Men: here’s a word of advice for this Christmas season:
If the woman in your life tells you that she’d like a “bow” for Christmas — don’t assume she’s putting it in her hair.
As hunting and shooting sports become more and more popular, there’s a dramatic rise in the number of women who are heading to the woods and the deer stands and blinds as hunters.
According to the National Rifle Association, in 2001 there were 1.8 million women who were registered hunters. By 2013, that number had nearly doubled to 3.3 million — and it continues to grow year by year. In 2016, women made up 11-percent of the registered hunters in this country.
Here in Switzerland County, it isn’t any different, as women are now commonplace in hunting and shooting circles — but for women involved in the sport, it’s really not that surprising.
Katina Carter, a former Switzerland County resident who now resides just over the county line in Jefferson County, is one of the more accomplished hunters in the area — female or male.
“I tend to believe that there’s always been women hunters, it’s just not always been as out there as it’s been in the last few years,” Carter said. “I think social media has kind of had a play in that, too.”
Carter said she feels like she’s always been interested in hunting, but was just a few years ago that she really dove into the sport.
“I think it was 2012 when I shot my first deer,” she said. “The last few years is when I’ve really been doing it more. I would say the last four years. I can credit my boyfriend Gary (Cain). He’s a big hunter. We started dating about four years ago, and I’ve always been interested in the sport, I just never felt like it was targeted towards me or something that I felt like I could do. Then, he got me interested in shooting a bow, so I started shooting a bow, and started competition archery. We do both. We do 3-D competitions, indoor competitions, and then we do hunting, as well. It’s like a package thing that we do.”
Carter says that she is seeing more and more women at the competitions, and even though the number of men still outnumber the women at the shoots, the number of women who are choosing to compete continues to grow in the bow shooting industry.
“It’s almost one of those things that’s trending up,” Carter said. “I feel like a lot of these companies, before they were just targeting men — and then women started getting into it. Nothing was really made for women: the clothes and the actual equipment. Now that more women are getting into hunting, there are some companies that are targeting the women’s market.”
An example Carter uses is the bow that she shoots. Noting that there weren’t many smaller bows that were geared towards women — most were either designed for men or for children — but that is changing dramatically as the sport widens in appeal.
For the woman who may be interested in getting into hunting or competitive shooting, are there tips that Carter would give?
“My advise to any woman who is interested in getting started is, one: try and find a local archery shop or find a local sporting goods shop that can help them get the resources that they need to get started,” she said. “Most archery shops have multiple brands of bows that they sell. The Rusty Buck out at Versailles, for example, has Elite brand bows, which is the type of bow that I shoot. They have all kinds of different brands. You’ve just got to find the brand and the size that really fits you. You really need to have someone who knows something about the archery industry to be able to help you get set up. Even if there arent’ resources locally, try and find a friend who’s also a hunter. There’s several of my friends who are women who are bow hunters. We talk amongst ourselves about different things.”
Carter says that hunting and archery are still geared towards men, but noted that with things like the ‘Archery in the Schools’ program — which most schools in our area have — is helping to bring more and more girls into the sports of archery and hunting.
The differences in the bows are unique to each individual, so Carter cautions again to make sure a hunter is shooting the right type of bow in order to have the best experience in the sport.
“With a bow, you have to be measured with your draw length, which is measured with your arm span,” she said. “There’s a formula involved. They need to be measured to find out that draw length, and then obviously for hunting you would want a set weight. For hunting, you would want a higher weight, because you have to be able to at least pull back 35-pounds legally, to shoot an animal. Really, the more weight you can pull back, the more accurate your bow is going to be.”
Carter said that another factor is something that a new hunter may take for granted, and that’s the arrow itself. She said that the arrows are also dependent on draw length, so a person would buy arrows in a standard length, and then you would have them cut down to match the hunter’s draw length.
“It’s not just something that you can go online and buy a bow,” she said. “You could do that, but you really need to take it and have it customized to fit you. I have a twin sister, and what I would be is totally different than what she would be. It’s all dependent on the individual.”
Carter says that she does quite a bit of hunting, noting that she’s already ‘tagged out’ — she’s already reached her quota for deer hunting this year.
“I went bow hunting, the season starts here October 1st in Indiana for bow only, so it’s open from October 1st through November the 16th this year, which is when gun season opened. As soon as I would get off work, if I could I’d try and get home and be in the tree stand by 3:30-ish or 4 p.m. — most of the time you don’t want to go much later than that. I would try and get home as soon as I could. Usually three or four times a week at least during bow season. I would finish opening weekend of gun season, so I tagged out with my buck during gun season, so I was able to finish that Sunday.”
Along with archery, Carter also hunted this year with a rifle; and she’s building quite a following in the hunting community.
Through social media, Carter is an Elite Brand Ambassador, which is a position that she isn’t paid for, but is a way that Elite uses Carter as a spokesperson for their brand; and Carter in turn promotes their products through her social media pages. She is also an ambassador for The Outdoor Group, which covers all aspects of bow hunting, from bows to strings to equipment and apparel. She and Gary also have a YouTube channel, “Antlers & Archery with Gary and Katina”; as well as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
“Archery is just amazing,” Carter said. “Archery is a sport that anybody can do. It doesn’t matter what your age. It doesn’t matter what’s your athletic ability. You don’t have to be physically fit in order to do archery. In archery, you can have a lot of fun just going and shooting targets. There’s a lot of friends to be made. It’s just a lot of fun. I love it.”
— Pat Lanman