On August 17–20, more than 70 female hunters from all over the world gathered in Ilomantsi, Finland for the fourth Women and Sustainable Hunting (WaSH) conference, “Woman and bear – from past to present”. The event was organized within the activities of the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation’s (CIC) Working Group Artemis, which acts as a forum and networking group for female hunters.
The conference took place in northern Europe, and it welcomed participants from ten countries including the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, the United States, Slovakia, the Netherlands, Russia, Croatia, and Poland.
The main organizer of this international meeting was the Finnish Hunters’ Association and was hosted by the North Carelian Huntresses Association. The number of huntresses is on the rise in many countries, especially in Finland, where it counts more than 22,000 female hunters alone.
The conference was opened by Tuomas Hallenberg, President of the Finnish Hunters Association, who explained the situation in his country: “Hunting is doing well in Finland. According to the latest survey 66% of citizens see hunting as positive or very positive and only 10% are critical or very critical. Though we are capable, isn’t there always something to improve? In Finland 0.3 million hunters pay hunting fees annually. That is quite a number in a country with 5.5 million inhabitants. Finland can be said to be a little giant of hunting. Yet, the average age of hunters is increasing which is in line with Finland’s age pyramid. There are currently 22 thousand huntresses and 1/4 of the people taking the hunters exam are ladies. This phenomenon is important and the meaning of it can scarcely be overestimated. Once upon a time, there was dark haired lawyer who was a vegetarian. Now she trains German wirehaired pointers and hunts with them. She is my wife. Having introduced my favorite hobby properly it was rather easy to accept my hunting trips – and come along. The final step towards hunting for her was the decision to get a hunting dog. Since then the footprints have crossed the hills of Lapland like fields and forests of southern Finland as well. In one lecture I used several times the term “female hunter”, and when the speech was done a lady come to me and said “you used the word female hunter continuously. It is not needed anymore. We are hunters”. I learned! Finland’s Hunters Association is privileged to host this conference. We wish you all a pleasant stay in sunny North Carelia.”
George Aman, President of the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation underlined that “… it is really my sincere belief that huntresses are our hope for the survival of hunting, because, among many other things, they are educating our future generations with the necessary respect of nature which includes sustainable hunting. And you, Ladies, are the best to take care for the education of the young generation, who are the future of our passion.”
Soňa Chovanová Supeková, the President of the Working Group Artemis added “The unique nature of North Carelia and the Finnish hunting culture provide a fantastic setting for the conference. The “Bear and Woman” play important role in the old Finnish mythology. The Working Group Artemis is a unique platform for ladies from all over the world. I am happy to welcome 75 ladies from ten countries from three continents.”
Heli Siitari, Executive Manager of the Finnish Hunters’ Association, underlined that “This conference provides an excellent opportunity for networking and sharing information about the best practices in different countries”.
”Bear” in mind – situation in Finland
The international workshop and conference was held in the most bear-rich municipality in Finland, and was centered on the current challenges regarding bear and other large carnivore conservation in Europe. (More information about large carnivores.)
Last May, the Natural Resources Institute of Finland estimated that the bear population in Finland, including the number of cubs born in the spring, are more than 2,000 individuals, which is larger than ever before. The population has more than doubled over the past ten years. The Decree issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry on the maximum allowable number of bears to be hunted sets the quota for this year at 355 individuals. This is the highest quota ever, and 100 individuals more than last year, and this is the largest in the whole European Union. Yet, the increased hunting opportunity is not expected to have any adverse impact on the viability of the bear population.
Jaana Husu-Kallio, Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland remarked that “The main goal in increasing the hunting quota for bears is to keep the growing population at about the level it is now, target hunting to areas where the population is exceptionally dense, and prevent damages to reindeer, which have been growing for some time. Besides the trends in damages, what is also taken into account, when targeting the hunting permits to specific areas, is the status of the moose population relative to the numbers of bears. In certain areas no moose hunting has been organized in recent years because of the growth of large carnivore populations. Sustainable hunting targeting the moose population is impossible, unless the numbers of large carnivores are regulated. “
The conference featured speakers from Europe and the United States, and among the youngest lecturers, the 14-year old Adriana Sojáková, from Slovakia, received the loudest applause of the day, when she introduced her hunting-related nature project.
All the participants shared the concern of the professor of the University of New York, Jacqueline Frair, Deputy President of the Applied Science Division of the CIC, reminded the audience that young people have been alienated from nature. Everybody agreed that wildlife and nature conservation including bushcraft and other wilderness skills should be part of the official school curriculum from the first grade onwards. (More about the Alienation of Nature)
The participants also had the opportunity to take part in bear hunting that starts on August 20. This time we didn’t catch a bear, but the experience was unique since there are many European countries that don’t hunt bears at all, Siitari concluded.
Special thanks to the North Carelian Huntresses Association, especially to Jaana Elina Puhakka for her absolutely full engagement in organizining the WaSH in Ilomantsi, together with the members from the association: Tiina Eronen, Anna Maria Penttinen, Anneli Piiponnen, Aniina Poutiainen, Anna Puruskainen Saarelainen and Sanna Leppänen.
Based on the report of Soňa Chovanová Supeková