Women and guns: part two of two-part feature
We interviewed six women, mostly from Central Minnesota, to learn about their experiences with guns, hunting, target-shooting, and personal protection. Four of the women we interviewed we met through the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA). Here are their stories:
Stacey R., Todd County
Stacey R., age 38, from Todd County owns a handgun, a Taurus Tracker .357 magnum. It belonged to her late father-in-law. It is her first handgun, and she has used it for 6 years.
Stacey grew up in a home with guns. “My dad had them for hunting, and I’ve liked them my whole life. I enjoy target shooting,” she said.
When Stacey first went deer hunting, she could not hold the heavy rifle level, so she rested it on the railing of the deer stand. “This was when I was 12,” she said. She aimed and shot at her first buck, a seven pointer, but forgot to take the safety off. However, the next day she shot two deer. Her family ate everything she and her dad killed.
“I loved the smell of the gun oil, as a little kid,” she remembered. “But my dad never bought me a gun or gave me a gun. I was lucky to be allowed to USE his guns. My favorite is a .243 bolt action rifle.”
All four of Stacey’s kids have weapons, including her youngest daughter who has a pink B-B gun. The kids also have archery equipment. The two older boys have completed gun safety courses, and will take a concealed carry course soon because of the important information the class covers as well as the safety and reasons for conceal and carry.
Stacey explained her thinking process about guns. “I wanted to start shooting because it was cool, and I wanted to hang out with my dad and uncles. I felt special because none of the other kids (four sisters and one brother) were interested.”
Today, Stacey and her whole family hunt. They shoot small game, bow hunt, bear hunt, etc., with the kids from August through the end of December. “We do it all,” she said. “We take everything to have it processed, and the company turns the hides in. My favorite is grouse, but I’ve hunted squirrels and rabbits too. Grandma cooks it. Anything that we hunt, we eat.”
Stacey and the kids go target shooting in the summer, on vacation, and go to gravel pits. Her kids and husband go to bow ranges to practice their archery skills.
Krystle P., Otter Tail County
Krystle, P., in her late 20s, lives in Parkers Prairie and has been hunting since she was 12. She hunted deer with her dad and small game like squirrels and chipmunks.
“My mom encouraged my dad to take me, as an activity we could do together with my sister. There were no boys in the family. My most successful weapon was a .30-.30 rifle, but Dad didn’t want me to shoot it. And I missed a big buck once because the safety was still on.”
Krystle took a gun safety course in high school. The class had both boys and girls. She owns a 12-gauge shotgun now, and a 16-gauge, and just bought a double-barrel 20-gauge for her sister.
Krystle advises anyone who wants to shoot either long guns or handguns to be safe and learn how to treat a gun. She owns a .45 Uberti Cattleman revolver and a .45 Uberti rifle. She and her boyfriend, sister, and best friend hunt deer, geese, and ducks.
Carol C., Wadena County
Carol C., in her 60s, lives in Wadena County and is an officer in the Wahoo Valley Chapter of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA). She has been hunting for more than 40 years.
“My dad taught me. I’ve been shooting since I was 5, when he took me out alone to shoot for the next few years. I was the oldest, so I learned first. Dad treated me and my brothers and sister equally. He taught all of us, but I did more with Dad than the other kids.”
Carol and her father shot pheasant, squirrel, and deer. They used pistols, 22 rifles, and deer rifles. She took a gun safety class and purchased a handgun 10 years ago, a .45 magnum, for target shooting.
“I’ve used my handgun once for protection, but mostly for hunting,” she explained. “My husband and I taught our kids to shoot when they were 8 or 9 years old. Now that they’re adults, they continue to shoot, and we take the grandkids with us for a 10-day family deer hunting vacation every fall. We have 160 acres in Wadena County that we hunt on.”
Mary S., Wadena County
Mary, in her 50s, is a nurse who works at a care center. She has hunted deer for 30 years, learning to shoot as an adult.
Mary’s family included four girls and one boy. She asked her dad for years to teach her to shoot, and he finally did. Now she and her husband take the family hunting to their place in Remer. Everybody goes – parents, grandkids, siblings, etc. This year her dad has a disabled permit and Mary is taking him hunting.
Becca K., Itasca County
Becca, in her 20s, is a staffer at MDHA. She is the middle child of three girls, all of whom hunt and fish. They were taught by their dad. Becca said, “I started young, when I was introduced to hunting and fishing by my father. I started shooting a bow at age 4. Over the years I acquired a passion and love for the outdoors.”
Becca has hunted and fished in several provinces of Canada, and in the Upper Midwest states of Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Michigan. She also hunted in Texas, where she went bow hunting and dove hunting on 50,000 acres of hunting preserve.
Becca hunts deer with guns and a bow. She owns a muzzleloader .54 caliber blackpowder rifle, a .308 rifle, a 12 gauge shotgun, and two handguns – a .380 Smith and Wesson semiautomatic, and a .22 revolver for target shooting.
She hunts with her dog, Shadow, and her dad, Eric. They use ground blinds during some of the deer seasons.
Most of the women Becca knows use their guns for hunting, target practice, and personal protection, but a few want to keep a handgun with them all the time.
Becca has worked for the MDHA for 8 months. Before that, she worked for the DNR and carried out a study with another staff member of women ages 12 to 30 who enrolled in DNR firearms safety courses but did not become licensed hunters. From the study they learned why women took the courses, what they liked and disliked about the courses, and why women did or did not buy hunting licenses after completing the courses.
Becca is active in a new women’s group called Women Hunting and Fishing in All Seasons, sponsored by the DNR. The goals of the group include encouraging more women to hunt and fish, and removing as many barriers as possible to women’s outdoor activities.
She told us that an estimated 3,500 women hunters belong to the MDHA, and about a third of them are under 17. The average woman MDHA member is aged 45-55, white, and comes from a family background of hunting and fishing. The total membership of MDHA is about 15,000.
Mercedes M., Dakota County
Mercedes M., 23, did not have a family who hunted and fished. In fact, after she taught herself to hunt and fish, got equipment, and began to take part in these outdoor activities, she had to persuade her parents to spend a weekend at a cabin – their first!
She said, “I was interested in hunting and fishing from the time I was 9 or 10 years old. I read all of Ron Schara’s articles in school magazines that we got. When I turned 16 and had a vehicle, I started picking up gear and learning slowly. I had some acquaintances that would take me hunting with them. I got to watch other people, and they were very welcoming, willing to share, that’s how I learned.”
Mercedes has a Remington 20 gauge shotgun and has participated in deer hunting, goose hunting, and grouse hunting. “I get more comfortable around guns by working with people and being around people with guns. I don’t have that family background, so it’s harder for me. And I’m not a fan of handguns.”
Mercedes took the firearms safety course sponsored by the DNR at a location in Dakota County, sponsored by a local gun club. She said, “I was in a classroom full of 10- and 11-year-olds for five evenings.”
She said her family supports her in whatever she does, but was confused about her choice to become a hunter.
Minnesota has strict requirements for gun ownership. People who make the decision to purchase and use a gun must follow the laws and safety regulations.
Nationwide, women report purchasing guns primarily for self-defense. However, the women we interviewed in Minnesota did not cite that reason very often for their ownership and use of guns. The two sheriffs we interviewed had noticed a recent increase in handgun permit applications from women.
The women we interviewed for this article were enthusiastic about guns and hunting. We were not able to locate any women who owned guns but did not hunt, and that may be because of our location in Central Minnesota, where hunting is an important activity.
Generally, the women hunters were taught by their fathers, and came from families where hunting was an expected activity. All of them hunted to obtain meat, not trophies.
All the women had participated in gun safety training. Some of them mentioned that being proficient shooters gave them confidence and made them feel that they could handle any situation that they might face.
The women hunters who had children had participated in hunting activities with their husbands and children, and had made sure that the children were well trained and completed safety courses.