By CRAIG D. REBER | Telegraph Herald
DURANGO, Iowa (AP) — Jessica Weiland thinks her hunting epiphany came when she harvested an eight-point white-tailed buck her first time out, during Iowa's December 2003 shotgun season.
"I enjoyed the feel and preparation of it," said Weiland, who lives in the Durango area. "There was that sense of accomplishment and confidence, that I had then from that day forward. (It) led me to thinking, `Well, maybe I can go muzzle-loader hunting, as well. Maybe I can get involved in archery, too.' It all spiraled from there."
Last year, Weiland and her young daughter Emma were two of 9,474 Iowa women to purchase a hunting license.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 11 percent of U.S. hunters were women in 2011 — the latest year for which statistics were available. That represents an uptick over the 9 percent reported five years earlier.
The Telegraph Herald reports Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin saw similar gains, with each state reporting about a 1.5 percentage point to 2.1 percentage point climb.
Julie Sparks, who coordinates Iowa's Becoming an Outdoors Woman program, cites several reasons for the increase.
"I think a lot more women are trying new things, looking for something different," she said. "I would say, looking at the national trend, women are trying to think outside the box for recreational outdoor activities that have been traditionally male."
Sparks explained a lot of women attend the Becoming an Outdoors Woman workshops for that reason.
"Their husband or significant other is a big hunter," she said. "They want to spend more time with them, but before they do that, they want to learn more about hunting and the outdoors."
Keith Warnke, hunter recruitment and shooting sports coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, reported the number of women getting deer hunting licenses has grown rapidly — 10 percent from 2012 to this year and 10 percent from 2001 to 2012.
"Spouses, partners and significant others want to do things together," he said. "More moms are interested in their food source. They want to know where their food comes from; they're food-motivated. They want something sustainable, local and something they can collect themselves."
Weiland, a kindergarten teacher at Dubuque's Bryant Elementary School, said she thinks women are more comfortable hunting than they were years ago.
That's not to say Weiland was a hunting novice entering adulthood. Her father, John Datisman, is an avid hunter, and she often tagged along.
Weiland's husband, Sam, is a prolific hunter. His passion for hunting indirectly led to hers.
"If I wanted to see him, I knew that I would have to go hunting with him, and so there we were," she said.
Jessica initially went on the trips to learn about it and see what it was like.
That set the stage for the next year. And the year after, and the year after.
While she's obviously adept with a shotgun, Weiland acknowledges that archery is her favorite.
"There is the scent, the stalk, they have to come so close to come into range to you," Weiland said. "It's really, really a hunt, and it's really challenging. I like that challenging piece to it."
Another Weiland-Datisman generation hunts, too. Emma, 9, harvested an eight-point buck during the 2012 shotgun season with Sam. This spring, she bagged a 22-pound turkey. Her brother Lloyd, 7, got an eight-pointer during this year's youth hunting season.
"I like to spend time with Dad, and I like being outdoors, too," Emma said.
Jessica recalls Emma was "ecstatic" when she returned with Sam after the deer hunt.
"It's all about family, too," Jessica said of her family's love of hunting.
Information from: Telegraph Herald, www.thonline.com