Game Changes When Women Take the Field
Documentary tells the stories of five hunters far from the stereotype10:16 PM CDT on Wednesday, August 9, 2006
Carol Wagner, an Austin filmmaker, set out to create a documentary on the complex issues of modern women participating in the most ancient of rituals, a rite once reserved for men. Wagner, an Oklahoma native who grew up hunting, hit the bull's-eye with her one-hour film, Dressed to Kill – Women Who Hunt.
Mostly filmed in Texas, the documentary tracks five hunting experiences involving a variety of women, some novices, others veterans of the game. Each has a story to tell, and Wagner allows them to tell it. Three of the women are from the Dallas area.
Deborah Price is a doctor of audiology and a recent hunting convert. On the advice of a patient, himself a hunter, Price started exhibiting her services at the Dallas Safari Club's annual hunting convention.
Since the average hunter is a middle-aged man who has never protected his hearing from the damage done by gunfire, Price picked up a lot of new business from the hunting crowd.
"If you hang around them long enough," Price said of hunters, "you've got to get out there and do it. It's wonderful. I belong to more hunting organizations than I do professional organizations."
Wagner's camera catches the flashy jewelry, the application of makeup, the carefully coiffed hair that lets you know these people are not the stereotypical hunters. Hence the "Dressed to Kill" portion of the documentary's title.
While the women prefer to look good, there's no doubt they're serious about their sport, although for different reasons. Marcia Zimmerman's passion is bird dogs. The camera follows Zimmerman and friends on a bird hunt at the WB Ranch near Lake Whitney, where the hunting guide remarks that Zimmerman might not be hunting at all, if not for the dogs.
"I train dogs to bird hunt – quail dogs mostly," said Zimmerman. "It [the dog] completes the whole picture. Not only are you out in the elements, but you're working as a team with an animal. It brings us back to what we are – we're animals, too."
Zimmerman did not grow up hunting. While dating a man who participated in shotgun sports, Zimmerman tired of being a spectator and learned to shoot.
The women in this documentary are having fun, and the point is made that women probably have more fun on the hunt than men have. Whereas men tend to be competitive, women are more supportive of one another. Whereas a man talks about how many birds "he" killed, a woman talks about how many birds "we" killed and is more likely to celebrate a great shot made by a companion.
Tamara Trail grew up hunting and is married to a former hunting guide. Trail feels lucky that her avocation is the same as her vocation.
She's a youth educator for the Texas Wildlife Association and is heavily involved in youth hunting programs. "Women hunters do face a bias," Trail said. "It goes back to the perception of what is a hunter. People look at you in surprise and say, 'You don't look like the type.' What is the type? There are many faces of hunting. More and more, I am meeting women who hunt, and that makes me happy."
Suzie Brewster hosts an annual women's-only deer hunt on her family ranch in South Texas. Brewster also has experience with male hunters.
"When you get a man [hunting], that's what you get – you get a man," Brewster said. "When you get a woman started in shooting and hunting, you get her family, her children, her devotion. We just need more women." Wagner said her documentary is getting good reviews on the film festival circuit. She hopes it will eventually be broadcast to a much larger television audience.
The Dallas Video Festival screened Dressed to Kill – Women Who Hunt. Information on the festival are available at www.videofest.org.