Hunting numbers steadily decliningMore and more women deciding to be hunters
Natalie Hunt’s interest in hunting goes well beyond killing a deer.
It is, in fact, much more complicated. Hunt, 32, is a Fairfield native who is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In Wisconsin, interest in hunting has steadily declined during the last decade according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Jefferson County Park in Fairfield has seen a decline in hunters since hunting began there in 2007.
Why the declining numbers and the lack of interest? There are a multitude of reasons.
“In Wisconsin, and I think this is happening nationwide, hunting used to be something that was passed down through families,” Hunt said, “and now people just aren’t as interested as they used to be.”
Men make up nearly 90 percent of registered hunters. Hunt is part of a growing minority of women and first-time hunters who are taking up the practice. Her interest in hunting began with love for being outdoors.
Much of her work at UW-Madison looks at sustainability and at the landscapes that sustain animals, such as deer. She also is interested in knowing where her food comes from and looking at environmentally sustainable food sources. For Hunt, going hunting is more about learning and connecting to nature.
“Sometimes you don’t take a deer, and that’s OK,” Hunt said. “It’s about hearing the world wake up in the morning.”
Park ranger Shawn Morrissey offered different reasons for why Jefferson County Park has seen a loss in hunters.
“We aren’t getting as many hunters because people have to work for the deer, just like anywhere else,” Morrissey said.
When the park began allowing hunting in 2007, there were approximately 86 deer on the 200 acres of land. Each year has seemingly cut the deer population in half, and now easy shooting isn’t available. Hunters have to put just as much work into hunting deer at Jefferson County Park as they do anywhere else, which is driving many of them away.
“We have a couple guys hunting, but it’s pretty slow,” Morrissey said. “No one has shot anything.”
According to Hunt, there were more women than men at a recent learn-to-hunt class in Wisconsin. Arranged by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, these classes pairs up a first-time hunter with an experienced mentor who can teach the greenhorn proper practices.
“A lot of new hunters didn’t grow up with it and don’t know how to get started,” Hunt said. “These classes are a great way to get people interested.”
Archery season is currently taking place, but Hunt plans to come back to Iowa in December for the beginning of deer season when hunters can use a shotgun.