Women Role Models With Rifles

Women Role Models With Rifles

Mother-daughter duo Gina and Raven Brunson help prop up women in hunting while embracing their roles as FORLOH ambassadors.

As the matriarch of a hunting-centric family and a mother to six children, Gina Brunson knows firsthand the importance of modeling healthy behaviors, both in the field and at home.

Add “television personality” and “social media influencer” to her resume, and Gina’s role as torchbearer gains even greater prominence. It might seem like an unwieldy spotlight, but Gina doesn’t miss a beat. 

“The way we introduced our kids to the outdoors was through exposure. We never shoved anything down their throats, and that’s how we treat our audience,” Gina said. “We really gave our kids a lot of space and freedom in terms of how much they wanted to be involved. Of course, because we were so entrenched in the outdoors, they absorbed that. And because we demonstrated strong ethical behaviors, they absorbed that too.”

It’s a learning-by-proxy philosophy that Gina can just as easily apply to her occupation as outdoor celebrity, striving to accurately and honestly portray her family’s passion for the outdoors to the outside world. And even though the co-host of the Outdoor Channel’s signature program “Addicted to the Outdoors” doesn’t seek out additional publicity, she doesn’t shy away from the opportunity to represent women in the pursuits she’s most passionate about — hunting and fishing.

Her traction in the industry not only provides Gina with a platform to dispel stereotypes surrounding women in outdoor sports, but it helps her bear influence on an industry that’s historically been dominated by men, and which is rapidly responding to the groundswell of female participation in hunting.

“When I started hunting I was wearing boys’ clothes because they didn’t make women’s camo clothing,” Gina said. “It was probably 10 years ago, when I started hunting on television, that the evolution of women’s hunting clothing even began. And at first it was all pink camouflage, which most women hunters I know won’t even wear. It definitely wasn’t my thing.”

“That’s why I’m so excited about FORLOH,” she continued. “They are really using the ideas of women to inform the direction of their products. Being able to wear high-quality hunting clothes for women, and select them from a women’s line of outdoor clothing, that just wasn’t an option when I started hunting.”

"[FORLOH] is really using the ideas of women to inform the direction of their products."

To Gina’s delight, the advent of high-end women’s technical hunting clothes coincides with her teenage daughter Raven’s developing passion for hunting, as well as the debut of FORLOH’s female collection. Although Raven has been hunting her entire life, she’s growing more independent outside the Brunson household. That’s led her to assume the position as a role model to young women interested in gaining entry to a sport still viewed by broad segments of society as off limits to women.

“I definitely look up to my Mom because she has been hunting for so long, but also because she was the only female hunter I knew for so long,” Raven said. “More recently I have met a lot of other young women hunters, or young outdoor women who want to learn how to hunt, which shows this isn’t just a sport for men. All of a sudden my friends on the cheer team are interested in hunting and have all these questions. For me, it’s totally normal, but for them it’s like a whole new world.”

It’s a world that has been opening up with increasing frequency to throngs of women across the country, where female participation in outdoor recreation is growing by leaps and bounds.

Numerous industry groups and wildlife agencies rank women as the fastest-growing demographic of hunters in the U.S., during a time when overall participation has declined — just 4% of Americans hunt, the lowest share in three decades, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

As recently as a decade ago, women made up a mere 11% of all hunters in 2011. By 2013, however, that number had jumped to 19%, according to a report by the National Sporting Goods Association.

Meanwhile, the National Shooting Sports Foundation pegs female participation as increasing 59 percent from 2010 to 2019, and says women today make up 22 percent of all hunters.

That’s good news for the hunting industry, but it’s also critical to the continued success of the North American model of fish and wildlife conservation, which is contingent on the robust engagement by hunters, who contribute to management actions and policy through license fees, excise taxes on guns and ammunition, and membership in conservation organizations.

Gina’s husband and co-host on “Addicted to the Outdoors,” Jon Brunson, said it’s been humbling to see his wife’s pioneering efforts in the sport, as well as her years of hunting as the lone woman at camp, finally paying dividends in the modern era.

"You can be a classy, successful woman and hunt.”

“Gina is one of probably three or four women in our sport that single-handedly created this female movement in hunting,” Jon said. “When you go back 18 years, they were the trailblazers, and Gina specifically really moved the needle and had an impact on female hunters. If we had a dollar for every seminar where a guy told us, ‘I saw you and Gina on TV and now my wife wants to hunt with me,’ we could both retire. The Ginas of the world, I think they busted the door wide open to the modern mainstream ideas that made it cool for women to hunt. She showed that you don’t have to be a redneck with a dip in your mouth and cowboy boots on. You can be a classy, successful woman and hunt.”