Back to Features

Ducks Goose

The Perfect Rifle For A Lady

How To Stay Warm, Why Women Get Cold Quicker Than Men

Women: The New Trend for Fall is Hunting

Women and Outdoors


The Perfect Rifle For A Lady

By Sharon Merriam
To shoot a deer rifle accurately it needs to fit like a pair of custom tailored pants. Since you will own the rifle longer than pants, proper fit is even more important. After speaking with numerous women about their likes and dislikes I proceeded to create the perfect deer rifle that would fit my average-sized frame. Weighing 140 and standing 5 feet 9 inches, with average strength, I wanted the final product to be light enough to carry easily and still shoot accurately. This means the rifle must fit me. It couldn’t be an off-the-self version designed to fit everybody.
Ladies, we were stuck with men’s hunting clothes but now have our own. We have used their rifles but we still don’t have a women’s version unless we buy some hot pink thing, probably designed by a man. I didn’t want hot pink or be limited to using what a man’s manufacturer thinks I should use. To date I have shot five elk, thirty antelope and that many deer. Did I do them all with one gun? No. I have learned a lot during the time it took to harvest those animals and I’ll share it with you.
I would like my rifle to provide the following:

Perfect Scope Picture:
When I bring the rifle to my shoulder I want the scope picture to be a completely round circle. When a rifle does not fit, the image in the scope will be half-black or worse. A full scope picture is determined by eye relief, which is defined as the distance from your eyeball to the eyepiece. A rule of thumb requires about two-inches of relief in the standing position.
High-power scopes have a shorter eye relief, which can deliver a nasty cut over the eye from the backward force of the recoil. I recommend adjustable 3 - 9 x 40 scopes, hunting with it set at 3-power. Hunting with it set on low power allows you to locate game quickly; low power provides a wide field of view. For longer shots you can turn the scope to 9-power to see distant game better. Scope brand and model dictate price and good used scopes sell cheaper than new. Once off the showroom floor scopes depreciate as much as 50% and a used scope is a good deal if you check the warranty. Most top quality scopes carry a lifetime warranty regardless of owner changes.

A Stock that Fits:
I don’t have long arms like a man - if I did my knuckles would drag. I need the stock short enough so I do not have to fully extend my arm when in the shooting position.
The distance between the trigger and the rifle butt is called “Length of pull.” A woman’s arms average two inches shorter than a man so when using a rifle with the length of pull designed for a man, the rifle will feel front heavy and be difficult to hold level. For a proper fit your best bet is a “Youth” model. Stevens, Savage, Ruger, Marlin, Mossberg, Remington, Howa, and Weatherby offer youth sizes in different calibers. Even if the stock feels a bit short you can easily add a thicker recoil pad to improve the fit and reduce recoil. These models are also lighter but remember, the lighter the rifle the more you will feel the recoil. You can have a gunsmith shorten the stock of a regular model but the barrel will be longer unless you have that cut down also.

Good Balance:
When you pick up a poorly balanced gun you will feel awkward. Stock length, barrel length and barrel diameter all contribute to balance. If one does not feel right when you pick it up, do not buy it!

Stopping Power:
I want a caliber that is adequate to stop a whitetail and possibly an elk without beating me up with recoil. A .243 is an excellent choice for deer but a tad light for elk. Move up to a .25-06 or .270 and you’ll have a bit more recoil but be ready for elk. Men often think a bigger gun will make up for a poor hit and carry calibers that make them flinch. All hunters are better off delivering a well-placed shot from a smaller caliber than making a poor hit with a cannon.

It would be nice to use the same rifle for deer, coyotes, bears, and wood chucks. The .30 calibers can do this. Both the .30-06 and .308 offer factory loads ranging from 110-grains to 220-grains that cover everything from varmints to moose. The .308 has a 110-grain for varmints and a 180-grain load suitable for elk. Both calibers recoil about the same when using the same bullet even though the .30-06 case is a half-inch longer than the .308. For deer I use a 150-grain bullet in both calibers rather fight the recoil of a 180-grain load, which is usually designed as an elk load.

The cheaper it is to shoot the more you will practice and the better you will become. You don’t need a caliber that costs $2.00 every time you pull the trigger. Spending forty dollars a box for shells will not allow sufficient practice to become a deadly shot and you won’t enjoy practice when your family has to skip a week’s worth of meat and survive on Mac and cheese just so you can shoot.
As a rule the more powerful a cartridge the more it will cost. If you choose the .30-06, or the shorter action .308, hunting rounds usually cost less than a dollar a shot. Military surplus ammo can be found for under $ .50 per shot, which provides low cost practice. Military bullets are for target shooting and illegal to use on game animals so keep them separate from your hunting loads. If you have the option take the .308 because the action is shorter, making the total rifle length shorter.

I don’t want to pay a gunsmith to rebuild an inaccurate rifle. I would like to put five shots in a two inch circle at 100-yards from a bench rest while taking my time shooting. If having problems with accuracy, have a friend shoot the rifle to determine if the problem is you or the rifle. When both people shoot the gun well - it is a keeper. If buying a used rifle be sure to get a 30-day return policy. If it doesn’t shoot well or fit correctly you can return it and start over.

Muzzle Break:
To reduce recoil you can have a muzzle break added to the barrel. A muzzle break provides an outlet for the gasses to escape at the end of the barrel to reduce recoil. Basic physics states for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Burn gunpowder and recoil is the reaction. Slots cut in the barrel allow high-pressure gasses to bleed off to the side, which reduces recoil by almost half. The down side is the noise; it is no longer directed away from the shooter or bystanders. You will need quality earmuffs to tolerate practice shooting and when you do not use them a flinch will develop from the blast. For petite ladies lacking sufficient body mass to absorb recoil, a brake can be a worthwhile investment.

Carry Easily:
I want a light rifle so it carries well it in the woods especially walking uphill or down. Walking is best done using a modern, rubberized sling. The shoulder section has a rubberized gripping surface that helps hold the rifle from sliding off your shoulder.

Steady Hold:
I won’t take any shot from an off-hand standing position unless it is 50-yards or less. To keep the rifle steady for shots over 50-yards, a 16” Harris bipod is mounted on the front of the rifle. I lay down to shoot and flip out the two legs to remain steady for a 250-yard shot. A bi-pod is the next best thing to a bench rest. Harris designed the legs so they slide out to allow shooting from a sitting or kneeling position but the most stable shot is lying down. Practice with and without the bi-pod and you will soon see why it has made me successful taking deer, elk and antelope out to 250-yards, which is a long way.

The Budget:
Do I get a new or used rifle? I can quote what new guns, new scopes, and factory ammunition sell for. What I can’t tell you is what kind of used rifle deal you might run into. Prices are different in different areas of the country because of demand and the economy. A new youth model rifle in .308 or .30-06 will retail up to $700 or more but you can find a good used one for half that amount when you are patient.

I have listed the things I would like on my ultimate hunting rifle. Depending on where and what you hunt, adapt to different conditions and make and changes, like removing the bi-pod if there are no long distance shots. The secret is to shop around. Buying the perfect rifle, just for you, is a learning process and you want to be happy with what you carry afield.

Back to top

How To Stay Warm

By S. L. Merriam
Women usually get colder easier and quicker than men because most women are a thinner, lighter, less muscular build with less fat. All of these fall under the category of bulk when you refer to winter temperatures. An example of this in wildlife is the Texas whitetail deer, which weighs in at a little over 100 pounds while the Canadian whitetail weighs in at more than three times that. In warm climates, bulk and fat is a burden, and inefficient to body cooling. But, the opposite is true in Canada where temperatures below zero can be the high for the day. With women, due to reproductive organs, their core will quickly hold heat, leaving the extremities with less blood flow. Physical movement is always a good way to get to keep warm, but don’t overdo it. Sweating will cause your inner clothing to be moist and rob you of your natural body heat.

Brenda Valentine
This isn’t a Mars and Venus issue - just plain biological facts. When many women say, “I would like hunting if it wasn’t so cold,” they need to understand why they get cold easier than men. They need to learn how to stay warm and comfortable in low temperatures no matter what sport or activity they engage in.

A conversation with Brenda Valentine, “The First Lady of Hunting®”

I knew something was wrong – I couldn’t put my finger on what it was - but something strange was happening. My lips felt like they were six inches thick and when I spoke my words emerged as a mumble. The lack of control when moving my lips was funny… sort of. This was definitely something I’d never experienced before. When two hikers grab a quick nap in the sunshine after getting soaked with sweat on a grueling climb they awake to cold, cloudy weather and a dose of hypothermia. Only quick action by the other hiker keeps his semi-conscious partner from suffering a cold, sleepy death during what had been an enjoyable outing.
This is a science, insulating your body for the colder outside temperatures so that your own heating system can control your body temperature. Simple enough, but add to that exertion and sweat, wind chill temperatures, and the sun’s thermal heat that can come and go with the passing clouds throughout the day.

Clothing And Gear
Clothing And Gear You Will Need For Deer Hunting

Winter weather clothes protection and safety
Expect cold weather in October and November. The temperatures may be in the 10s or 20s in the morning and in the 70s during the day. You’ll need warm clothes as well as lighter clothes to change into. If you’re hunting on foot you may not need as many warm clothes. Wool is a good bet for the hunting months when snow covers the ground. It’s warm and will shed the snow and keep you warm after it gets wet. You’ll need a pair of sturdy leather boots and a pair of insulated waterproof boots. Your boots should have a good sole on them. The Air-Bob sole is a good bet because it works well on snow covered ground. This sole was designed with the western sportsman in mind and can be found where most good hunting boots are sold.
A good pack frame is a must for the do-it-yourself hunter, as well as a good day pack or fanny pack. Don’t try to pack out an elk with a soft pack. It’s hard enough to carry an elk quarter with a good framed pack. Trying to pack out a large animal with a frame pack gets old in a hurry. They’re just too bulky and noisy to carry while hunting. Your packs should have padded shoulder and waist straps.
If you’re camping, you’ll need a sleeping bag to keep you warm on cold nights. Don't use a cheap bag that doesn’t offer adequate insulation against the cold. It just isn't worth it.
Hunters look forward to hunting season when we can escape the demands of our daily routine and head to the deep woods. Enduring Mother Nature’s wrath goes with the territory, and we have to grin and bear it. I’ve been an avid outdoorsman for 50 years, so I hope that you find some of my ideas interesting.
On days when the temperature is below 30 and the wind howls, I still shiver some. There is no perfect solution to the problem. Nevertheless, there are some things that you should and should’nt do when you’re outdoors during inclement weather.
My wife insists that our home thermostat never be set above 65 degrees during the winter. Several years ago, a major outdoor retailer put their 100 percent silk long underwear on sale and I stocked up. During the winter months you’ll find me setting in front of the computer or TV in my pretty red silks. I wear them whenever I go outdoors too.
When you get ready to go afield, check the weather forecast and dress accordingly. If the temperature is going to be above 40 degrees then dress lightly. Street clothes plus the shell garments described below should be adequate. When temperatures are between 32 and 40 degrees dress moderately – wear an additional warm layer under your shell. When it’s below 32 degrees bundle up! Pay attention to the wind forecast. When the wind blows you’ll need significantly more protection. Humidity is also important. When it is humid, the cold will penetrate and you’ll be less comfortable than when it’s dry.
Determine what you’ll be doing. If you’re going to walk a short distance then sit down and stay put all day you’ll need maximum protection. If you plan on moving around (still hunting) you’ll need less protection. When you exercise your body generates much more heat than it does if you sit still. If you plan on moving around very much, you also don’t want to carry unnecessary weight and bulk.
While I’m outside on winter days I wear three layers above the silks. The first layer is heavy weight, two-piece 100 percent wool. I use Windsor Wear products made in Canada. I try to find tops with turtle neck collars. Crew and “v” neck tops allow too much heat escape around your neck. A good second choice is heavy military weight polypropylene. Avoid the button up the front styles.
If the temperature is going to be below freezing then I use a second layer which is filled with quality goose down. Nothing keeps you as warm as down. Down garments are generally light and won’t bog you down when you hike. I use a Gore-Tex® garment as a final shell layer. The shell layer blocks the wind from penetrating into your warm insulation. It also comes in handy when it rains. My Gore-Tex shell pants and jacket are very light and un-lined.
Generous pockets are a must for the outside shell layer. Gore-Tex pants are especially hard to find with side slash pockets, at least one rear pocket, belt loops, a snap open waist and zipper fly. You may need to shop around to find the right ones.
I use these shell items all year. In the summer, when I hike, they’re always with me. Since the outside shell layer may be put on over several under layers of insulation, it’s a good idea to purchase these items one size larger than you normally wear.
Don't overlook the leg detail of the pants. It is important that the leg opening be closed around your ankle to prevent cold air from coming up your leg. Zippers, elastic cuffs and Velcro® strap closures work the best.
Never overlook the importance of protecting your neck and head. If you leave your neck and head exposed you can literally freeze to death. Wear a good hat and a neck gaiter. I insist on a hat with a big bill to shade my eyes. I find this a must for looking in the direction of the sun in the early morning and just before dark. Like most folks, I wear a baseball hat, and I pull a stocking cap over the top of the hat.
Pay particular attention to your feet. Several years ago I found a pair of ankle-high, all weather hiking shoes. They’re made of nylon with leather reinforcement panels; they have a Gore-Tex liner and a thin layer of Thinsulate® insulation. The soles are thicker than most of the light weight jogging shoes. With a heavy pair of wool socks they keep my feet warm and are more comfortable than anything else in my closet. When I have to go out and there is deep snow I sometimes pull on an old fashioned pair of Arctic boots over the light weight tennis shoe style hikers. The only exception is that when I have to go out when there is more than three inches of snow on the ground, I dig out my heavy Pac boots.
I generally use inexpensive, thin cloth gloves. The bulky, insulated gloves are just too clumsy and gather dust with my shoe collection. I carry a generous supply of chemical hand warmer packets and keep one activated in each of my pockets.
Avoid garments that contain cotton, which is a very poor insulator. It also absorbs moisture. If you perspire or are out in the rain it quickly turns into a mess. Denim jeans fit into this category. Also on the no-no list are flannel shirts. Most contain lots of cotton and your valuable body warmth will vent out between the buttons.
Coverall garments look like they should be very practical, but getting them to fit properly is a huge problem. Coveralls are generally heavy and cumbersome to put on and take off no matter how many zippers they have. I’ve tried many pairs over the years and never found one I considered acceptable.
I don’t like bib type trousers. That additional material above the waist seems like wasted bulk to me. I dislike the suspenders bearing down on my shoulders after hiking around the mountains for any length of time. I rarely wear full parkas anymore. I discovered effective light weight Gore-Tex rain jackets several years ago and my heavy parkas stay in the closet.
I do have several sets of fleece jackets and pants which are soft and comfortable. If they’re not covered with some kind of wind shell the air goes right through them. Sometimes when it is really bitter out I’ll add a fourth layer of fleece under the Gore-Tex shell for additional insulation. Pound-for-pound fleece isn’t as warm as down or wool.
Many of us carry a small pack for extra clothes, tools, lunch and other essentials. This fall one of the catalog mail order houses offered a light weight blaze orange Ultimate Pack Vest™ with an extraordinary number of pockets, including one backpack size pocket on the back. This eliminated the need for an extra pack. Finding the shell garments described above in blaze orange or red is nearly impossible, so I just wear a light vest.
I always carry a piece of heavy plastic in my pack. It weighs practically nothing, but comes in handy for sitting on cold or icy rocks and logs. A plastic poncho will work too. No matter how harsh the conditions are while you’re hunting you can’t be a successful hunter sitting at home in front of the fireplace. Happy Hunting!

Brenda Valentine, aka "First Lady of Hunting"®, is a National Spokesperson for the National Wild Turkey Federation. She is a member of Bass Pro Shops' RedHead National Pro-Hunting Team and the National Legends of the Outdoor Hall of Fame. She is the Host of NWTF's "Turkey Call" TV Show and co-host to Bass Pro Shops' "Real Hunting" show. Brenda is a frequent guest on many other outdoor and conservation oriented programs and events.

Back to top

Women: The New Trend for Fall is Hunting

By Jared J. Hinton
When my wife and I started dating, I warned her that when hunting season came, I would be long gone. I spend a pretty significant amount of time gone hunting between grouse, waterfowl, pheasants, and deer. Fall is a busy time.
“Ok,” was the only response I got.
Fast forward to the end of season, and we got to have “the talk,” which was no real surprise since she didn’t come from a hunting family.
“I sure haven’t seen you much all fall,” was her only commentary.
Naturally on the defensive, I was left to a pretty simple course of action.
“Well dear, you have three choices. You can leave, you can put up with it and not complain, or you can go get your firearms safety certificate and I’ll take you hunting,” I replied with the best deadpan I’m-not-kidding tone I could muster.
Less than two weeks later, she came to me and told me she was signed up for firearms safety. My plans had been blown out of the water. And the journey began.
Fast forward eight years, three stints in college, plenty of stress, student loans, job changes and we are preparing for another season together. Well, relatively together that is. Now we bird hunt together, she deer hunts with her own group that adopted her, and she’s taken more deer than me the last couple years.
This year, we got our second hunting dog because she needed her own, she’s got almost as many guns as I do, and gear that many men would envy. We never get to hunt as much as we would like, but its great time to spend together. In a hustle and bustle life, it seems finding time for each other is tough, but we always manage to spend time hunting together.
My darling wife is only one example of a growing trend in women getting involved in hunting and shooting. Hunting has provided hours of time for us together both in season and out. Every year, more and more women are taking to the field and participating in hunting and shooting. And statistics show that the highest single growth area for the hunting community is women, young women specifically.
Manufacturer’s are slowly coming up to speed and marketing products specifically aimed at women, but there still is a need for more. Gander Mountain® has a female-specific line, and companies like SHE Safari are putting out gear made to fit women, not modified to fit them. That said, my wife still has problems finding hunting boots, but I would imagine hunting boots don’t rate real high on the women’s fashion scale.
For some of the “old timers,” the idea of a woman joining us while hunting was less than well received. But Deb pulled her weight. When we were hunting late-season roosters in the cattails and she found a drain tile outlet, she didn’t stop hunting. Tired, wet and cold she never complained. When we went deer hunting late in November, she was one of the first in the stand, sat all day, and most of the time was the last one to amble back to the shack. The only time she got upset about any of it involved a exceptionally cold December group hunt when she was bundled so tight one of the people we were hunting with didn’t realize she was a she!
Maybe your new hunting buddy is closer than you think. For fathers, special bonds with daughters can be forged out in the fields and woods. Even if they don’t take up hunting, shooting sports are a great place for young women to develop skills and self-confidence. Take the time to ask women about it and let them experience the joy of a crisp fall morning over a couple dogs, or in a stand.

Back to top



Women and Outdoors

Brenda Valentine, The First Lady of Hunting®, is a hunter, wife, grandmother, and a strong supporter of the Women in the Outdoors Programs.

By S. L. Merriam
In today’s busy world it can be difficult for a woman over 16 to learn the skills that make camping, shooting fishing, and a number of outdoor activities possible. Traditionally it has always been boys that enjoy this recreation leaving the women “stuck out in the cold,” no pun intended.
Today, the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), under an Outreach program coupled state and regional directors to provide guidance and guest instructors in classes designed that cover numerous outdoor skills.
Attending Women in the Outdoors events, designed just for women, allows women to learn basic outdoor skills under the guidance of expert instructors. These programs, which only require the women to be 16 or older, have provided a basic outdoor introduction to many people that would otherwise not be exposed to these skills, which prevents them from becoming involved in an outdoor lifestyle. Classes cover many potential methods of involvement including shotgun and rifle shooting, archery, fishing, fire building, conservation, plant and bird identification, safe boat use, painting wild gourds, eating outdoor without being eaten by mosquitoes, dog sleds, bike riding, trail walking, hiking, using binoculars, compasses, GPS and many more tailored to geography and terrain. The whole idea is to make women comfortable by teaching skills that allow them to enjoy all the activities that take place out of doors.
I spoke with Brenda Valentine, National Spokesperson for The NWTF and their outreach efforts, about the program and she explained some of the highlights she has enjoyed being a mentor. Be aware that Valentine is as comfortable in camouflage toting a turkey over her shoulder as she is in front of a crowd speaking about conservation and wildlife.
Valentine became an outdoor woman before the title was invented. Staying close to her dad, she learned firsthand the outdoors could be a wonderful place to spend your time. As the years passed, she developed a love of fishing and hunting in the south along with a passion for hunting with the bow. Her archery skills became well known when she competed head to head against men. All of these activities were just window dressing as her true love was the outdoors, and activities to pursue while she enjoyed the wildlife.
Brenda has taught many classes for the Women in the Outdoors program whose students have ranged from young ladies just turning 16 to ladies approaching the nine-century mark. One young 87-year old woman wanted to climb a tree stand all of her life but her husband always told her, “No - you will fall.”
Valentine secured a “just in case” force of backup people to hold the stand and be ready on case of a problem then said, “Go right ahead, climb into that tree stand!” The 87-year old went up the tree like a squirrel much to the amazement and cheers of the entire group. When at the top numerous photos were taken to highlight her accomplishment but after climbing down she told the woman with the camera, “Don’t let my husband see those pictures. He’ll chew me out for climbing a tree!” Then, after a moment of thought she said, “No! Show those pictures of me in the stand. I did it, I didn’t fall out, and he can deal with it.”
To obtain a list of classes and outings in your area and the name of your local director go to: NWTF.Org on the Internet, or contact Teresa Carroll, Women in the Outdoors Program Coordinator at (800) THE-NWTF (1-800-843-6983) or email Carol at tcarroll@nwtf.net

Back to top


© 2010 OutdoorsWeekly.com