Empowering women through Wild Sheep Foundation program

Women Hunt® provides resources and opportunities for women to learn why and how to hunt

TWS member Stacey Dauwalter always wanted to hunt, but she had a hard time setting aside the time to learn.

“Every year, I’ve been like, this is the year I’m going to put in the work,” said Dauwalter, the Wildlife Health Program Coordinator with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

The busy time in her lab coincided with hunting season, though, and those years kept coming and going. But when the Wild Sheep Foundation launched its program Women Hunt®, it was the perfect opportunity to put aside the excuses. In the fall of 2021, Dauwalter harvested her first white-tailed (Odocoileus virginianus) doe.

“I wanted to feel confident and have the skills to know that if I shoot routinely, I can stay on top of it,” Dauwalter said. “That’s what I wanted to get out of the course, and I got so much more than that.”

Women Hunt® is the brainchild of Renée Thornton, who, like Dauwalter, always wanted to hunt but didn’t know where to start. After hunting black bears (Ursus americanus) for the first time in her 40s, Thornton was hooked.

Part of the Women Hunt® instruction includes a culinary class, teaching participants how to prepare the meat they harvested. Credit: Women Hunt®

After meeting—and marrying—Gray Thornton, president and CEO of the Wild Sheep Foundation, Thornton left her corporate executive career, moved from Alberta to Montana, and started the organization’s Women Hunt® program.

Women Hunt® partnered with the FTW Ranch, a 14,000-acre West Texas ranch that already hosted a shooting school and had developed a new hunter course, since rebranded as Field to Fork. Women Hunt® worked to modify the program for 12 new women hunters to develop hunting skills and learn about the important roles that hunting can play in wildlife conservation and management.

“I look at what Renée does, and she absolutely changes lives for the better,” Gray Thornton said.

The Wild Sheep Foundation Women Hunt® 2024 application period is open May 1 to May 31.

For more about Women Hunt®, watch for the May/June issue of The Wildlife Professional.

Header Image: Two Women Hunt® participants of the 2021 class look out into the field. Credit: Women Hunt®