(NEW YORK) — Hunger Games heroine and bow hunter Katniss Everdeen became the anti-Barbie for a new generation in the book and movie series, and in real life, more women are jumping into the traditionally-male dominated sport of hunting.
Canadian-born Eva Shockey has become the face of that new trend.
With a bow or a gun, the 27-year-old professional hunter has an outdoors show, loyal fans and endorsement deals. She’s only the second woman ever to grace the cover of Field and Stream magazine in its 120-year history. The other woman was none other than Queen Elizabeth II back in 1976.
“How crazy was that? … it’s a huge, huge, huge honor,” Shockey said.
The number of female hunters has been steadily increasing, up 34 percent between 2006 and 2011, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, and the rise has caught the attention of several outdoor brands. On the market now are pink bows, and stylist form-fitting hunting gear that have appeared just in the last few years.
Under Armour, for one, is creating entirely new hunting product lines geared towards women.
“We’ve been in the women’s hunting business for about four years, but literally in the last two years, we’ve seen a dramatic change in the business,” said Bryan Offutt, Under Armour’s senior director for outdoor apparel.
Eva Shockey is the daughter of Jim Shockey, the host of popular hunting shows Jim Shockey’s Uncharted and Jim Shockey’s Outdoor Hunting Adventures on the Outdoor Channel. Growing up, she started going on hunting trips with her dad when she was only 3 or 4 years old. But she didn’t start hunting herself until she was 20, and never actually killed an animal until she shot a warthog during an episode of one of Jim’s shows.
“It was emotional,” Shockey said. “I was excited, I was nervous, I was worried.”
“As a hunter, if you don’t feel remorse, if you don’t feel reverence for that animal that just gave you a life, then I think you should maybe rethink it,” she continued. “That’s a living animal, and it’s now become food for people.”
Shockey insists she doesn’t kill solely for sport. For her, it’s a family tradition, and even the ultimate way to be health conscious because she knows where her food comes from.
But hunting is a controversial sport. Anti-hunting protests have been on the rise in the past few years, and female hunters have felt the worst of it.
When hunter Melissa Bachman posted a smiling picture on Facebook of her kneeling next to a dead lion she had killed, the photo led to a nationwide outcry. There was even a petition to ban her from returning to South Africa.
Shockey said she got a taste of the same thing after posing with a 510-pound bear in North Carolina. The threats poured in on Facebook, and Shockey said she received 5,000 death threats in one day.
“I think when they attack me, that’s just a form of fear basically,” she said. “They are used to … the hunter with the beard and the drinking beer…but that’s not what I represent.”
But Shockey’s enthusiasm and good looks have helped make her a star.
“When you see somebody like Eva Shockey gorgeous and young, well educated, and she has the message, how can you not hook on to that and say hey she’s going to reach way more people then we will,” said Ronnie Strickland, the senior vice president of media services for Mossy Oak, an outdoor brand sponsoring the Shockeys.
It’s not just Eva Shockey capturing attention. Hunting enthusiast Theresa Vail, who was Miss Kansas in the 2013 Miss America competition, was planning to demonstrate her archery skills for the talent portion, but judges decided it was too dangerous. And let’s not forget Sarah Palin, known in hunting circles as the First Lady of the Outdoors, and now the host of Amazing America with Sarah Palin.
ABC’s Nightline caught up with Palin as she served wild boar chili to the homeless in Las Vegas, a stopover before she headed to Iowa for the first major conservative showcase of the 2016 election cycle.
“Women realize, we can say screw the political correctness,” Palin said. “Those who would say we shouldn’t be harvesting in the wild, God’s resources that he has provided … more and more women, quite independent, are saying, ‘Nah, let me at it.’”
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