More and more women in New York are picking up rifles for the first time, joining a growing population of female hunters.
Eighty-year-old Mary Case of Lockport first picked up a gun at age of 72. She says she did it just for the sport of shooting. Soon, her daughter Mardu Case joined in.
“There’s no better way to work off your frustrations than to blow things up,” said Mary Case.
The mother and daughter duo joined a group of women at the North Forest Rod and Gun Club in Lockport. They take part in a “Shoot and Hoot” event every month, where women practice their shotgun skills with skeet and clay targets.
The course mimics some of the skills they need out in the field. The women also share a potluck lunch, compare camo fashion and discuss the latest shotguns designed for women.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation says there are 500,000 licensed hunters in New York State and more than 50,000 hunters are women.
“Across the entire nation and in New York State, women are the fastest-growing demographic of adult onset hunters,” said Katrina Talbot, a wildlife biologist with the DEC.
Talbot says women begin hunting as adults for a variety of reasons.
"Some of them just want to get in touch with the outdoors. Some of them find a lot of peace in being outdoors. Some of them are looking into the locavore movement and they want to put fresh organic food on the table," she said.
Colleen Gaskill is a certified NRA instructor and cofounder the shoot and hoot course. Her interest in hunting dates back to when she was a kid. She said her whole family, including her mother, went out hunting.
"As soon as I was old enough, I took my safety education class and I went out deer hunting and pheasant hunting and rabbit hunting,” said Gaskill.
Hunters like Ashley Butcher of Lockport have a competitive spirit. She is a world champion sporting clay shooter and competes in FITASC, a French sports organization (Federation Internationale de Tir Aux Sportives de Chasse). She was ranked in the top nine in the nation in 2017 and in the top 15 this year.
“My goal is to make Team USA. It’s not an Olympic sport yet, however we do have world championships and do send a team there. My goal is to make the team and compete internationally," Butcher said.
The 24-year-old says she grew up hunting with her dad. When she started, her dad would hold up the barrel of the heavy shotgun for her.
“When I was little, I was too small to hold it on my own. We started on the skeet field and he would actually have to hold the end of the gun up so I could shoot the target," she said.