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A woman’s place is—outside the home

"...robust and unintimidated women are taking up outdoor recreational pursuits at an accelerated pace."

We have a nice little piece inside on a traditional annual cold month distraction in this part of the world—harvesting those delicious, and plentiful, smelts.

But all of these stories remind us, painfully, that young people are just not into the outdoors as much these days, preferring instead to mindlessly, and addictively, peruse their electronic devices.

Indeed, the overall male participation in outdoor activities has been in general decline for several decades now.

There is, however, an unexpected evolution taking place. Freed from the outdated notion that females are supposed to be demure and delicate, robust and unintimidated women are taking up outdoor recreational pursuits at an accelerated pace.

Take sport fishing, particularly fly fishing. Women are the only demographic in the sport that’s growing. Women now make up almost one third of the 6.5 million Americans who fly-fish. In Canada, where more than 3 million people engage in recreational angling, the slight increase in those numbers in recent years, after a steady decline, is mainly attributed to women taking up the sport. It is not unusual now to see a group of teenage girls fishing all by themselves or a group of women planning all female catered fishing trips together.

In the US, participation by women in shooting sports, mainly clay targets, has almost doubled in the last decade alone. The trend is even stronger in Canada. The number of women hunters (with bow and firearm) in Alberta has almost doubled since 2006, while in Ontario it has risen 70 per cent in the past four years and in BC by 62 per cent in the same time frame, with Saskatchewan not far behind. (We could find no comparative statistics for the Atlantic Provinces.)

And that’s just the field sports. The phenomenon extends far beyond that into camping, outdoor cooking, canoeing/kayaking, cross-country skiing, wilderness survival, wildlife photography, mountain biking, etc. Manufacturers of outdoor clothing, fishing equipment and firearms have all responded by adjusting their product lines to match female anatomy and tastes. Outdoor recreation organizations have also jumped on this bandwagon and actively work to recruit women to their ranks.

Foremost among them, perhaps, is the “Becoming an Outdoors Woman” (BOW) movement which, since originating in Wisconsin in the 1980s mainly for women who wanted to learn to hunt and fish, has broadly expanded to include all manner of outdoor activities. It’s perhaps best explained by relating that women are not only taught how to catch fish—they’re taught how to gut and fillet them for the table as well.

It’s still gaining momentum. More than 20,000 women now attend BOW events every year in North America.

~ Linda & Jim Gourlay
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