IMPERIAL COUNTY â€” The Imperial Valley is known for prime dove season starting September 1. Although men make up the vast majority of the hunting population, there are a significant number of women hunters in the Valley who take advantage of the season as well. According to the latest Census Bureau statistics, women make up 11 percent of the hunting population with the fastest growing market being teenage girls. Since 2006, the United States has a seen a 25 percent surge in women hunters.
Chelsea Webster, 21, the Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo student from El Centro said she started as a â€œbird dog,â€ hunting with her dad and got her license when she was twelve. Her favorite part of hunting has been the bonding experience with her father.
â€œHe was the one who taught me how to shoot and taught me how to hunt. Itâ€™s really nice getting to spend one on one time with him.â€
Brooke Schaffner from Imperial is nine years old and has been hunting for the past three years with her family. Her gun of choice is a .410 shot gun but is also adept in the sport of archery as well.
Bernice Nunez, 48, of Brawley, has been hunting since she was about seven with her mom and dad. She has been an active hunter for the past thirty years and has since passed that skill along to her children and granddaughter.
â€œHunting is something that affects the whole environment. I teach my children you kill, you eat. You donâ€™t just do it for fun. If weâ€™re going to go hunting, weâ€™re going to eat the dove. If weâ€™re going to go hunting, weâ€™re going to eat the deer. Itâ€™s never frivolous or wasteful.â€
The love of the sport has been a strong foundation throughout the generations in her family and she shares that love with her fellow women hunters as well.
â€œItâ€™s a comradery. Girls need to come back out and try it, because itâ€™s nothing to be scared of. Itâ€™s just like going to the market and getting a chicken to eat, but this way you know where itâ€™s coming from. I just wish that more females would get involved with hunting. We as mothers, and grandmothers need to take a more active role and teach our daughters to take advantage of what we have around our Valley, this is our home, our backyardâ€”make it worth your while living here.â€
Karina Schaffner, 24, the Human Resource Director of Schaffner Dairy, began shooting guns with her family at age five.
â€œThere needs to be more women hunters and more women shooters. I think some may be scared when it comes to shooting, whether they are intimidated or donâ€™t have an interest, but itâ€™s a great opportunity.â€
Schaffner wants to promote an alternate reality of being a female in Californiaâ€”that itâ€™s not just girls from the south and Texas who hunt and are involved in agriculture.
Irma Ramirez, 26, is the Education Specialist for the non-profit AgSafe, and is visiting from Fresno for a workerâ€™s training and is taking advantage of being home for dove season.
â€œHonestly I think itâ€™s empowering,â€ Irma said. â€œYou have to get out there and get out of your comfort zone.â€
When it comes to women who are thinking about trying it out, Irma says, â€œGive it a shot.â€