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Women hunters on the rise

By 2011, the percentage of women hunters in Maine had climbed to 13 percent.
Cabela's sells camo for women hunters.

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Mid-November is peak deer hunting season in Maine, a sport that attracts thousands of hunters to the state. The profile of the registered hunter is not what it's been in past years.

"Women as hunters is the fastest growing segment of our membership, said David Trahan, Executive Director for the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine.

Trahan said that 25 percent of of SAM's memberships belong to families and women. Membership supports the organization, which works to protect Maine hunting traditions.

"I think women are looking for new types of outdoor recreation," said Trahan. "I'm excited by it."

According to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, women comprised eight percent of hunters in 1996. By 2011, that percentage had climbed to 13 percent, and the numbers continue to climb.

Erin Merrill, a wife and mother from Portland, said she was introduced to hunting by her dad at age 20. She primarily hunts to feed her young family.

"I like knowing that the food my son is eating, I killed, I butchered and I processed," said Merrill.

The meat in her freezer isn't typical supermarket fare. She said she has 250 pounds of bear meat and 75 pounds of deer meat.

Similar to men, women said they enjoy being in the woods and the thrill of the chase.

"Anything could happen, That's what I love," said Ginny Hurley, a hunter from central Maine.

Hurely said that in some quarters, women are still not welcome in the sporting world. She said she attended a Hunter's Breakfast on the first day of the season this year and was ignored.

Hunting is a tradition that goes back to the time of hunter gatherers clans. In that time, women would gather vegetables and men would hunt for meat. Men have continued to dominant hunting into the 21 century.

Outdoor outfitters have noticed the heightened interest in hunting from women and are cashing in. Roughly a quarter of the camo department at the Cabela's in Scarborough is for women.

"They want something warm, something that fits their bodies, and something where they don't look like a woman in a man's clothes," said Cabela's employee Jennifer Jackson.

As women continue to establish their place in the sport, it leads Trahan to wonder if it's time for a name change at the Sportman's Alliance of Maine.

"We may have to examine that," said Trahan. "Sportsmen and Women's Alliance of Maine? Hmm."

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