When I started hunting 10 years ago, camo clothes and gear made for women were scarce. My initiation into the world of clothing and gear was the hand-me-downs of a neighbor’s 11-year-old son. Nothing else fit!
Did it really make a difference what I wore in the woods, as long as it blended in? Well, it did to me, and all I had was a small pile of items that didn’t match or fit well.
More than a decade has passed, and although women still face some challenges with clothing and gear, the industry is constantly evolving to meet many of our needs.
Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a lady’s spring turkey hunt to be filmed on Sarco Creek Ranch in Goliad, Texas, for an episode of “Benelli on Assignment.” I wanted to hunt and look my best, so I researched the market all over again.
Here are a few products from my personal experiences, observations, and trusted resources.
Outdoor apparel is the most readily available item of hunting gear for women. Manufacturers such as SHE Safari, Prois and Realtree have several styles available. SHE is designed by huntress Pam Zaitz, who had a revelation similar to my own. When her husband Brian asked her to accompany him on an African safari, Pam quickly realized that she didn’t have “a single thing to wear.” Out of desperation, she designed a few items, and quickly had them sewn before her departure. Now she and her company help outfit women for just about any outdoor pursuit, from safaris to quail hunts. “Being able to play a small role in giving women what they need for the field while keeping them comfortable and looking great is our main goal and privilege,” said Zaitz.
Firearm manufacturers strive to accommodate shooters of all ages and sizes. Is there really a need to design a firearm for women? I am not so sure. I recently picked up new Stoeger M3500, 12-gauge autoloader.
It was the right gun for me on a recent Texas turkey hunt filmed for Benelli On Assignment. It was a smooth shooter, but would have been a challenge for a shorter person. Stoeger, Benelli along with several other companies offer several models hoping to give everyone the most comfortable fit. Also, an important thing to remember when choosing a gun, is that all guns can be customized by stock lengths and weight, lighter trigger pull, and smoother actions, which is common and expected for competition shooters. “Gun fit is so important for shooting well, and it can vary with each individual’s needs,” said Joe Coogan of Benelli.
Recoil is an issue for any hunter, but it’s especially acute women and smaller-framed shooters. There seems to be a new era of ammunition in the works, as many companies are beginning to develop and produce low recoil, lighter load ammo without compromising the hunt. Federal Ammunition, for example, offers slug hunters the very accurate TruBall Rifled Slug in a low recoil version. We also have Fusion Lite for centerfire hunters and a new 20-gauge Mag-Shok Heavyweight option that patterns great-and kicks 40 percent less than standard shells. “We continue to explore similar options in a few other product lines as well,” said Tim Brandt of Federal. “We see these offerings as great ways to get the youth, female hunters and recoil-sensitive shooters into hunting.”
Six years ago I was happy to secure a frogg toggs men’s size small camo rain and wind suit in Realtree camo print. Now they have a product line cut for women. Now I have the much improved women’s Pro Action suit that fits great, and allows for better movement while hunting, fishing, or just hiking. I also enjoy my Canyon Waders that conform to my body, and I don’t feel like I am in a body bag while wade fishing. “We take every measure available to us, from design to testing, to make sure that the finished product fits, wears, and moves like it should for the outdoor women we supply,” said Will Fowler of frog toggs.
During that Texas hunt, I wanted snake boots made for a woman. I found very few companies that had addressed the issue of women’s feet in the field. Lacrosse has stepped up with two styles of rubber boots for women as well as snake boots in smaller sizes. With a new line of hunting boots hitting stores now, Lacrosse gets a gold star for going the extra mile for outdoors women. I own a pair of Alphaburly Insulated Rubber Boots that are cushy comfortable, and a pair of their Venom Snake Boots with side zipper and laces that give me a perfect fit.
Turkey calls for girls? Absolutely! Brenda Valentine, praised as the “First Lady of Hunting,” has designed a pot-and-peg-style turkey call. Designed by a woman for a woman, it has slightly tapered sides to fit into smaller framed hands with two sides — slate and glass — to create a variety of turkey sounds. It is much easier for me to handle, and has boosted my confidence as a caller. Aptly named Sweet Talk, Valentine said she wanted to design a user friendly turkey call that even the beginner could produce reasonably realistic hen sounds. “I also wanted a call that fit nicely in the hand as well as shirt or vest pockets.” She joined forces with custom call makers Alex Carr and Matt Burtin of Commando Hunting Products. “I am very pleased with the final product,” said the National Wild Turkey Federation spokeswoman.