In an ABC Nightline news piece Feb. 2, reporter Neal Karlinsky interviewed archer and bowhunter Eva Shockey while examining the growing number of female hunters in the United States.
Karlinsky maintained the objectivity expected of a seasoned news journalist, at least until the story’s last seconds when he shot some errant arrows before hitting the bull’s-eye. That’s when – at least in spirit – he became a kid again. He was pumped. He yelled and pointed to the bull’s-eye with his arrow. “I gotta take a picture of this,” he said.
And out came his iPhone.
Before the segment ended at a Las Vegas archery range, it largely focused on the similarities of fictional heroine and bowhunter Katniss Everdeen, “the anti-Barbie for a new generation,” and real-life bowhunter Eva Shockey, a 27-year-old Canadian who has become a fixture in the hunting industry. Shockey is a full-fledged “Outdoor Channel” and “Wild TV” personality, and co-hosts “Jim Shockey’s Hunting Adventures” TV show with her father. And in 2014 she became the first woman photographed for “Field and Stream” magazine’s cover since Queen Elizabeth II in 1976.
Although Shockey endures criticism and death threats from anti-hunting groups — as the newscast reports and Shockey confirms — she’s arguably one of the most refined and well-respected females in hunting.
Some images which portray hunting in a manner that’s disrespectful to the animal — which make visual fodder for anti-hunting campaigns — suggest hunting is about killing for sport. Shockey doesn’t project that intent anymore than Hollywood’s Katniss Everdeen did when arrowing, skinning and cooking squirrel over a fire.
Perhaps that’s why Katniss gets a pass from mainstream media and anti-hunters. And, more times than not, Shockey does too. Nightline featured footage of Shockey getting emotional as she hunted and killed her first wild animal. Of that moment, she said:
“As a hunter, if you don’t feel remorse, if you don’t feel reverence for that animal that just gave you a life, then I think you should maybe rethink it. That’s a living animal, and it’s now become food for people.”
While reasons for hunting vary from pursuing a trophy buck to spending time outdoors, more people today are motivated to hunt for the longstanding and most-obvious reason: food.
“The number of those hunting for meat nearly doubled from 16 percent in 2006 to 35 percent in 2011,” according to a national survey of 1,000 hunters published in 2014 by Responsive Management and other outdoors agencies,” wrote Associated Press reporter Lisa Rathke. “The survey found that part of the increase was driven by the locavore movement.”
Additionally, Nightline reported increased numbers of female hunters:
“The number of female hunters has been steadily increasing, up 34 percent between 2006 and 2011, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, and the rise has caught the attention of several outdoor brands. On the market today are pink bows, and stylist form-fitting hunting gear that have appeared just in the last few years.”
Although females still only account for about 11 percent of hunters nationwide, it’s enough to increase the quality and customization of female hunting gear and apparel. This was evident at the 2015 ATA Trade Show, a business event operated by the Archery Trade Association for archery retailers and manufacturers. WideOpenSpaces.com, an outdoor and hunting blog that covered new products at the Show, observed, “more and more manufacturers are marketing to women.”
If bowhunting is galvanizing around the locavore movement, increased female participation, and surging interest in archery – as ABC News suggests – students of history know this doesn’t mark change. Instead, it’s a continuum of human culture. In “Meat Eater,” a 2012 book by American hunter Steven Rinella, we learn of hunting’s dominance in human history, despite more recent times when agricultural people, as Rinella puts it, “basically kicked the (shizzle) out of hunters.”
Though details vary, it’s largely thought that modern humans existed in Africa less than 100,000 years ago. And they hunted. As did their offspring, who populated Australia 45,000 years ago, and France and Germany 36,000 year ago. Hunters crossed the Bering Strait about 14,000 to 15,000 years ago, and ultimately reached North America.
And, from somewhere along that enduring line of ancient hunters came author Susanne Collins, the woman who dreamed up archer and bowhunter Katniss Everdeen for her collection of young-adult fiction. Collins’ creations extend the hunting continuum into 2015.
Likewise, Eva Shockey is not something altogether new. She’s also part of a greater continuum. While she is indeed the first woman photographed for a “Field and Stream” cover since Queen Elizabeth, she is not the only woman featured there. Many women graced the magazine’s illustrated covers in the 1960s and ’70s.
So, hunting’s been around the block a time or two and women are part of those stories. They always have been. But it’s been awhile since bowhunting has made the evening news, especially with an ambassador as hip, young and eloquent as Eva Shockey.