Change hunting culture, not color

We are well into fall with hunting seasons sprinkled throughout, behind and ahead of us. Hunting is an ancient tradition that many, especially in West Virginia, still take part in. It allows people to provide food for themselves and others through donations, gives natural resources agencies opportunities to manage wildlife populations on a large scale, and generates revenue for further wildlife management and research. It’s an important part of our history as a state, as a nation, and as a species.

In the past few years, there has been a lot of concern within the conservation community about hunter retention, recruitment, and funding for management and research. While there has been a small surge of so called “hipster hunters” according to some, overall participation seems to be decreasing as people become accustomed to urban lifestyles. With the current trend, we will lose a lot of funding that helps conserve our natural resources for the use and enjoyment of all citizens, not just hunters. I believe we need to tackle this issue from multiple angles. Recreational users such as birders and adventure sports enthusiasts need to be brought into the fold. We must also find ways to retain and recruit new hunters, including minorities and women.

As a given, retailers specializing in outdoor recreation sell appropriately themed clothing, complete with camouflage patterns and earth tones. They break this custom for a very specific interest group: women. Some outdoor recreation stores sell women’s clothing in this fashion but often with pink or other pastel-colored logos and camouflage patterns. This is more pronounced in Duck Dynasty merchandise. These are nothing but poor attempts at advertising towards women. It exposes the gender-bias that still persists in the hunting and fishing communities, not to mention most scientific disciplines involving natural resources. It implies that women prefer the color pink, which historically is a recent gender stereotype that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. On the converse, gender-stereotypes insist that men like the color blue, so why don’t we see men’s hunting apparel with blue logos and camouflage patterns? Perhaps it is because men dominate hunting and fishing cultures in the U.S., in which the notion that these are “manly” sports is commonplace.

Many women are enthusiastic and want to participate. Why should we deny them? We must look to the greater principles of outdoorsmanship to preserve our wild and wonderful heritage.

Braeden Harpool