About The Author

Kim Hiss, an associate editor at Field & Stream, has hunted ducks, antelope, turkeys, and deer throughout the country, enjoying a number of women's hunts along the way. She lives in Dobbs Ferry, New York. Click here to email Kim.

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January 11, 2008

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Booth Babes


Boothbabe As many of you know, around this time every year, the National Shooting Sports Foundation holds a convention of outdoors exhibitors called the SHOT Show. I went for the first time in 2005, and came to appreciate how truly massive the exhibition is -- acres of booths displaying every gun, bow, backpack, boot, knife, and camo innovation imaginable (the 2007 show had 1,870 exhibitors and was attended by 42,000 people).
     As the industry gears up for the '08 SHOT Show in Las Vegas at the beginning of February, I thought it was worth zeroing in on one particular element of the event -- the booth babes.
     Of course, show attendance is dominated by men, and to get their attention, some exhibitors hire women to hang around their displays who seem to have forgotten their clothes that morning.
     I remember walking around the exhibition floor at that 2005 show, doing my job as an outdoors journalist just like any number of men in attendance. But the second I spotted the first of those booth babes, I immediately felt like an outsider -- like the only way a woman could fit into that man's world was to have killer legs and a chest that could knock an eye out. In a strange way, it was kind of like the time I went to Disney World as a kid and caught a glimpse of Goofy with his head off and the guy inside smoking a cigarette - I was in this incredibly impressive place, but one little detail sucked the fun right out of it.
     Maybe I could have been more of a sport about that whole thing. I mean, boys will be boys, and the booth babes are a kind of tradition at SHOT. And I'm sure the babes themselves are very nice. But -- not to be a downer or anything -- every time I spotted another one of them, I just ended up feeling, well, kinda depressed. -K.H.


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Kristine Shreve

I've been to SHOT a couple of times too, and I felt the same thing. I was with my company and working in our booth, and I felt as if I should have been wearing a bikini or something in order to get the attention of people walking by. Not a nice feeling.

NorCal Cazadora

Ooooh, thanks for the warning. I'm going to SHOT Show this year for the first time.

Of course, I should've expected it. One of my favorite things about going to various duck organization dinners is watching the hot raffle-ticket chicks work the room, extracting money from drunk men's wallets.

It kinda makes me sad for men that it takes so little to lure them in. Like bucks in rut, reason abandons them. (In fact, my boyfriend just looked over my shoulder and, upon seeing the picture above, remarked, "That's a quality hoochie mama!")

If the tables were turned and this were a sport dominated by women, could you imaging the exhibitors bringing in a bunch of half-naked beefcake for us? Lord, I'd be so embarrassed I wouldn't go to those booths.

But now I'm ready. I can't wait!

Jodi Kotimaki

Hmmm... seems kinda offensive to me. I've been to outdoor expo's and have never seen booth babes like that. I don't know, seems like the hunting industry should have evolved out that by now, but apparently not.
If the hunting industry truly wants to embrace women and children in their industry then those hot babes have got to go.
That's just my humble opinion.


I've been trying to figure it out ever since my first glimpse of Playboy as a 4 year old little girl in 1970s southern California! :))

Where DO we fit into that? Moreover, why doesn't society cater to WOMENs sexual appetites? We definitely have one. (Come on, Erika Larson, give us a sexy, gritty black & white photo essay: "Down Time In The Hunting Camp" !)

I appreciate your honesty- especially writing for a HUNTING magazine. I don't know WHERE to put my eyes or how to feel when we're perusing dirt bikes at a show and and no one in our group can get past the nipples staring back at us from the booth babes t-shirt...


Verrry interesting topic. I guess if these girls are helping to pull people to the show and being properly compensated for it, that's fine. Likewise, if they are trying to market themselves as potential spokespeople or fill a self esteem void, that's fine too(although sad if it's the latter).

I've not been to the show, but I've been to "themed" restaurants, etc where the same marketing ploys are used. I'm not offended, per se, usually just a little irritated/embarrassed because my boyfriend (poor guy) is a major unsubtle gawker, and we girls (I've read, AND believe) are hardwired to compete. Hence, the irritation. By the way, I love this web site because it's usually always positive and only negative if there's a good purpose for it, so I have to say that I ALWAYS use the term "girls" and never mean to assign a negative connotation to it. :] Didn't want to tick anyone off!

Anyway, I have to wonder how those girls feel after a few hours of being gawked at. Doesn't it get old and boring (not to mention creepy)? Do they feel somehow disrespectful to clothed girls there for the show's purpose? Could THEY feel like the out-of-place ones, not having the same shared interests as other male AND female atendees? Don't they eventually want to start conjugating foreign verbs or solving calculus problems to show these guys that there's more to them than fortunate genes (read: T&A)?

Honestly, it seems like a steady, purposeful barrage of "that type" of attention would be embarassing and uncomfortable. Don't get me wrong - I completely appreciate an occasional flattering compliment or head turn (granted, I don't "cheat" by showing up at a predominantly male convention in a bikini! HAHA)

On the other hand, while I can be "light hearted" about the whole issue of objectification, as mom to a young girl, it's a scary subject I have to deal with all the time. It's everywhere. And it's NOT going away. It's tough trying to instill in her mind that judging peoples' worth based on their looks is wrong, without further demeaning the girls (and guys!) that actually engage in it (thereby doing the same thing, just from the other direction).

And NorCal, to kill any credibility I might have whatsoever . . . ARE YOU NUTS?!?!?! If they were to bless us with a little "beefcake" at one of our "Fill-in-the-blank Unlimited" dinners, I might (for once) not fall asleep in my beer half way through the auction!!! HAHAHAHA Happy New Year to all!

NorCal Cazadora

Well, Tracy, yes I AM nuts, but not in a way that's relevant to this discussion!

Seriously, I do appreciate looking at a well-cut man as much as any woman. I just can't be led around by the nose by one of them, and I certainly wouldn't keep calling Mr. Beefcake to my table at a duck dinner to keep shelling out 20s for raffle tickets. I can look once or twice and be done with it.
And if beefcake doesn't help separate me from my money, marketers aren't going to pay for beefcake. They'll stick with something more reliable, like chocolate.

Self-respecting woman

It gets tiring. But unfortunately, I don't think it's going to change in this generation. It'll probably take about 3 more.

I do wish the magazines and blogs would take more notice of women as hunters and less notice of women as sex objects.

Dave Petzal

I can see Kim's point of view, but permit me to add this:

Many of the exhibitors at the SHOT Show are small businesses to whom SHOT is a make or break proposition. It costs a lot to go to Las Vegas and even more to operate an exhibit there, so if they don't bring in traffic and write orders they're sunk. Now consider the following:

The overwhelming percentage of attendees at the Show are men. Probably 90 percent plus.

It takes a full day to walk the Show, and after about 30 minutes of looking at guns, your eyes glaze over.

There is only one thing that will get a man's attention every time, without fail, and there is a photograph of it at the top of this blog.

Most of the booth babes are in the Tactical section of the Show, the connection between sex and violence being well understood.

That is why there are booth babes. What's the line from Godfather I? "It's not personal, it's business."


The booth babes are the kind of girls we guys look forward to going home with for an evening. K.H. is the kind of girl we look forward to going home with every evening. Does this comment earn me any free stuff?

Judy Black

It makes me giggle every year when we attend a local chapter auction and these "booth babes" are seeling raffle tickets. I laugh when she has to handle the slobber soaked twenty dollar bills handed to them. Grown men turn into babbling little boys when the ladies stop by to sell their wares.
The real show starts the second night of the show when they are raffling off puppies. By the tables they walk cuddling these little pups who look like they have snuggled in for the night. Awww, aren't they cute. Well, depends on what "pups" you are looking at.
It humors me and my husband is not exempt from the action. I laugh because I know who he is going home with and even harder knowing that many of the "babes" don't know where the trigger is to pull or the nock end of an arrow.
Skin sell, whatever it takes. Most of the money taken in goes to a very good cause and the pups to a good home. =)

Kimberly Hiss

Nice to see the men chiming in. Dave, I absolutely hear you - booth babes have a definite purpose, and far be it from me to deny a small business owner's right to stay competitive. I can only speak for the way said babes make me feel - kind of like high school home coming, when I was the band geek in full uniform, positioned next to the prom queen at the spirit rally.

As for Rivercityloudmouth, your comment is much appreciated. However, unless you're looking for a size 4 t-shirt in a lovely pink camo pattern, I'm afraid I can't help you on the gear front! -K.H.


Here's my 2 cents worth:

No woman should be put in a position of having to compete for the affections of the man who has promised to love, cherish and honor her. (Booth Babes do not help with this.) Nor should women be reduced to the value of "tied flies" for luring men into a SHOT show booth. (SHOT Show doesn't help with this.)

These are time honored principles that I believe and because I do, my wife is more secure in herself and also in our marriage. I am a happily married man, delighted with the "charms" of my wife and guarding (for my sake AND hers) against "the wandering eye"!

I think it's a shame that Dave Petzal thinks that "sex = business" and just as much a shame that Kim Hiss has to be "OK" with this aspect of the "industry".

They aren't going to shut down Las Vegas because I believe this; and they aren't going to close down the SHOT show. But some men won't be going. Their wives will be that much better for it and it will count just a little for women everywhere.

Adam Phipps

I appreciate this article more than you know. I have always had problems with the sexual objectification of woman, especially as a means of making money. However, now that I am a father in the very beginning stages of teaching my daughter about the integrity and purity of being an outdoor's person I am faced with this road block. How am I to teach my little girl that this is a pure and wholesome sport for men and women, if the women she sees pushing outdoors products are there only to attract men, and not truly inform customers about a specific product's uses and capabilities based on their personal use in the field or on the water. I would like to ad that this issue is not specific to daughters. My brother and I have had this discussion before and he feels that he can't take his son to such events for the exact reasons I've already discussed. We simply have decided not to go at all. We live by this motto: If it's not good for our kids then it's not good for us. So you see Mr. Petzal, "It is personal." The booth babes have got to go. If we really want to solve this problem, we need to stop purchasing the products sold by the companies that employ "Booth Babes." I guarantee that will get some attention.

Synthia Wilson

I appreciated reading these comments and becoming aware of what the atmosphere is like at SHOT(which I have not attended.) It was an eye opener, to the attitude that some men have toward women, but I believe there are some men out there that are equally embarrased by what they are seeing. I am currently in the process of setting my fall schedule in the mid-west area for hunting seminars & workshops, which I began doing in 2007. As a woman I have to do a fair amount of self promoting. This made me aware of what some PR managers may be trying to market. I do not want to present myself in a manner that would EVER be offensive to like minded women or youngsters. I do realize that looks can open some doors that may not other wise give you a second look, but I will be careful to not allow myself to be used as a "Booth Babe, which would be a total insult to my intellegence as a seasoned hunter. Likewise, it definitly downgrades what I would be trying to promote to begin with, which is getting women interested in hunting. A woman should be able to look and listed to someone at their level and think to themself, "If she can learn and enjoy this so can I." Not think to themself "Good God, who is she trying to get interested in hunting, me or the guy standing next to me?"