DULUTH, Minn. -- Meadow Kouffeld remembers when she discovered she wanted to be a wildlife biologist.
"I found out there was such a thing when I was a senior in high school," Kouffeld said.
After a rich and varied background in wildlife-related jobs, Kouffeld became regional wildlife biologist for the Ruffed Grouse Society in 2015. Based in Grand Rapids, she covers Minnesota and the western half of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Kouffeld, who grew up on a small ranch in northern California, earned her master's degree in wildlife ecology and management at the University of Minnesota in 2011. Over her career, her work experience has included goshawks in California, desert bighorn sheep in New Mexico, sage grouse in Nevada and bears in Wisconsin.
She's an avid grouse and woodcock hunter who owns two Deutsch Drahthaars, a pointing breed. In her work with the Ruffed Grouse Society, she has conducted two in-depth classes called "Women's Intro to Wingshooting," which involve weekly sessions culminating in game-farm pheasant hunts.
The Duluth News Tribune recently asked Kouffeld to talk about women in hunting.
Q: Although the number of women taking up hunting is increasing, women still represent a minority of hunters. What are some of the factors that might discourage women from becoming hunters?
A: I think two of the biggest factors that discourage women from hunting are the lack of real opportunity and a lack of social support. In my experience, women and others do best when learning skills like shooting from experienced non-related individuals (not from a grumpy dad or husband) followed by continued mentoring until proficient. This takes more than a single event or class. And there's lack of social support. Programs like "Women's Intro to Wingshooting" work to develop a social support network of ladies who are interested in becoming sportswomen, and together they feel more comfortable with the journey.
Q: What are the biggest motivators for women to get into hunting?
A: One of the biggest motivations is spending more quality time with family. Many of them have been left out of family outdoor activities because they did not know how to hunt. Some have children who are showing interest in hunting, and they want to be able to take them out. Mothers have a significant influence on their children, and a mother who hunts is much more likely to have kids who hunt when compared to children whose father is the only hunter.