A lot has changed when it comes to selecting hunting clothes for women. We typically had to fit into men’s clothing. Our hourglass figures meant shirts and jackets might be tight in the chest but baggy in the waist when we put on the straight-cut clothes made for men. With our narrow shoulders and shorter arms, we often looked like we were playing dress up with our fathers’ hunting clothes. And then there were the pants. We need room for our rounder hips but that meant a gap at the waist, usually in the back, that allowed debris to collect as we moved through the woods on an early season hunt. Out pants made us look like toddlers trying to fit into our big brother’s clothes.
Youth clothing was another option for women who hunt. When I can’t find women’s hunting gloves, I do turn to youth sizes. They fit my shorter fingers without bending back at the tip, and allow me to shoot without the excess fabric getting in the way. Good fitting gloves are a safety issue. While a piece or two might work in a pinch, youth clothing has that major drawback – they aren’t made to fit women’s bodies.
Women need hunting clothes that fit our curves and smaller bodies, and finally, we have those clothes readily available. I asked huntresses what they look for when selecting hunting clothes. We are a varied group when it comes to shapes and sizes.
Stephanie Wottrich hunts all over the world. From doves, turkeys and deer on her own land to safari in Namibia, her needs are all over the place. “I hunt everything from birds to international big game. My biggest thing I look for in hunting apparel is functionality – and by that, I specifically mean it fits well, but allows for free movement.”
Movement is very important. Walking a ridge during deer season in Maine involves climbing up, crawling over, and ducking under trees, boulders, and root masses. Choose fabric that’s soft enough to move with you.
Anne Vinnola has the answer to fabric. “I hunt everything from big game to birds and especially love pheasant hunting. I look for versatility, fit and function. I want to be able to throw it into the washer or wash it in a stream and have it come out just as nice either way. I need free movement without bagginess to get hung up in during a shot. I prefer fitness fabrics and softness.”
The Ultra Backcountry Shirt by Prois is my favorite shirt for the same reasons Anne mentioned. I’ve thrown my shirt in the washer dozens of times and hung it on the line to dry. It’s never wrinkled. Ultra shirts at Prois are a little narrower cut so there’s no bagginess to snag the stock of my shotgun. This shirt has a feature that should be offered on more shirts – back pockets. The pouch style pockets sit comfortably at the small of my back, and even when full, don’t tug at the shoulders or droop at the waist.
April Mack is a diehard huntress. “I hunt 10 months out of the year.” Big game, waterfowl, turkey and upland bird keep her busy. For April, fit is number one and pockets are a close second. She wants deep pockets. “I carry as much stuff, knives, calls and gloves, as guys.” I suggest looking for pockets that sit high so you can reach the bottom of the pocket without bending into a pretzel. A small pocket with a zipper is a handy place to keep your license and tags without worrying about losing them. Unlike men, we aren’t hunting with a wallet in our back pocket.
April brought up a very important aspect in selecting women’s hunting clothes. “I love pants that adjust as a lady’s cycle comes and goes. Bloating is a problem. By this I mean the waist is elastic and has a strip within the waist that can adjust up to 3 or 4 buttons. I mean jeez, we all can’t be skinny all the time!”
And don’t forget length. “They have to be long enough. Nothing like a perfect fit/function then you put them on and they are Capris.” For April, pants can be too short. I have the opposite problem. At 5’ 4”, pants are often too long for me. Choose pants that fit your inseam as well as your hips and waist. We can manage pants that are too short if we’re wearing tall boots to tuck the legs into, but when they pants are too long, there’s only so much room in those boots.
Zippered legs are a bonus. Our narrower pant legs can be difficult to pull down over insulted boots. It’s easy to pull the cuff down where it belongs and zip the leg. Under Armour Women’s Ayton Pants and their ColdGear Infrared Speed Freek Hunting Pants fit the bill. These pants are warm without being bulky. Yes, we have hips. No, we don’t need extra padding on them.
Michelle “Bodie” Bodenheimer is another very serious huntress. “I am like Steph, I hunt both domestically and internationally for big game, waterfowl, turkey and upland birds. I hunt with rifle, shotgun and bow. The most important attributes to me are also fit and functionality. The proper fit allows quiet, uninhibited movement, which helps keep me safe in the field. I don’t need loose fabric, draw cords, or any other excess material hanging up on a branch in the woods, or inhibiting proper shoulder placement for a gun or proper draw with my bow. Equally important is functionality. I need pockets with quiet closures, well placed for easy access.”
Quiet. Wild game will hear the slightest unusual noise and bolt. When you’re making your selections you’ll want quiet zippers, snaps, and fabric. I once bought a pair of pants I loved in the noisy store. At 5 am on my way to the tree stand on a November morning, my pants swished. The waterproof fabric was somewhat stiff and very noisy. Rub the fabric together. If you can hear it in the store, it’s too loud. If you don’t hear it, go to the fitting room, and walk around with them on even if you’re only walking circles in the small room. This also applies to jackets.
Versatility is key for Cristina McGannon. “Versatility of season, climate, and location. I need something that will pack well and stand up through travel, and take me from early fall bow hunting in NJ to hunting caribou on the tundra.” When you hunt close to home you have options. You can wear only what you need or take an extra jacket to leave at your vehicle. If you’re traveling, one article of clothing might need to cover multiple situations. Buying pieces for each setting becomes expensive quickly.
And speaking of expense, your hunting clothes are as much of an investment as your weapons. Buy the best you can afford even if it means adding a piece or two as you go. Watch for factory seconds that have a cosmetic flaw or something that doesn’t affect the way the clothing performs. Quality will last and be less expensive in the end. That sometimes hard for us to remember when it comes to buying something for ourselves.
You can extend the use of outwear by choosing waterproof pants and jackets. You won’t lose anything by wearing waterproof clothes on a dry day but you’ll miss the feature if you don’t have it the first time it’s wet.
Use the same considerations when selecting base layers as you do everything else. Long legs and sleeves will bunch up and be uncomfortable. Women’s base layers sometimes offer rounder hips and thighs as well as shorter legs. I stick with camo base layers when possible so that I don’t have to think about cuffs and necklines showing. Consider Scent Blocker technology. After a day or two at hunting camp, we might not smell pretty. What isn’t noticeable to us will be picked up on the wind by big game.
Women who hunt are strong. They get out there and get the job done – even when pregnant. I chatted with Heidi Simonis about her selections. She’s expecting her second child at later this year. As with her first pregnancy, she’ll be hunting. “Luckily for me most of my Prois still fits while I’m pregos. I don’t gain a lot of weight, just get a big belly. I’m just wearing a size larger than what I usually do. Elastic waist would be good for pants and a little longer shirt to cover the belly without having to be a dress.”
Are there enough pregnant women hunting to warrant a maternity line? It’s not a far-fetched idea. Women are, after all, the fasting growing demographic in the hunting industry. Today’s little girls and young ladies are going to be moms. There are two and three generations of huntresses in some families. Maternity wear, anyone?
Photos courtesy of Prois Hunting.