HUNTING FOR REVENUE, GAME AGENCIES TARGET WOMEN
By Anne Muller
As I was writing this, the words and concepts kept juxtaposing
themselves into different combinations, much as letters of the alphabet
do when you’re playing Scrabble. Myriad interpretations can be offered
of the same players, quotations, and events depending on who’s doing the
observing (the Rashomon Phenomenon). But I believe in truth, and not the
notion that it’s just your perception vs. mine. One test of veracity is
to kick the stimuli that are presenting themselves in different places
to ensure that the perception is real, as distinguished from “virtual.”
In computerese, “virtual” means the appearance of reality for the
purpose of accomplishing a short-term goal, but you can’t bank on it,
you can’t save it, it all disappears when you turn off the computer. I
believe and trust that our wildlife management agencies are operating in
virtual reality. They know the computer’s about to be shut off, but
they’re determined to go out with a bang.
The real reality is that the traditional white male hunting
population is declining and the Conservation Fund’s bottom line is
plummeting. More young people are interested in Nintendo than in getting
up at the crack of dawn, freezing their butts off in the forest while
waiting for a hapless animal to wander by so they can destroy it. Those
trends are making game agencies and the weapons industry quiver.
Realizing that their traditional customer base is dwindling (though too
slowly for us), game agencies are aiming their marketing power at women,
children and to a lesser degree, minorities. Their assumption is that
getting women to hunt means getting children to hunt, and getting
children to hunt (in their terms to “appreciate nature”) ensures, in
virtual reality, the continuation of weapons, ammo, and hunting license
sales. Agencies blame the fact that young people are not hunting on a
growing number of single-parent families headed by remiss moms, moms who
are not instilling the hunter “ethic” in their children.
In the August 1994 issue of Wyoming Wildlife, an article appeared
entitled, “Single with Children.” The author, Kathy Etling, says: “If
more women and children hunted, it would be pretty tough for animal
rights cults to enlist any public support against the sport.” She goes
on to extol the virtues of passing the hunting “tradition” down from
grandmother to granddaughter. (She’s into virtual traditions as well.)
The article focuses on a “no-nonsense” conservationist-type grandma
leading her daughter and granddaughter from a “successful” upland bird
hunt. The granddaughter is cheerily swinging two dead pheasants as she
skips along in back of the adults. The problem with that image is that
it doesn’t represent the typical matriarchal family. They are oddballs,
all three of them and will happily have no impact on the bottom line.
Nevertheless, the theme keeps popping up.
The real reality is that game agencies are working on ways to improve
their income, and that means generating more weapons sales by providing
more hunting opportunity, widening the traditional customer base and
creating new ones. Their income is based primarily on the sale of
hunting licenses and excise taxes on weapons and ammo. Every handgun,
semi-automatic, rifle, shotgun, bow, arrow, and ammo carries a 10-11%
excise tax that goes to “wildlife restoration” which means creating more
hunting opportunity so that weapons have a continuing market.
Furthermore, state game agencies get a pro-rated percentage of the
excise tax depending on the number of hunting licenses they sell. States
compete with each other to sell the most hunting licenses!
Christine Thomas, Assoc. Prof. of Resource Management at the U. of
Wisconsin-Stevens Point, created a course in 1991 to recruit women
hunters. That course is given around the country and there are claims
that the classes are packed. “Sportsmen” have also embarked on a
campaign to encourage hunters to befriend young (usually male) children
of single moms to take them hunting. (It’s getting bizarre.) And, the
National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) is attempting to push hunting
programs into 40,000 schools across America this year and reach 100,000
schools by 1996.
Hunter safety manuals are becoming laced with illustrations of women,
children and minorities. Dick and Jane style illustrations show male
instructors helping women to learn the ropes. He stands next to his
female “student” helping her to comprehend the fine points of taking
aim. Both are smiling and you can imagine the way the rest of the day
will go. Will they go hunting? Or will they merely spend the rest of the
day over a glass of wine sharing stories of their besotted love for
nature? My feeling is they will simply self-destruct as real reality
sets in, but we have to stay tuned for that one.
The marketing strategy smacks of Revlon founder Charlie Revson’s
approach to getting women to wear nail polish to match their lipstick.
He didn’t sell “gunk” for nails and lips. He sold romance. Charlie was
smart. He said: “Your lipsticked lips with matching fingertips will have
men falling at your feet”; to the men, he said, “you aren’t real men if
you aren’t enamored of lipstick-enhanced women with matching
fingertips.” As it began to work, Charlie went laughing all the way to
Hunting magazines devote pages to women who hunt, and every issue
covers “successful” female hunters who have bagged bigger and better
“game” than their male counterparts. (That could be the reason men are
leaving the “sport.” Maybe this isn’t a bad idea!) But for now, hunting
is still considered a man’s domain an getting them to open up the good
ole boys’ club to women won’t be an easy sell.
I can imagine that for a macho hunter to see a photo in his magazine
of a young woman smiling sweetly over a big bear she just blasted in the
gut might be a little like the reaction of a socialite flipping through
Vogue who sees a hunter with bloodshot eyes and a two-day growth in a
velvet evening gown, proudly holding up the bloodied head of Bambi.
“What the hell is it doing here?” It doesn’t work! It’s virtual reality!
I mean, do you really think she’ll be inspired to wear a velvet evening
gown to the next cotillion?
In real reality, selling hunting to women isn’t going to be easy
either. Most women don’t want to directly inflict pain on animals, and
most women don’t want to pal around with the slobs that do.
But we learn by trial and error, and their marketing effort has just
begun. Right now, about 94% of the hunting population is male. The few
women who hunt, or don’t object to hunting, are rising to positions of
prominence within game agencies, witness Mollie Beattie, Director of the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and the NRA has made Tanya Metaksa its
second most powerful executive. More and more women are in leadership
positions to promote hunting both within the government and without- Is
it all working? If the numbers are right (each source varies somewhat)
there has been a definite increase in the number of women hunters just
within the past 3 years. In 1991 the estimate was about 2% of the
hunting population, it is now up to 6% (some say 9%) national average.
Although the total numbers are still relatively low, the trend is of
concern. The marketing attack on women should be nipped in the bud.
I would like to think they’re barking up the wrong tree, but hey,
with enough marketing you can probably sell anything. Even cancer looks
romantic in the cigarette ads.
What can we do? Tell legislators that you don’t want your tax dollars
spent on encouraging women to turn bucks over to Marlin, Winchester,
Remington Arms and so the USFWS. You don’t want “game” agencies also
going into the pimping business.
Simultaneously, let women who may be falling for the hooey know that
they are victims and pawns. Let then know they have become another
“game” species. Explain how they will be putting their hard-earned money
into the hands of the weapons industry and government pimp and game
departments. Show how they will be contributing to the bottom line of
the weapons industry at the expense of the general public, the
environment, ecology, species, individual animals, and their own soul.
We encourage any woman who is “thinking about it” to “Just say NO!”
C.A.S.H. works with a psychologist who will help women (and men) work
out whatever problems they are having in (real) reality without
resorting to hunting (virtual) reality. Before you take that first shot,