My early years in life were spent trying to keep up with boys. I had three older brothers, I wore their hand-me-down clothing, I had a boy haircut, and I aspired to doing the things that boys did. To someone who didn’t know my name, I’m sure I pulled it off quite nicely. I was everything that a boy was, except for the details.
As I grew older and began looking more like a girl, I kept my inner tomboy alive in various ways. While other girls were doing their thing at the mall, I kept a fishing pole in my car. I smelled like the stink bait that we would use to fish in the ponds of Oklahoma. It wasn’t unusual for me to be found at the lake sitting on a dock reading a book and catching fish. I wanted to be associated with males more than females.
Fast forward to my late teens and early twenties, and I focused even more on living a life that an outdoorsman would be proud of. I learned to hunt by myself. Most of my hobbies were in male-dominated industries. I even earned my pilots license and flew across the country in a vintage plane just because I wanted to. And also because I got to wear a cool flight suit during the journey that made me feel like I was in Top Gun. I played poker to make money to survive on, and my dreams were made of things that didn’t involve looking pretty. I wanted to be in male dominated industries because that’s where I felt most comfortable.
My first years in the outdoor industry were interesting because back then we didn’t have the influx of females that we have now. Most men had never seen a girl on a pro-staff. I was the first girl they called when Muzzy debuted their pink broadheads. I had shot bigger animals than most people I knew, and I proved myself in the field year after year. Even then I knew that being a woman in this industry was unique, but I still didn’t want to be better than the guys. I wanted them to respect me as something different from them. Something completely different. That was the turning point when I realized that I didn’t have to be one of the guys to be in the industry that I loved.
Breaking down that wall to get women to feel comfortable in the outdoor industry was a labor of love for many women in this industry. Some girls want to be one of the guys. Some of them want to be pretty in camo. And some of them remain anonymous in the backcountry and we might never hear their names. My personal journey has been one of persistence and dedication. I don’t want to be one of the boys because being a lady in this industry is much more fun for me. And I can appreciate all of the women who have taken the step into our world of hunting and fishing. I don’t care if they like to wear makeup in the field, I don’t care if they want pink on their equipment, and I don’t care if they act like a boy or not. All I care about is that we have torn down the preconceived notions that used to follow us ladies around when it came to the outdoor industry. I’m proud of what women have become, and how much we have accomplished.
Do I enjoy it when the guys offer me the nicest room in the hunting lodge? I do. Does it make me feel good when they offer to carry my gear or to help me cross a swift creek with deep running water? Yes, it does. And do I love the fact that I can put on my camo and feel prettier than when I wear anything else? Of course. I’ve grown to understand that being one of the boys is impossible. I’m not a boy. I’m a lady who loves to hunt, fish, and spend my days outside. If I were a boy then I would blend in with the others, so I’m learning to embrace my femininity. I’m learning that being one of the boys isn’t what I was intended to be.
It’s not a competition to see who can outdo each other when we are in the field. I do stay in shape so that they aren’t waiting for me at the top of the mountain, but I’m not here to ask for special treatment either. I’m here to live my days outside working at a job that I love and bringing home some meat every now and then. I’m not here to show people that I’m stronger than, or better than, the boys. Because I don’t think I would want to be.