No longer novelties in the woods, the ladies are taking some really big bucks!
Just a couple of years ago, the Wall Street Journal published a story about how a troubled outdoors industry was staking its future on women who hunt and shoot — seeing as how fewer guys and more gals are going afield.
USA Today tackled the subject more recently from the gatherers-turned-hunters angle. Articles about the women in a male-dominated sport might’ve once been the only way the fairer sex found their way into a hunting magazine, but that’s no longer the case. Camo-clad women have long ceased being a novelty.
Two studies — one from the National Sporting Goods Association, the other from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — offer proof. Women account for between 10 and 16 percent of the country’s nearly 21 million hunters. And many of them have waded into the sport within the past 10 years.
Among the findings were that, between 2001 and 2005, the number of women who hunted with firearms increased 72 percent, while women bowhunters were up 176 percent.
When the next National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation is completed, I expect these numbers will have climbed even higher. Much higher.
Jeff Riggins of Farmland, Ind., doesn’t have a problem with that.
HEATHER RIGGINS BUCK
A lifelong hunter, Jeff was ecstatic when his wife of nine years, Heather, told him in 2009 that she wanted to try deer hunting. He’s still grinning a year later, elated to have a partner, even though he won’t allow the buck she shot to hang beside any of his mounts. “It puts mine to shame,” he laughs.
Preparations for Heather’s first deer hunt included numerous trips to the range, where she became acquainted and proficient with a muzzleloader. She also watched a lot of hunting shows, with Jeff providing a running commentary on shot placement, scent control and everything else he could think to mention.
Just after 6:00 on opening morning, they were sitting side by side in a new double-ladder stand within a 20-acre Randolph County woodlot surrounded by picked corn and bean fields. Before climbing, they set out three Tink’s scent bombs.
A couple of hours later, a doe appeared at 100 yards, followed by a buck.
“That’s the biggest buck I’ve ever seen in my life!” Jeff whispered, which didn’t help calm his wife’s nerves.
“I am still surprised those deer didn’t hear our hearts pounding,” he said. “As nervous as she was, I think I was worse off. I knew exactly the quality of buck we were looking at.”
The doe led her boyfriend right to the hyperventilating couple. And when the buck turned broadside at 53 yards, Heather squeezed the trigger.
“Did I get him?” she asked as the buck rocketed away.
“Yes, he’s hit hard,” Jeff told his wife, “I think.”
“Reload me ... Reload me!” she insisted.
The deer traveled only 80 yards.
“My wife took the buck I have dreamed of my entire life,” Jeff said. “With the help of a P-2 more than 16 inches long, this mainframe 8-pointer grossed over 170!”
It wound up with a BTR score of 151 5/8 inches (typical).
LACY SHOMAKER BUCK
Perhaps the most significant whitetail felled by a woman in 2009 was taken in northeast Kansas.
Lacy Shomaker and her husband, Mark, had seen a monstrous buck numerous times on their new 200-acre lease. They also had numerous trail camera photos to remind them in the unlikely event they could forget that one-of-a-kind animal.
They’d both had chances at it during the bow season — she was never able to draw, and he sent an arrow over its back.
Lacy took full advantage of a second chance on Nov. 9.
With a BTR score of 199 2/8, which doesn’t include the 19 3/8-inch inside spread, hers is the second largest Irregular ever arrowed by a woman — topped only by Deb Luzinski’s Minnesota monster. Lacy’s buck is one of those Irregular bucks that, upon first glance, looks more like a Typical because of a super-strong 5x5 mainframe that overshadows the almost 21 inches of irregular growth.
Reason enough to move to Kansas? The Shomakers, formerly of Missouri, thought so. At the time she arrowed her buck, she was carrying a nonresident tag.
RHONDA WHITAKER BUCK
Lacy’s wasn’t the only buck from Oz taken by a woman with a nonresident tag in her pocket. Rest assured, there could very well be a moving van leaving Mills River, N.C., any day now. Meanwhile, that’s where Rhonda Whitaker’s glass-eyed mount is hanging on the wall.
Unlike Lacy, Rhonda was fairly new to deer hunting. The day she shot her wallhanger was the first time she’d sat in a stand by herself. It also was her first deer. And with a BTR composite score of 171 6/8 inches, it wasn’t a squeaker.
JAYME HOAG BUCK
Another first deer was claimed by Jayme Hoag of Waverly, Kan., who made short work of her maiden hunt.
It was 5:30 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5, when she and her boyfriend, Bradley Dunlop, headed to public ground in Coffey County. While he lugged a camera, she was carrying his open-sighted muzzleloader, the same rifle with which he’d shot a new state-record Semi-Irregular earlier in the year.
“It was way below freezing,” Jayme said. “I had four pairs of pants layered on, and five shirts. We sat out there until around 9:30 or 10:00, until I couldn’t feel my toes or fingers anymore.”
After a short nap and coffee back at the house, Brad and Jayme were back in their tree by 2:30. Fifteen minutes before dark, she saw a buck and alerted Brad. Afraid of spooking it, he never tried to lift the camera.
“Honestly, I didn’t know how many points it had,” she said.
The 40-yard shot was dead-on, and the 14-point buck traveled only 25 yards before going to ground behind some cedars.
TAMARA WILLIAMSON BUCK
Rhonda Whitaker wasn’t the only North Carolina woman to cross state lines in search of her first buck, which just happened to be a monster. But Tamara Williamson of Thomasville didn’t have to travel as far as Kansas. She smoked hers in Ohio.
The buck Tamara shot was on the “most wanted” list where she and her husband, Travis, run an outfitting business (countylineoutfitters.com) in Morgan County, Ohio. Two of their clients had opportunities at the buck, but neither was able to react within the very short windows.
The boss lady, who hadn’t actually hunted before 2009, wound up taking it during the freezing-cold, January (2010) muzzleloader season. The buck was even bigger than anyone had imagined. With a BTR score of 172 4/8, not including the 19 4/8-inch inside spread, it’s No. 5 among Ohio Typicals felled by blackpowder and No. 20 in the world.
Travis was in the box blind with her that day, filming the hunt. From the moment they saw the deer, husband and wife were afflicted with a strange propensity to repeat themselves ...
“Oh my God ... Oh my God ...”
“Make sure you’re steady ... Make sure you’re steady ...”
“I got it ... I got it ...”
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This article was published in the July 2010 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Subscribe today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.