Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ladies First Women Are Fastest Growing Group of Outdoors Participants

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ladies First Women Are Fastest Growing Group of Outdoors Participants

Article excerpt

For more than a decade, we've been hearing about declining outdoors participation -- particularly in hunting, particularly among young people.

But beneath the headlines, data show the fastest-growing segment of outdoors users -- including in hunting, including the young -- is comprised of women.

More than a quarter of all freshwater anglers are women, and while the percentage of female hunters is lower, their numbers are growing.

"Many people may be surprised to learn the traditional view of the outdoors person is changing. But to anybody who hunts, fishes and shoots, the presence of women on the water, in the woods and at the range is anything but new, and certainly not surprising," said Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates.

The Florida-based polling company he formed in 1989 is paid to gather data for studies commissioned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state wildlife agencies and nonprofit environmental groups, and compile market data for sportfishing and other outdoors-related industries.

Noticing raw data in many unrelated polls showing a trend in rising outdoors participation among women, Southwick took the unusual step of culling and repackaging data on women from three years of studies. The data were compiled in a new survey, "Women in the Outdoors 2012," and released to the media.

"Typically when you look at data reflecting cultural change, you're not seeing monumental shifts," Southwick said. "Changes can be real slow -- a percentage point or two. But over the U.S. population at large, that can include a huge number of people. That's what we're seeing among women participating in outdoor recreation."

U.S. Fish and Wildlife data, collected in part by Southwick, shows that in 2001, 26.1 percent of freshwater anglers and 9.2 percent of hunters were female. In 2011, women comprised nearly 27 percent of all inland anglers and 11 percent of hunters.

Southwick's data shows that while women are participating more in traditional outdoors recreation, their preferences are sometimes different than those of men.

Overwhelmingly, guys like to target specific fish species. Sixty- three percent go after largemouth and spotted bass, and to a lesser degree they fish for panfish, trout, smallmouth bass and catfish. While 27 percent of men are happy to catch non-targeted species, 43 percent of women prefer to fish for "whatever bites."

According to the Southwick study, 86 percent of women fish to spend time on or near the water, and more so than men, they view fishing as an opportunity to spend time with family and friends (84 percent to 71 percent). …

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