BOSCOBEL - Girls and young women are the fastest growing demographic of hunters in the nation—and Boscobel and Wisconsin mirror that trend.
In 2012, Wisconsin sold 614,435 gun deer tags and 62,000 went to women. That number is estimated to grow by 43 percent by 2030 as more women take up hunting. The Wisconsin DNR has increased license sales with Learn-to-Hunt classes and inexpensive licenses for first-time hunters. Many of those new hunters are girls and women.
The number of licenses purchased for young children also remains high: In 2018, 2,257 children under the age of nine held a license, compared to 3,648 so far in 2019.
Local girls with connections to Boscobel, thanks to a strong line of family hunters, are following the national trend at a young age and are taking a serious interest in hunting and more importantly, spending time in the outdoors. These girls are not just deer hunting. Among them you will find a mixture of deer, duck, turkey, pheasant, and bear hunters—not to forget some are out enjoying fishing, including ice fishing. They are also out looking for morel mushrooms.
If you followed any one of these girls’ family trees, one may think hunting was in their bloodline for it can be traced back to great grandparents, several of whom hunted our surrounding woods, and fished the Wisconsin River. Jump ahead to today, and these girls will tell you they credit their granddads, dads, uncles and family friends for spending countless hours with them, instilling in them a sense of rich hunting ethics and love for the outdoors.
Keep in mind, these men who accompany these young girls are sacrificing their opportunity to bag a nice deer or bear, or bird so that they can allow and share with these young girls the experience, and yet they will agree it is just as exciting if not even more than themselves making the shot.
These girls shared that the manyt of them have missed school to go hunting, or they are off to go hunting on early release days or right after school. They go looking for deer regularly as a family outing, or hunt with family. They take family photos to include their grandparents upon returning with their game. They share their stories at school, which is usually the talk amongst the males in their classes often some in disbelief.
Eight of those girls sat down last week to share their hunting experiences and why they enjoy hunting, four of whom admitted skipping school to go hunting.
“I learned how to hunt and do taxidermy from my Grandpa Doug,” says Aaliyah Wayne. “It’s a lot of fun. When I shot my 14-pointer no one believed me. One boy got really mad because he missed one the day before.”
“It’s fun and cool,” says Kate Gebhard, who says she wants to become a game warden like her uncles, Nick and Mike Nice. “It’s not only the hunting, but the preparation, setting up trail cameras and planting the food plots.”
Earlier this month Kate took a big 12-point buck while bow hunting with her dad, Gene Gebhard, an experience she will never forget.
“My dad said he thought he saw a buck and heard grunting, but he always jokes about deer, so I wasn’t sure he was serious,” Kate said. “Then we saw him with a doe and when he walked broadside I decided to pull the trigger at 29 yards. It went right through him and I thought I missed, but my dad said we’d come back the next day and look for him. I couldn’t sleep all night and woke up like seven times. We found him the next day, dead, in a brush pile.”
It’s hard to believe 8-year-old Wriglee Schmitz is big enough to hunt, but she also bagged a big buck with a crossbow earlier this month.
“I was calm,” she says, “and my dad was shaking, very much.”
Tess and Tia Martin learned to hunt from their father, Tracy, and both have successfully harvested deer in recent years.
Tia is a member of the Boscobel Bird Dogs trapshooting team and is an accomplished pheasant hunter as well.
“We go pheasant hunting every weekend,” she says, “and shining (deer) every night prior to the season.”
And don’t think there isn’t a little sibling rivalry among these girls when it comes to hunting.
Meah and Lauryn Becker have both bagged big black bears while hunting with their dad, Brandon, and the Chiproad Gang in northern Wisconsin’s Chequamegon National Forest.
Nine-year-old Lauryn shot a 325-pound black bear in September and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, starting with scouting and baiting over summer weekends.
“It was fun, and it was bigger than Meah’s,” Lauryn says with a grin. “We get to get out of the house and play outside a lot. The boys at school said, ‘How come you can shoot a bear and I can’t?’”
Describing the hunt, Lauryn said, “My dad always gets so excited. He’s like, ‘Hurry up! Hurry up!’ The bear was up in a tree, but I was afraid (the gun) was going to kick if I shot and I would fall over. So my dad got behind me and I pulled the trigger. They all came over and hugged me, so then I started crying.”
When asked what she did next, Lauryn said, “I took the blood and rubbed it under my eyes.”
Meah rolled her eyes a little at her sister’s slight provocation, pointing out that Lauryn’s bear was only four pounds bigger than hers. She also brought up boys and their reactions to her hunting success, including a trophy 9-point buck earlier this month.
“The boys said I was a cheater because I used a crossbow,” she said. “They’re just jealous. I send them photos to rub it in their face.”
In addition to the hunting experience, the girls also enjoy the reward, including bear bacon, 50 pounds of it, by the Becker sisters.
In addition to bear BLTs by the Beckers, favorite wild game included venison sausage by Kate Gebhard, pheasant fajitas by the Martin sisters, turkey jerky by Aaliya Wayne and deer heart by Jorey Zimpel, who shot an 8-point buck during the Youth Hunt.
Jorey may have summed up the hunting experience best when she said, “I think it’s really important for kids to go out in the wilderness and see how fun it is.”“And stay off their tablets!” concluded Kate.