What might seem fun to most 9-year-old girls doesn't hold much interest for 9-year-old Carolyn White from Dallas, Texas. She thinks Barbie dolls and trips to the mall are boring. She prefers spending Saturdays hunting with her father. " It's wonderful. You feel like you can do anything and it's really cool."
This particular Saturday, Carolyn killed her first deer, as part of an all-girls hunting trip at Wildcat Mountain Ranch in Robert Lee, Texas. It is one of a number of supervised all-girls hunting trips that state wildlife officials are organizing around the country in an effort to attract girls to try to help keep hunters from becoming an endangered species. According to a survey by the U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service, there has been an 11 percent decline in the number of hunters nationwide from 1991 to 2006.
"Girls and women has been an untapped resource for us," says Greg Simons, director of the Texas Wildlife Association. "And that's one of the reasons we now have some unique programs that are designed to facilitate and cultivate that interest."
Like pink camouflage clothing. .. and fashion lines with names like "Foxy Huntress." They even sell pink rifles at places like the Academy Sporting Store.
The efforts are working. "They estimate that within the last 5 or 6 years we've realized an approximate 75 percent growth in hunting from girls and women," says Simons. "I think we're making some headway there. " Simons argues states needs money from hunting licenses to pay for wildlife protection." If we do not do a good job of maintaining our hunting heritage we will see a loss of wildlife habitat at a rate that's unprecedented. We can't afford to go there."
Simons says girls often pick up the sport more quickly than boys.
"They don't put as much pressure on themselves which allows them to focus and concentrate better " says Simons.
Hunting opponents say this sends the wrong message. "We want to see children respect animals, says Heidi Prescott of the Humane Society. "We want to see them love animals and not go out in the woods and kill animals. "
And the girls admit not all of their friends at school are impressed with their hunting hobby.
"Some of them think it's wrong," says 15-year-old Mary Kate Redding from Dallas. "They say they wouldn't be able to kill something so cute like Bambi but I don't really see it that way because I'm really actually helping the environment by controlling the animals.
Redding points out that hunting keeps the deer population in check, so deer don't starve. Plus she brings home food for her family ... and a pretty unusual trophy.