Story and photographs by Jason Brooks
If you are a hunter and think that merchandisers and marketers are getting girly lately, you would be right. In recent years the fastest growing demographic of hunters are actually huntresses – women who head afield to put food on the table. This is no surprise to myself or those in my hunting camp. We have known for years that there would be a trend towards more women chasing game. Fifteen years ago my hunting partner, Chad Hurst, called one day to announced the birth of he and his wife’s first child, Brittany. Right away I began to look for camo clothes, lightweight guns, hunting packs and anything else that would fit a tiny girl. But even then most of what I found were Barbie fishing poles, pink camo hats and few odds and ends. Years later, when Brittany and Hurst’s second daughter, Marissa, decided to take a hunter-safety course, we went back to the sporting goods store and found entire sections devoted to the needs of the huntress.
With a national movement to stop eating hormone-infused meat, chemically modified foods and an alarming rise in various cancers as a whole, those who enjoy the outdoors are turning more to wild game as a staple in their diets. An article published by National Geographic in April 2013 and titled “More Women Give Hunting A Shot” revealed that from 2006 to 2011 the number of female hunters grew by 25 percent and made up 11 percent of the 13.7 million hunters in the US. That might not seem like much, but the overall age of hunters is increasing and total numbers of hunters is decreasing. As our nation moves into the age of technology, an upward trend in camo-clad ladies is something that all hunters need to notice. Most people who market hunting already have.
One of the more popular television shows on The Sportsman Channel is Universal Huntress Television. This is a show dedicated to the female hunter, emphasizing women’s skill sets to harvest game. The production manager, Chantelle Kapp, is involved with the show along with her husband, Emanuel Kapp, the show’s executive producer.
I caught up with Chantelle a few weeks ago and asked how she contributes to the forefront of women in hunting. It turns out that she was born into the outdoors much like my friends’ daughters Brittany and Marissa. Chantelle told me, “I was fortunate enough to grow up in the Limpopo province of South Africa and my friends and I would camp, fish and hike over weekends, exploring the bushveld (a subtropical woodland) and its surroundings.”
After her youth she traveled and earned a bachelors in education that led her to a school in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa. She told me, “It warmed my heart to see how much the schools and families relied on the local hunting lodged for food, supplies and support. I knew I wanted to be involved in a community and industry where helping your fellow man and conservation was more important than the stock market.”
When I asked if there was any one person who influenced her life, she explained, “My husband, Emanuel encouraged me to learn and explore the outdoor industry as much as I possibly could. He always stands by my side and offers advice or support. Through him and our adventures I’ve learned more about conservation, how a community can help to improve it, how to look at the world through a lens and capture unique moments and, most importantly, how to build relationships with fellow enthusiasts and combine efforts.”
It is through the building of relationships that Chantelle met Jen Adams and Norissa Harman from Girls with Guns Clothing (see the July 2014 issue of the Western Shooting Journal for an in-depth story on Jen and Norissa) who make hunting attire for women. In 2013 they joined forces and began Universal Huntress Television. The show is more than the typical adventure of a television personality in a treestand waiting for a buck to walk by so they can make a few grunts and notch their tag while explaining how sitting at a prescouted, preplaced, bait-attracted stand brought in the big buck. The show addresses hunting as a way of life and highlights regions of the world, many in Africa, where hunting isn’t a hobby but a way to feed entire towns. The show’s motto is “The future of Universal Huntress is in the hands of creative, free-spirited professionals, who share a passion for their 2nd amendment rights and fair-chase hunting.”
For the female who is thinking of taking up hunting or one who already likes to head into the mountains in pursuit of game, it’s shows like this that express how much women belong in the hunting world.
Getting started in hunting can be difficult if you don’t have someone like Emanuel or Hurst who support and teach their families. Chantelle said, “I’ve always felt that if you want to do something, you’re halfway there.” She knew she was on the verge of a new adventure when she found herself wanting to learn to hunt. “As in any sport you have to learn first in order to achieve. Try joining a class or asking someone with knowledge and experience to help you. Don’t let inexperience or shyness stop you from such an amazing sport.”
Chantelle is what Theodore Roosevelt would have defined as a hunter, which is much more than just someone who kills game. “All hunters should be nature lovers,” Roosevelt included in the preface of his book The Wilderness Hunter, and went on to say, “In hunting, the finding and killing of game is after all but a part of the whole. The free, self-reliant, adventurous life, with its rugged and stalwart democracy; the wild surroundings, the grand beauty of the scenery, the chance to study the ways and habits of the woodland creatures – all these unite to give to the career of the wilderness hunter its peculiar charm.”
Thanks to women like Chantelle, younger generations are learning that a huntress is just as much of a hunter as Roosevelt ever was. ASJ