You can call 24 year-old Taylor Desch a lot of things, but don’t call her a female hunter. She’s not a huntress either. “I am a hunter plain and simple and no different than anyone else,” she said. But she would impress most men with her dedication to the traditional pursuit.
Desch is also a newlywed, married just three weeks back and an employee of Kokomo’s St. Vincent Hospital, (which I still call St. Joe), all labels she gladly wears. But she has always considered herself a deer hunter. “I think most women who hunt just want to be hunters and not placed in a different category or given a cute name,” she explained.
Her affection for deer hunting began at an early age, when she was only three. “I would go with my dad, Allen Hetzner, and sit with him in the woods,” Desch explained. “I remember him laughing because the safety orange vest I would wear would drag the ground,” she recalled with a smile.
Since then Desch has grown into a three season hunter, taking to the woods with bow, firearm and muzzleloader. She begins during the early archery season which opens in October and doesn’t stop until the deer season closes its doors in January. “I try to be in the woods three or four days a week,” she said. “But I would go every day if I could.” That becomes evident with a glance at her cell phone, which is filled with pictures of bucks she has photographed with her trail cameras.
Ironically, her husband Joshua does not hunt but supports his new wife. “Thankfully my husband is an enabler for my deer hunting addiction,” Desch said with a laugh. “He does things around the house so I can go,” she continued. “He’s even bought me a new rangefinder and more trail cameras.”
Desch’s passion for hunting our state’s only big game animal is impressive, dare I say, for a female. She is the only one in her family who hunts with archery tackle and in most cases takes to the woods alone. Even at her relatively young age she has collected many does and several trophy bucks. But don’t doubt for a minute that she relies on help from others. She has been known to drag deer from the woods single-handedly, without soliciting help from others. Desch also does her own field dressing and processing. “If you are serious about hunting you need to learn the entire process,” she said. “And I also believe if you don’t eat it, then don’t shoot it.”
Hunters who happen to be women are becoming an increasingly popular site in the woods. According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service they make up roughly 19 percent of all hunters. The growth of women hunters has actually outpaced the rate of new male hunters since 2012. Even locally, the number of young ladies attending Hunter Education has swelled over the past several years.
This growth could be attributed to several reasons. There is no question part of it can be credited to women only outdoor educational programs like “Becoming an Outdoors Woman”. Indiana, as well as 36 other states, provides this type of outdoor immersion event geared strictly for the ladies. This two day event teaches a variety of activities including hunting, shooting, game cleaning and preparation.
Another reason for the spike in female hunters could be the recent “lovacore” movement where people prefer organic foods produced or grown close to home, free of antibiotics and hormones.
One cannot rule out that maybe women are finding the pure pleasure of time spent in our natural resources, free from irreverent husbands. Just saying.
People are usually surprised to learn Desch is passionate hunter while her husband is not. Even when the deer hunting season comes to a close, she spends the rest of the year setting and checking trail cameras. “Basically I like to scout for deer year round,” she added. When the weather turns warm again she prepares and plants food plots.
Passionate and skilled full-season, female hunters, like Desch, are not a novelty anymore. They are mainstream residents who simply love to hunt and who also happen to be wives, mothers and daughters.