The pheasant capital of the U.S. has its first all-female chapter of Pheasants Forever
Women from all across South Dakota came together in December to discuss founding a new Women on the Wing (WOTW) chapter. WOTW is gaining popularity across the country as women quickly become one of the fastest growing groups of new hunters nationwide. There are now eight WOTW chapters in the U.S., with membership in each increasing steadily.
The chapter held their kick-off event on December 20 both in-person and via Zoom. There were a dozen women present for the meeting, with another dozen tuning in virtually. The women elected leadership positions and discussed what they wanted to accomplish in their first year as a group.
“It was a great first event,” said Cassandra Schmith, the newly minted chapter president. “There were women there from all over the state, and even a few from outside South Dakota. We had a couple gals from Colorado, which was amazing. They come here to hunt, so they want to be a part of what we’re doing.”
The regional vibe of the group is important to Schmith. With the amount of non-resident hunting traffic South Dakota gets, she doesn’t see any reason why women from surrounding states can’t join the Sioux Falls chapter.
“I live in Jefferson, S.D., less than 20 minutes from the Iowa border,” she said. “So a lot of the girls I know live in Iowa, but I’m encouraging them to join as well.”
The goal of the chapter is to be an outlet and resource for women with any level of hunting experience, or lack thereof. Schmith said a lot of the women she knows have lived on the edges of hunting culture all their lives and want to become more directly involved, but need an approachable entry point. She grew up around hunting and went to Pheasants Forever banquets with her family, but never felt totally included.
“Women just kind of went along, we maybe hunted, but it was more focused on the guys. So when I heard this idea of a women’s chapter, I thought it was great,” Schmith said. “Because there’s a lot of gals I know who would like to go hunting, but don’t because it’s a little nerve-wracking or scary to go with a bunch of guys who’ve been doing it for years.”
WOTW can give women the confidence they need to step into those hunting circles without being intimidated.
“If you’re just starting out you might not have that education of how to walk through a field with other hunters or things like that, but you don’t want to ask and sound incompetent,” she said. “So having a group like this and the support of so many other women makes a huge difference.”
This support is what encouraged Sioux Falls resident Kayla Metzger to attend the chapter’s kick-off event. Like Schmith, Metzger grew up around hunting, but she never actually took part in until around six years ago. She now hunts regularly with her family and her husband Matt, but said the difference in experience levels can be hard to overcome.
“Everyone I normally hunt with has been doing it for years, they’re experts compared to me, so with Women on the Wing I found some more common ground,” she said. “I feel like we’re all on the same page and that creates a comfort level that wasn’t there before.”
Metzger is excited to see more women getting involved in the outdoors, and hopes the trend continues to grow within Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever.
“I think a of the chapters are male dominated,” she said. “So I think there’s a need for more Women on the Wing chapters.”
Jake Hanson is Pheasants Forever’s regional representative in the Sioux Falls area. He helped organize the kick-off event and said the chapter is off to a great start.
“We were thrilled to charter and launch the South Dakota Women on the Wing Chapter,” he said. “And it’s great to see they’re off to a fast start — hosting an all-women’s learn-to-hunt event, raising funds for the chapter, signing up new members, hosting events such as Bird Dog Bingo and more. I think they may quickly become the fastest growing chapter here in South Dakota.”
The chapter’s first official meeting is Feb. 8 at Stubbies Bar and Grill in Sioux Falls. If you’d like to learn more about the South Dakota Women on the Wing chapter or are interested in joining, contact chapter president Cassandra Schmith at firstname.lastname@example.org.