They hunt or fish for their own reasons, and not merely to hang out with the guys.
They’re people like 20-year-old Lee County resident Allison Starks, who fishes and who hunts for rabbits — and 42-year-old Pauline Mora who says, “I love fishing more than I love eating.”
While a 2011 survey by the National Sporting Goods Association showed a decline in men and women hunting or fishing since the 2006 survey, the amount of women with outdoor interests is still significant enough to pack a punch, especially in Southwest Florida. An estimated 10.7 million women reported fishing in 2011 and about 3.2 million reported hunting with a firearm or a bow and arrow.
In Southwest Florida, “fishing is a big deal for us,” said Jack Wert, executive director of the Naples, Marco Island Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau.
At the Port of the Islands resort southeast of Naples, goodie bags with coupons from local businesses and a Collier County visitor guidebook awaited 30 women attending the Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing weekend seminar in late October.
“Women are our target market, because they make most of the travel decisions — whether it’s for a family or a couple,” Wert said.
The Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce uses an RV as a tourism office on wheels. Next April, the rig will head for the 6th annual Women in the Outdoors program hosted by Quail Creek Plantation, the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Tourist Development Council for Okeechobee County, north of Florida’s landmark lake with the same name.
It’s a growing educational program drawing women from across the state. Last April, 170 women participated, about 40 more than the year prior. Target attendance for 2013: 200.
“You can come, not knowing a handgun from a rifle, and we’ll teach you. We also teach basic fishing skills,” said Women in the Outdoors coordinator Denise Helms.
Among the younger set, the wildly popular “Hunger Games” book series and movie are bringing new devotees of archery and bow hunting, said Larry Whitely, spokesman for Bass Pro Shops. The Canadian publication Western Sportsman has called fictional female character and ace archer Katniss Everdeen “a driving force behind what will no doubt be an increase in youth participation in archery this year.”
That exposure — and family ties — are bringing young women like Chelsea Severance into archery. The University of Cincinnati student who’s about to turn 21, got a trip to Las Vegas and her mom’s old bow set among her birthday gifts.
Her mother, part-time Floridian Kimberly Costello started bow hunting about six years ago, under the tutelage of husband, Murray Costello, a lifelong hunter who grew up in Fort Myers. The two divide their time between here and Ohio, hunting in both states.
“I shoot guns, but I don’t shoot animals with guns. And, I don’t do deer-hunting,” Kimberly Costello said. She explained that she’s just too chummy with the deer she feeds at their place in Ohio.
Costello likes bow hunting because “It’s a serious challenge. With a gun, you just point and shoot.”
Women comprise about one-quarter of Lee County Archers Club’s 240-member roster, said club President Ben Brown. He doesn’t know how many members hunt.
Going after live game isn’t a club activity. However, its program off North Fort Myers’ Nalle Grade Road accommodates 3-D hunting, in which archers shoot life-sized foam deer, pigs, skunks and other critters.
Experienced members will instruct newcomers in archery free of charge, Brown said, adding: that, “A lot get into it; some you never see again.”
On the water, women are joining the ranks of fishing guides. They include captains Mary Fink and Kim Mimides who run Island Girls Charters out of Port of the Islands Marina south of Naples.
In Lee County, Capt. Lacey Rush and Capt. Chris Rush operate Rush Charters out of Port Sanibel Marina.
It’s nice to see more ladies going out in their own boats and paddle boards to fish,” said Lacey Rush, who’s a resort and hospitality management graduate of FGCU.
She provides guide services for men as well as women. Sources of the latter clientele often come from ladies-only fishing clubs — and upscale communities.
“I see a lot of interest from retired ladies who like to golf,” Lacey Rush said. “They’ll come out with their girlfriends and a nice cooler full of mimosas.”
For some women, fishing is primarily a way to relax or socialize with friends. For others, such as Venice retiree Faye Mallory, it’s on her bucket list.
Mallory is studying diesel engine repair in the hope of buying and maintaining a boat for fishing. But for starters, she’ll join a kayak club.
For years, as a wife and a mother, Mallory said she watched family members “go (fishing) and I’d stay home. No more.”
*For more information on planning your own adventure getaway, visit http://poiresort.com/.
Source: Ruane, Laura. “Women like the outdoors, too.” News-press 14 Nov 2012. http://newspr.es/TNSWSz
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