The Thrill of the Huntress


Holly Heyser, huntress

To many non-hunters, hunting is a mysterious and macabre pastime, and the mere sight of a camouflage-clad individual carrying a gun brings to mind all sorts of unpleasant associations. But even among the urban-based, sustainable-eating, co-op-shopping crowd there’s an increasing awareness that hunting can be local, sustainable, and humane—certainly more so than eating a domesticated animal raised in a crowded barn, pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, and killed assembly-line style in a slaughterhouse. If you’re going to eat meat, the thinking goes, at least kill and butcher the animal yourself after it’s lived a natural life in the wild.

So I was intrigued to come across an interview in Sierra Sportsmen with a hunter who defies many hunter stereotypes and addresses these sorts of issues head-on. Holly Heyser is a Northern California-based writer who blogs as NorCal Cazadora and writes for some of the Utne Reader staff’s favorite foodie mags, including The Art of Eating, Gastronomica, and Meatpaper. (Coincidentally, she’s also an ex-editor at a newspaper where I once worked, the St. Paul Pioneer Press.) Her blog is a mixture of hunting stories, gear reviews, and intelligently opinionated commentary, and this excerpt from the Sierra Sportsmen interview offers a glimpse into the world of this self-described “huntress”:

What do you think women bring to the “traditional” world of hunting?

A lot. One of the most important things right now is credibility. Hunting’s biggest problem right now is that the non-hunting public doesn’t know much about hunting, and has terrible stereotypes of hunters—like we’re all drunken, lawless poachers who go on shooting rampages in the forest, cut off trophy heads and leave the rest behind to rot. Like all stereotypes, this one obviously has real-life examples, but it does not represent who we are. I live in a world of non-hunters—journalists and university professors—and when I tell people I hunt, their first question is almost always, “Do you eat what you kill?” Well, no shit, Sherlock. Do you think I’m going to spend eight hours shivering in a marsh to bring down a few ducks and not eat them? …

So why are women important? Here's why: It’s easy to stereotype a male hunter, because once he’s in his camo, you can’t tell if he’s an insurance executive or an unemployed alcoholic. But when you see a woman out there in the field, it’s immediately difficult to categorize her, because she doesn’t fit the mold. Women are nurturing. Can you imagine a woman going on a shooting rampage in the forest and leaving everything but the racks to rot? No way! In fact, research by Responsive Management in Virginia shows that meat is the No. 1 reason women hunt, and hunting for meat has the highest level of acceptance by the general public.

12/23/2009 3:41:10 PM let me get this straight: If you have a Vagina it's Okay to hunt, because you are a positive role model and you kill in a humane and "proper" fashion. But if you have a penis, then it's bad because you are probably an unemployed drunk? ...I love the feminine mind's logic. No doubt about it, you really could not make this stuff up. I guess the saying about Feminists is true: "Feminists want equality with men--they just want to be a little more equal than men, that's all." And Progressives wonder why O'Reilly calls liberals "pinheads."

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