Following a look into the changing face of bowhunting, we hosted a live roundtable event with some of the most influential women in the sport to dive into hot topics and answer questions from fans across the country.
Participants included these accomplished archers who are making waves in the bowhunting world:
A BOWHUNTING First
On the cover of our first ever women's issue this June, we featured archery world champion and co-host of Bow Life TV, Samantha Morgan.
She started shooting her first bow at age 8, began competing at 10, and took to the woods when she was 17. Since then, she's arrowed a variety of species throughout the country alongside her husband, Levi.
But when Samantha heard a Morgan was going to appear on the cover of Petersen's Bowhunting, she assumed it would be Levi.
Although the ATA reports that women now account for 16 percent of all active bowhunters, manufacturers in the outdoors industry are just starting to catch up, and lady bowhunters are still facing substantially more backlash — all the more proof that such a meeting of the female minds was long overdue.
From gear to fitness and from conservation to social media, we covered the biggest issues for female bowhunters.
Seasoned archer Vicki Cianciarulo has been bowhunting for decades. When she first got started, she was forced to sport her husband's camo and shoot a kid's bow. Dedicated women's gear was nowhere to found. But now, she said, women have a lot more functional options that aren't just menswear with pink logos.
"Let it be comfortable in a treestand. We're not doing a catwalk for a fashion show," Vicki said. "We really need to make sure that it's functional out in the woods — that's what we need. And they're listening!"
Kandi Kisky echoed Vicki's sentiments and is also working with clothing manufacturers to educate them on what's working in the field — and what's not. These companies are listening and tweaking designs based on their feedback from the field.
Fans wanted to know what unscented products these ladies use when bowhunting.
Kristy recommended Dead Down Wind products — especially the field wipes — for going scent-free and preventing bacteria from growing.
Tiffany relies on scent elimination products from Wildlife Research Center, even in turkey season so cautious deer don't ruin her hunts.
Vicki turns to Hunters Specialties to kill odors, while Michele uses Ozonics to help eliminate scent while on stand.
Melissa knows that the key to sticking out late-season hunts is making sure she's comfortable. A neck gaiter and a Thermacare wrap — which is scent-free and she wears on her kidneys — keep her warm during long sits. Tiffany seconded the importance of staying warm and recommended keeping an emergency heat pack on hand.
Sarah suggested keeping feet toasty with heated socks featuring rechargeable batteries from Cabela's — a tip she received from Tiffany.
For accessing information such as property boundaries and landowner names, Jana relies on OnXmaps during her DIY hunts.
For women who are interested in bowhunting but have no one to show them the ropes, Tiffany suggested first going to an archery shop to get set up the proper way. "You can make or break your entire bowhunting career with that," she said. "It's nice when you've never shot a bow because you have no bad habits."
Samantha and Vicki emphasized the importance of practicing over and over before hitting the woods — at a distance farther than your hunting range.
Sarah shared some advice she heard Taylor give — sit with someone else who is hunting before shooting yourself because you will experience so many emotions and adrenaline. "Put yourself in that situation without having to draw your bow," Sarah said.
Michele said new hunters should never feel pressured. "You don't have to make a shot. You don't have to do anything," she said. "If you're going on a hunt, and an animal comes in, and you don't feel comfortable shooting it, give yourself permission to just enjoy the animal coming in."
First Archery Whitetails
Taylor worked for a couple years to reach the legal minimum hunting poundage and took her first archery whitetail at age 12.
Sarah got her bowhunting start at age 24 and harvested a whitetail her first fall — something that was even more rewarding because of all the work she put into setting up treestands, checking trail cameras and setting up food plots.
When Jana took her first archery whitetail, she said she was sad and elated at the same time — something most hunters feel. "It's ok to have that feeling," she said. "It's love for animals, and it makes us human."
"You don't necessarily have to be the world's best athlete to hunt," Sarah said. But spot-and-stalk hunting can certainly take a toll on your body. "You might have to be running. You might have to be crawling. You might have to be jumping over things. You're going to be pushing your body to the ultimate level because that animal won't wait for you."
Sarah said that you can't be "too in shape to hunt," and she strives to be as fit as the animals she pursues so that she can draw enough poundage and get within range to make an ethical shot every time.
Sarah employs a combination of HIIT, weight training and cardio. She does burpees and then takes shots to create an adrenaline rush similar to what she experiences while hunting. She shares some of her bowhunting-prep workouts on the Bowmar Bowhunting YouTube channel.
Kristy recommended the Accubow for training to reach a heavier draw weight from home — including the Rick Carone Signature Series, with proceeds benefitting the Team Carone Foundation.
"If you're a bowhunter and you're coming out west, everything is legs and lungs," Kristy said.
Kristy said that while training is important, people at any physical level can bowhunt. "Being a fit bowhunter means doing everything that's within your physical ability. So, you can't walk? We can find a bowhunt for you that will get you in the field and work for whatever limitation you have."
After having her knee reconstructed in March and being bed-ridden for a month, Kristy committed herself to competing in a Train to Hunt event in June. The competition not only provided her motivation to get back in shape following surgery but also provided her with community of bowhunting buddies and support.
A Family Affair
How about bowhunting while pregnant?
Michele's doctor said he wouldn't recommend initially taking up bowhunting while pregnant, but to go for it since she had already been doing it. She knew her limitations but was still able to shoot a deer from a treestand 7 months along.
Samantha competed in an archery competition at 8 months pregnant, and Eva hunted at 8 months. "I wasn't competing with my non-pregnant self or the guy ahead of me," Eva said.
Nicole went turkey hunting the day before having a baby. "You can't ever start 'em too young," she joked.
Sarah recommended practicing in your ground blind or treestand while pregnant before you hit the woods. Drawing your bow and even sitting will be completely different when you're expecting.
When those babies are born, another challenge presents itself — how do you find time to practice and hunt?
Tiffany said that when they're young, you should get the kids outside and find a way to incorporate them into your practice. "You figure out how to make it work," she said. And sometimes this means shooting at first light to get your practice in before the kids even wake up.
Kandi said that because bowhunting is a lifestyle, you have to strike the right balance. First get them involved with watching and take the kids outside to shoot with you once they're older.
Taylor said her dad made shooting fun for her at a young age by incorporating balloons — and that element is part of the reason she stuck with the sport.
Hunting is a family affair for the Eichlers as well. "I go watch my boys play baseball, but we hunt as a family," she said.
Melissa recommended taking kids into your hunting blind and allow them to take pictures. Don't push them to hunt before they're ready, but let them ask you to get started. "Think on the level of a kid," she said.
It's a Man's World
We asked the ladies if being a female in this industry is an advantage or a challenge. Their answer? Yes — it's both.
Jana Waller said she has had more doors open for her in this traditionally male-dominated field, but the fairer sex also faces some unique challenges. She's an outspoken proponent of allowing bowhunting skills to speak for themselves rather than exposing skin to get attention. "Sponsors want classy, educated, experienced women who will be able to talk the talk and walk the walk," she said. According to Jana, it's all about genuinely living the lifestyle. This stance has garnered the respect of serious bowhunters, and her success proves women can be successful without compromising their standards.
Nicole Reeve said that she was the only girl in a hunting camp full of men when she was growing up. People told her that as a girl, she should be doing something else. But hunting is what her dad taught her and what she knew, so she didn't let the critics deter her from pursuing what she loved. Now, she takes the responsibility of being a positive role model for other female bowhunters seriously.
Social Media Savvy
Social media is a great tool for sharing our lifestyle, but it also welcomes the ire of critics.
Although she's been the victim of social media threats in the past, Taylor Drury still believes social media is a valuable tool because it provides the opportunity for female bowhunters to come together as a community and educate people about hunting. She learned from her dad, Mark Drury, that there will always be haters, but how she chooses to handle the criticism is what's important. "You have to turn the hate always into a positive," Taylor said.
Jana said that Melissa gave her some great social media advice — don't engage with people who are trolling. It's fine to answer legitimate questions, but don't bother fighting with the people who turn to name calling. "Ban, block, delete, move on," she said.
Eva said that Tiffany comes to the defense of other bowhunters when she witnesses social media bullying with the classic rhetorical question — "Do you talk to your mother with that mouth?"
In person, Eva has heard an occasional snarky remark, but people will take her to task on social media. Tiffany said it's easy to target a public figure when you're a faceless individual on social media, but those people still need to be held accountable. "We're real people and we read that stuff and we'll call you out," she said. Tiffany even gets an occasional apology after addressing the critics.
But anti-hunters aren't the only people who can spew hate. Melissa said that she not only sees social media criticism from anti-hunters but also from people within our own ranks. "We need to stand together as hunters, if it's something ethical happening," she said. And this was the unanimous feeling.
"We have to all ban together," Tiffany said. "We can't fall apart like that."
Taylor said that you don't have to like how someone else hunts or do the same thing. But at the end of the day, we're all hunters and need to stand together.
"If it's legal and it's ethical, we support it," said Michele.
Sarah has even seen bowhunters criticize one another for wanting to be physically fit but believes that's something we should all promote. "As long as everyone is following the rules, let's just keep supporting one another because we want to have this lifestyle for our children and our children's children and so on," Sarah said.
Hunting Is Conservation
Michele said that women have a wonderful opportunity to be positive role models and educate people about all the good that comes from hunting. In the Eichler household, it's not about the biggest trophy but who put meat on the table. She said it's important that we help people "understand that hunting is more than killing animals — that it is conservation; that it is a lifestyle."
"The media does a really poor job of sharing the narrative on how hunting is conservation," said Kristy, an active member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. But she recognizes that we as hunters don't always do a good job either, and we have to do better so we preserve the future of hunting.
"It's really important that as hunters, as lovers of our sport, it not just about family tradition. It's not just about putting meals on the table," Kristy said. "We are literally changing the landscape of our country and making it a better place."
Jana said that even women who don't have a huge TV platform can convey these messages about conservation through their own social media networks. Just having and sharing these facts and statistics is power.