For example, wild sheep populations in North America were reduced from an estimated population high of one to two million in the early 1800s to only 25,000 by the 1960s due to unregulated market hunting, habitat loss/fragmentation, and primarily disease contracted from domestic sheep and goats. Through the efforts of the Bozeman-based Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) and their chapters, affiliates and state/provincial conservation partners, bighorn sheep numbers have increased to more than 85,000 today. That’s a three-fold increase funded almost entirely by hunter-conservationists and the high value these conservationists place on the resource. Since forming in 1977, WSF has directed more than $110 million to transplants, relocations, habitat improvement and protection, and other programs benefiting both bighorn and thinhorn sheep.
The Rocky Mountain Goat Alliance (RMGA) — also based here in Bozeman — serves as a respected voice for science-based expertise related to mountain goat conservation. RMGA works through collaborative efforts with local, state, and international industry organizations as well as state wildlife agencies to establish baseline data for management plans on populations, distributions and diseases. RMGA is actively participating in many conservation projects across the U.S. and recently produced a cutting-edge public education film that highlights Rocky Mountain Goat gender identification, ecology, biology, field judging, aging and trophy scoring.
Hunters and groups like WSF and RMGA are largely responsible for the thriving populations of wild sheep and goats we enjoy today. Today, I’m proud to say that women hunters are also critical role players in these efforts.
Since 2009, women have been reported as the fastest emerging market within the shooting sports and hunting communities. Those of us in the hunting industry have been seeing the increase in the number of women attendees at hunting shows, and this number continues to increase.
By nature, women are nurturers and the key to the family. Once you have her buy-in, you have the entire family. Hunting is also something the whole family can enjoy and do together. Women will really become significant players as the locavore movement continues to expand. Women are the primary decision maker when it comes to making food choices for the family in the majority of households today. Our messaging needs to appeal to these women. The connection between hunting for food and providing a healthy, organic, sustainable and trusted food source to the family is a powerful story that gives hunters credibility. Our communication, whether collectively as an industry or as individual organizations, must effectively tell that story and rightfully define the hunter as the foremost conservationist.
I am both blessed and humbled to work with an incredible group of men and women who are not only committed to developing the finest technical outdoor gear for the family but also to playing a larger role in conservation. Each and every one of us at SITKA share a passion for the great outdoors and a genuine respect for the land and wildlife. These core beliefs and values continue to guide us both as a business and as hunters and conservationists.
I feel very fortunate to have the hunting opportunities I do, and I’m so grateful for the many dedicated conservationists who worked so hard to give us the wild places and wildlife we enjoy today. And I’m of course very thankful to my husband for introducing me to hunting, which continues to provide us with uninterrupted quality time together and a strong sense of camaraderie with other hunters. Being able to escape day-to-day modern life – when the only connection you have is between the outdoors, the wildlife, and your hunting companions – grounds us as human beings, gives us a greater appreciation for wildlife, and instills a commitment to protect our resources and ensure these opportunities exist for future generations.