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Will Pink Bring More Women To Hunting? The Option Is Debated At The Capitol

Elizabeth Whitaker, sister of the Division of Wildlife's Anita Martinez, poses with her kill during her first ever hunt north of Rifle, Colo. in 2006.
Anita Martinez, Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Division of Wildlife
Elizabeth Whitaker, sister of the Division of Wildlife's Anita Martinez, poses with her kill during her first ever hunt north of Rifle, Colo. in 2006.

Colorado could be the next state to allow hunters to wear florescent pink. A Democratic proposal to give hunters the option of wearing pink – in addition to the traditional safety orange – has passed the Republican controlled Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

"I hunt because it's a treasured time with my dad and my brothers," said Senator Kerry Donovan (D-Vail), a big game hunter and sponsor of Senate Bill 68 [.pdf]. "And the stories that happen in hunting camp are the stories that my family tell over and over again."

Bente Birkeland reports from the state capitol

Growing up, Donovan didn't love wearing blaze orange, the universal hunting color.

"I wore the clothing because it was required, it was the safe thing to do," she said. "But the message was clear, that hunting was for men."

Women still make up a relatively small percentage of hunters, but according to the U.S. Census Bureau that number has increased significantly over the years. While companies are marketing apparel and gear toward women, Donovan said giving hunters the choice to wear pink could bring even more women into the sport.

"You don't have to look like a man or act like a a man to take part in one of our state's most time honored traditions."

Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife testified in support of the bill. Pat Dorsey, a parks and wildlife employee who used to be the hunter education administrator, said various studies show that pink would be safe.

"Florescent pink is as visible as florescent orange," Dorsey said.

That safety assurance is what ultimately convinced some lawmakers to support the bill.

"Safety was my big question," said Senator Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction). "Is it considered as safe as blaze orange? The blaze orange has been around forever."

Coming into the hearing Scott wasn't in favor of the proposal, but he changed his mind. As a hunter himself, he hopes the bill would grow the sport.

"If it does help increase the number of hunters in the female population which is a good thing, I obviously support that because we need more people hunting, which we don't have right now," said Scott.

No one testified against the bill, but some lawmakers have concerns.

"I just don't see it as a big draw for women moving into hunting," said Senator Ellen Roberts (R-Durango).

She voted against the bill because she doesn't think it rises to the level of something that should become a state law. She also believes most female hunters are fine wearing orange.

"I think it's great if women get into hunting, but I don't think that will be based on the color of the clothing they can wear."

Others went so far as to say they felt the bill was sexist. Wisconsin is the only state in the country that allows hunters to wear pink. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed the bill into law on the same day as the hearing in Colorado. Senate Bill 16-68 next heads to the full Senate for further debate.

Copyright 2016 KUNC

Bente Birkeland
Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.
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