Women and Western Deer Hunting

Oct 1, 2013
Editor's Note: Today's feature is an excerpt from the new Boone and Crockett Club book, "A Mule Deer Retrospective." The book features vintage photos of some of the biggest bucks ever taken, plus chapters by respected mule-deer fanatics Guy Eastman, Ryan Hatfield, Jim Heffelfinger, Miles Moretti and Wayne van Zwoll. This excerpt is from a chapter that explores the deep history of women hunting deer out West for both survival and sport. The book highlights more than 20 women who shot record-book mule deer from 1911 through 1971-true pioneers for women hunters.

For details on "A Mule Deer Retrospective," go t www.boone-crockett.org.

Adventure has drawn women to wilderness since covered wagons crossed deer trails.

Augusta "Gusty" Higgins Farnham, circa 1895. Photo courtesy of Museum of Northwest Colorado

One of the earliest luminaries was Augusta "Gusty" Higgins Farnham. During the summer of 1860, she arrived in Denver with her husband atop a wagonload of whisky barrels pulled behind six oxen. They traveled on to Canon City, then to Salt Lake City where, she said, there were only three other Gentile women. She saw the Rockies as they were before settlement and she hunted mule deer where no white sportsman had hunted before. She saw the early results of her push for wildlife conservation in legislation signed by Theodore Roosevelt. With rifle and camera, she was, for her time, the quintessential outdoors woman.

Nearly a century after Gusty's death, women remain a small subset of big game hunters worldwide, although both their participation and success in hunting mule deer have grown recently.

A quick perusal of Boone and Crockett records shows a couple of women's names near the top of the typical mule deer chart. In 2006, Myra Smith shot a truly outstanding buck; with a score of 210, it ranks 25th overall. Katie Norman's 1990 buck, taping 206, places 73rd in the crowded top tier of the best mule deer ever shot.

B&C's non-typical list puts Catherine Keene's tremendous 285-inch deer, taken in 2004, in 45th place. Another non-typical, killed by Alice O'Brien seems an anomaly. This 277-inch giant dates to 1949 when very few women entered deer in the records books.

This small sample suggests that more women are shooting big mule deer now than in the past-and, by extension, that more women are hunting. Such a trend should please all hunters, as women's views on hunting carry more weight in public discourse than those of men, especially among people who don't hunt!

Here are condensed highlights of two women and their remarkable mule deer.

Sophie N. Golden
Non-typical mule deer
218-5/8 B&C points

Sophie N. Golden, circa 1911. Photo courtesy of Boone and Crockett Club archives

Colorado resident Sophie N. Golden shot this impressive non-typical buck on Sept. 15, 1911. She was hunting near Dallas Divide in Ouray County, Colo., shooting a 170-grain bullet through her custom .32-40 Winchester rifle. The rifle, which had a 32-inch barrel, was made in Springfield, Mass., in 1894. A handwritten note included with the trophy entry states, "I want Gary to have this picture, rifle, and deer head when I'm gone." Boone and Crockett records do not indicate exactly who Gary was or whether he is a relative of the current trophy owner Aaron Galloway, who entered the deer in the Club's records program in 2004.

Alice C. O'Brien
Non-typical mule deer
277-1/8 B&C points

Alice C. O'Brien, circa 1949. Photo courtesy of Boone and Crockett Club archives

David O'Brien inherited this fine trophy from his grandmother, Alice O'Brien. The buck went unmeasured and unrecognized as one of Oregon's biggest mule deer for 24 years until it was officially scored by L.M. Mathisen in March 1973. The buck's final score is 277-1/8 points. It still ranks as the No. 5 non-typical mule deer in Oregon. The Nov. 1973 edition of "Oregon Outdoors" reported:

"On October 11th, Alice O'Brien, a lady deer hunter from Klamath Falls, dropped a big buck with one shot from a .32 Winchester. A few days later a picture of the gal and her fine buck appeared in the local newspaper. The antler spread was reported to be 39-1/2 inches, with 13 points on one side, 11 points on the other, and the site of the kill was listed as being 20 miles south of Bly in eastern Klamath County...."

The buck has since changed hands, first to antler collector Don Schaufler in the 1980s and most recently to Cabela's where it is currently on display in their Kansas City store.