things you could actually bring home and make your Mom cook."
Jim says his idea of a great family vacation was taking his wife and two children on hunting trips. He says his favorite thing to hunt is Moose.
"Alaskan Yukon moose - in the Yukon," Jim said. "Part of the reason is where they live, it's so absolutely remote and pure up there, so I love hunting moose."
But daughter Eva was more interested in dancing than guns.
"I was a competitive dancer and an athlete and doing a lot of more traditionally girly things," Eva told us. "My Mom was very feminine and not into hunting so I just grew up doing more of that stuff. I also had this mindset if I want to be feminine like my Mom I can't be a hunter which is completely false and now I know that."
Number of Female Hunters on the Rise
According to a National Rifle Association study, in 2001 there were 1.8 million registered female hunters in the US. By 2013, that number almost doubled to 3.3 million.
While the overall number of hunters is declining, the number of female hunters is actually on the rise. Jim thinks it's an empowerment issue.
"It's not that male hunters didn't want female hunters in the woods," he said. "It's that traditionally, the female role in our society didn't allow for that – so now that women have this empowerment, they can come out and do what they want."
Breaking Long-Held Stereotypes About Hunters
And he thinks a lot of that is because women are seeing role models like Eva.
"I hate to stereotype, but in the past, women who hunted, there was this stereotype that they weren't feminine. What happened is, it did a disservice to women; stereotyping is always wrong. As hunters, we're stereotyped in general. The women [hunters] are breaking that stereotype and I think it's wonderful."
In 2018, Eva wrote Taking Aim, about her journey from non-hunter hunter to huntress and why her first year in college gave her the wake-up call she needed.
"For the first time in my life I was not eating wild game because that's what we were raised on; it was really healthy and I went to university and got a little chunky. And I thought, what is different between then and now? And it was really wild game and I realized the only way to eat wild game is to get it yourself," Eva said.
A Natural Hunter Like Her Dad
Since her Dad was already doing his TV show, she basically learned to hunt with a camera watching her every move.
"So I had to start in front of millions of households, as a brand new hunter looking kind of silly but that's what people like to see, that you don't take yourself too seriously," she laughed.
Turns out, hunting came naturally to Eva too. She took her first big moose in the Yukon in 2014.
"It's an incredible feeling to be there for a few different reasons," Eva recalled. "First of all, it's the field-to-table lifestyle, so you want to know the meat that's in your freezer, the food that's on your family's dinner table. I love to cook and entertain and I love to feed my husband and my daughter. That meat that we eat every single day of the year, or most days of the year, is from an animal that I knew where it came from. It's such an incredible opportunity to fill my freezer, but more so, that animal that you're hunting, it's a challenge, you're out there in the wilderness, you're out there with your family. I was with my Dad on this hunt, and you really show reverence to that animal, and you appreciate it so much – that you wouldn't necessarily do if it was just a slice of beef in your freezer."
Forging a Trail for Future Hunters
Eva didn't realize it then but every time she went into the woods, she was helping forge a trail for future female hunters.
In 2014, she became only the second woman in 40 years – Queen Elizabeth II was the first – to grace the cover of Field & Stream Magazine.
And remember Eva's first big moose? She used it as the main course on her wedding day in 2015.
"It was moose or you didn't eat. And people thought it was a little weird, and even my husband's family doesn't hunt and his Mom was nervous about it. But people still talk about how good the dinner was from that wedding," Eva said.
In addition to filling their freezers with healthy and delicious meat, Jim and Eva say there's something about being in nature that helps you commune with God.
"You can't deny the existence of a creator when you stand, I call it the cathedral, it's the cathedral of nature. Just look around, please, explain to me, how this was all created with 'puff,' of course it didn't happen like that," Jim said.
Eva says she feels closer to God when she's in the wilderness. "I feel like I spend more time with Him than in any other situation. We go to church and we love it and it's wonderful but when I'm in the woods, to me, that's a little bit more of my natural church and where I feel more comfortable and I can hear Him better."
Jim added, "Like Eva says, it's the closest you'll ever be to God is when you're out there and a little closer when you're up on the mountain going after sheep asking for help!"