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Breaking Barriers

You Shoot Like a Girl! Women are the fastest growing segment in the hunting world.

Breaking Barriers

Bird hunting serves as a great introductory sport to get more ladies afield. (Photo By: Tess Rousey)

It was thunderous. The shouts of 10 women rang out in joy across the field while arms punched the air in triumph for their fellow hunter. My mouth hung open in amazement after watching a rooster crumple and fall at what seemed like an impossible range for a newbie shotgunner—then my voice joined the other ladies yelling out in praise.

The rooster had flushed wild and surprised the line of uplanders. Emanuella had been in the hot seat at the end of the line closest to the flush. Her second shot connected on the wily bird and her face expressed shock at what she had just accomplished—her first pheasant, ever, in the bag.

I smiled as I walked in the direction the bird had fallen, calling out “dead bird, find 'em!” to the string of setters I had been running for the group of all women uplanders. “This is what it’s all about,” I thought to myself.

CLICK HERE to watch a video of the hunt!


Shoot Like a Girl  

It’s no secret that women are the fastest growing segment in the hunting world—particularly when it comes to adult-onset hunters. In 2011, women made up 11 percent of U.S. hunters—in 2021, they made up 22 percent of all hunters. This rise is in part because women have garnered an interest in knowing where their food comes from, enticing them to pick up a gun and head afield. It is also no secret that the reason women (and males, too) are waiting so long to enter the realm of hunting is because the barriers to enter are intimidating.

These factors, and many others like it, opened the eyes of Karen Butler, and Shoot Like a Girl (SLG) was born. SLG, an organization dedicated to growing the number of women who participate in shooting sports by empowering them with confidence, was founded in 2008 by Butler and has since grown to be a leading authority in recruiting female hunters and shooters.

“I started shooting later in life and it empowered me,” said Butler. “I felt good about myself every time I hit the target—I wanted all women to feel that way.”

SLG is a one-stop shop for ladies interested in shooting. The organization gives women 16 and older the opportunity to shoot a compound bow, handgun, and rifle inside of their semi-tractor mobile range. Utilizing a training system that mimics real recoil and sound without the use of a projectile, women are given the opportunity to shake off the nerves of shooting with hands-on experience—all while being guided through the process by all-female Certified NRA instructors and archery coaches. A “Gun Counter” sits outside of the trailer so women can get the fit and feel of numerous firearms including pistols, revolvers, shotguns, and rifles— enabling them to make an educated purchase decision later, if they so choose to do.

Each woman who comes through the trailer is surveyed by Butler and she found a staggering 33 percent were found to have never shot or hunted but wanted to. This statistic led to an idea: take the women from the trailer to the field.

female upland bird hunter holding a rooster ring-necked pheasant
Women are the fastest growing segment in hunting and bird hunting serves as a great introductory sport to get more ladies afield. (Photo By: Tess Rousey)

Never Too Late to Learn   

I stood in the ripping Kansas wind as a group of excited ladies listened patiently and hung on to my every word as I described what a day chasing birds over dogs would be like. All had varying backgrounds, ranging from first time shooters to some experience over the years. The ladies—six to be exact—listened to my briefing on how we would be ensuring their safety, and that of our bird dogs, before being sent off to the trap house to shoot clays before the next morning’s hunt.

This event, and others like it, had come to fruition when Butler proposed an idea to leading firearm manufacturer, Beretta. “We wanted to break the barrier between wanting and actually hunting,” says Butler. “Instead of Shoot Like a Girl events, we wanted Hunt Like a Girl events, and bird hunting is a great introduction for women to get into the field. These events would allow us to take ladies from start to finish by bringing them into a real-life hunt where we could show them how it is all accomplished.”

Partnering with Beretta to host a series of bird hunts throughout the year, including turkey, pheasant, and duck hunting, the SLG team takes first-time hunters and walks them through the entire process. Events begin with assembling a shotgun, followed by a day at the trap range to teach proper shooting form and gun safety; before heading afield to learn hunt skills and safety. It doesn’t stop there, participants are also taught how to field dress birds, how to prepare and cook them, and even shown how animals can be utilized outside of eating, such as for art or jewelry.

female upland bird hunters walking a field hunting pheasants
"This hunt was so special to me because of my dad. He was an avid outdoorsman, but upland hunting was his favorite," said Brianna Taylor, Hunt Like a Girl participant. " He specifically enjoyed watching his dogs work and that was one of my favorite aspects of the Kansas hunt. For the first time, I was truly able to understand and appreciate his passion and love for the uplands." (Photo By: Tess Rousey)

The Bird Hunters  

An early October hunt meant we were still battling high temperatures. This gave the new hunters the opportunity to hunt behind both flushing and pointing breeds as I changed out bird dogs with each pass of the field. My Lab, Lincoln; my friend Tess’s Lab, Loch; and Butler’s Lab, Trigger, a first-time hunter as well, rounded out our flusher/retriever team. On the other end of the spectrum, my young setter, Jones, and a string of setters and pointers from our lodge’s hosts held staunch points for the ladies, giving them a taste of both bird dog worlds.

To ensure the safety of all participants and dogs, every two hunters were paired with a mentor to walk closely behind them over the course of our two-day hunt. Blue sky days and ample amounts of sunshine set the perfect backdrop for the first-timers.

The line of upland hunters quickly learned my call signs as I kept them parallel while we walked and made our way through the fields behind the hard-working bird dogs.

“Watch Lincoln and Loch, they’re birdy!” I’d say as the Labs held their noses to the ground, working back and forth, clearly trailing bird scent. The hunters knew then to be at the ready for a flush at any moment, while the pointing dogs slowed it down a bit for the new hunters. “We have a point!” I’d shout to the ladies, allowing the line to walk towards the staunch point of a dog while the other setters honored—an iconic upland sight for them to see.

english setter on point in a field
Both pointers and flushers were worked to give hunters a full idea of hunting the uplands with different bird dog breeds. (Photo By: Tess Rousey)

When shot connected to bring a bird down, the line would erupt with cheers for their fellow hunter, excited for her success. When birds glided away unscathed, words of encouragement to keep shooting were shared to keep spirits up.

The energy in the field was high with excitement from success as birds weighed down the vests of all the hunters. Only one woman awaited just the right opportunity to connect on her first bird. Brianna Taylor, an avid fly fisher but novice upland hunter, was brave and inquisitive and wanted to learn as much as she could over the course of our hunt. Growing up, her father was an passionate upland hunter, but before Brianna was able to walk the uplands with him, he passed away in early 2021. She was looking for a way to pay homage to her late father and break the barrier into upland hunting when she was invited to attend the Hunt Like a Girl event.


When the setters went on point, Brianna and I made our way to the steady bird dogs. White tails stood stark straight to the heavens when we approached. The bobwhite quail burst from the brush—one shot rang out from the end of Brianna’s barrel, and I watched as a bobwhite crumpled and fell.

I placed the bird in her outstretched hand and congratulated her as whoops of cheers surrounded us. A wide smile beamed from her face as she admired the bird. Her first bird in the bag, and it was a quail—her dad’s favorite upland species to hunt.

two female hunters celebrating in a pheasant field
Over the course of two days, the six ladies who entered the field as novice hunters left with a new appreciation for the sport of upland hunting. Between the miles put on boots behind fine dog work and bringing birds from field to table by their own hard work and good shooting, new hunters were made, and barriers broken. (Photo By: Tess Rousey)

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