My Journey As A Female Hunter: Shelby Heinrichs

When people tell me I can’t do something due to my gender, I see an opportunity to prove them wrong. Have I failed a time or two? Absolutely, but it’s never stopped me from trying. Hunting was a bond that my uncle and grandpa shared beyond my immediate family, so I didn’t hunt often in my early years. I was introduced to bowhunting early in high school and immediately developed a passion for it. Without much guidance, I practiced with a bow that I had borrowed. At the time, I didn’t know that the size of a compound bow had to be tailored to the shooter, and I shot a bow that was far too long for my actual draw length. Since those early days, I’ve applied myself to absorbing as much information as I can from the incredibly knowledgeable people around me.  

Some of the most satisfying days of my life have been accomplished afield.  I’ve found that being not only a female hunter but, a solo female hunter brings a great sense of accomplishment and joy to my life. Hunting has provided me with the occasional taste of freedom from everyday life, as well as the opportunity to explore wild country. I thoroughly enjoy exploring places that aren’t often traveled by foot, as they provide me with a connection to nature that isn’t easily replicated elsewhere.

As a female hunter, I’ve found many obstacles in my solo adventures. When it comes to gear, information, social acceptance, and sincerity, I have encountered my fair share of both positive and negative experiences. Tracking down a bow that fit my short draw length, and met my needs while maintaining comfort took a lot of patience. I’ve been forced to apply this same patience to finding backpacks and attire that fit properly. Quality boots for women that can hold up to Oregon’s diverse climate and terrain requires a lot of trial and error. Thankfully the hunting industry has started to recognize the fact that there are women that will hunt just as hard as their male counterparts, as more and more gear becomes available to the female consumer.

Leading up to hunting season I’m always asked if hunting is something that I “actually love”, or if I simply do it because it’s attractive to the hunting community. These questions can be slightly frustrating when you feel like you’re being judged before you’ve even stepped foot in the field. I have taken the liberty of inviting myself on trips and archery shoots, which are usually happily obliged, but wouldn’t be offered or considered otherwise. It took time to build up the confidence to do so, but I knew that if I wanted gain exposure to what I love most, it was up to me to figure it out.  

This summer I had the opportunity to attend Candy and Randy Yow’s Ladies Hunting Camp in La Pine, Oregon as both an instructor and student. I went into the long weekend expecting to take away helpful pointers for the coming season, but I had no idea how much of an impact this camp would have on me, and the entire group of women in attendance. This camp started as an idea that was brought to life with the intent of giving women the knowledge and confidence to successfully build hunting into their lifestyle. These women covered a wide range of ages and experience levels, traveling from all over the United States to further their understanding of all things hunting. Throughout the weekend we had the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of rifles, muzzleloaders, shotguns, pistols, and archery tackle, along with their applications in hunting scenarios.

In addition to the weapons classes, the experienced instructors covered scouting, tracking, orienteering, self-defense, field dressing/quick quartering, tags and licensing, how to maneuver your truck while towing a trailer, and so much more! This was all offered with the intention of providing women with a foundation of knowledge whether they’re hunting solo, building the confidence to hunt with a partner, or even those that have been hunting for their entire life looking to pick up new skills or techniques.

This camp is a game changer for women. It’s hard to convey how empowering Ladies Hunting Camp has been. It provided time for women to forge lifelong friendships, and find like-minded individuals that share in their passion and respect for the outdoors. Every instructor dedicated themselves to giving each student one on one attention, as well as the confidence they need to effectively start or continue their hunting journey. The information that each person was exposed to was endless. Ladies Hunting Camp is an incredible experience that I would recommend to each and every woman that is passionate about hunting, or looking to start.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *