Hunting and Shooting Industry Targets Women for the 'Sarah Palin Effect'

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"For every woman we brought to the sport, she brought seven," said Rhodes. "And a man still has same hunting partner from childhood through his 70s."

Her group's mission, in part, is to "support, encourage, and teach women and youth the benefits and enjoyment of shooting and outdoor sporting activities in a woman-friendly and non-threatening environment."

Now, Rhodes said, when women from Diva walk through the halls of Shot Show, the biggest gun show in the country, people in their booths and vendors have chanted "diva."

"That was such a big deal. They get it," said Rhodes. "We're not just your typical women. We're Texas women. We wear bling. We're a little louder than usual, and boastful. In Texas, it's tall tales, tall women, big hats, big hair."

Cheryl Long, the group's communications director, said except for Rhodes, the organization is run completely by volunteers, including her, and its members come from all backgrounds.

"We're all different ages, ballerinas, doctors, attorneys, housewives, nurses, retirees," said Long. "There's no stereotype that fits. I'm a girl and I'm petite. I like nice clothes and nice things. I don't like to go rough it. The Holiday Inn is roughing it for me."

Hottest Hunter in America

And younger women are entering the shooting fray as well.

Regis Giles, a 19-year-old college student in Miami, has never competed in a shooting competition but was called one of America's "hottest hunters" by the Daily Mail.

Giles, studying business as a sophomore, started building a brand, "Girls Just Want to Have Guns," complete with mugs, t-shirts and other apparel featuring a heart and pistol. Her own television show is in the works with Pursuit Channel, which is scheduled to air in spring 2011.

Called "Primal Urge," Giles said it will be a weekly hunting and fishing show. She added that she will use different types of weapons and host guests such as hunting newcomers and her family and friends.

Giles, who calls herself a conservationist and a believer in the Second Amendment, tries to practice the "fair chase hunt," in which a hunter does not have an improper advantage over an animal. For example, she has introduced female friends who have never hunted to hunting hogs with spears.

"They absolutely loved it," said Giles. "They were smiling from ear to ear their first time."

Sporting and hunting companies are trying to keep up with the growing segment of women. Apparel is an area in which both large and small operations have become more aggressive and entrepreneurial with women.

Kirstie Pike started Prois Hunting and Field Apparel for Women in Gunnison, Colo., with her husband in 2008.

"Basically, I became frustrated that there were no women's hunting clothes that were performance-driven and athletic," said Pike, adding there were mostly were cotton goods that were ineffective in the elements. "We decided to go after that market and have had great success in doing so."

Pike said sales more than doubled in 2010 and, this year to date, Prois has seen 400 percent sales growth. Prois sells its merchandise online and through sporting retail outlets such as Bass Pro Shops. She said the company has expanded sales into Canada, Australia and South Africa.

Sarah Palin Effect for Conservation

Pike said there is huge potential in the female hunting customer segment, though she is not sure their number will match men's.

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