The third-annual Maine Women Hunters ice fishing trip at Little Sebago Lake in January 2022 drew dozens of outdoor women. With 6,000 members, Maine Women Hunters is one of the largest women-only outdoor groups of its kind in the country. It is run by one woman, Christi Holmes, who founded the group and runs trips for the group as a volunteer. Photo courtesy of Christi Holmes

The license plate on Christi Holmes’ SUV reads CLM DGR – fitting for a Down East native. But her license plate could just as easily feature some acronym of deer hunter, duck hunter, fly fisher, trapper, shed hunter or hard-water angler.

Since Holmes graduated from college and started working as a civil engineer a decade ago, she’s taught herself virtually every traditional outdoor pursuit in the Maine woods from taxidermy to trapping. But since founding the Maine Women Hunters Facebook group in 2018, she took her love of the outdoors to a whole new level.

Maine Women Hunters has become one of the largest women’s hunting groups of its kind in the country, one of the few that actively teaches women to hunt and trap through trips and seminars, and possibly the only one run by a single person, who happens to do it all for free.

Christi Holmes poses for a portrait with a beaver pelt, made with a beaver she trapped in Scarborough on Jan. 21. Holmes hunts, traps and fishes. She is a Registered Maine Guide and the founder of Maine Women Hunters. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“I wanted to make it approachable and affordable, hunting especially,” Holmes said. “With hunting, you’re dealing with firearms, so there’s a lot to master with firearm safety. And you’re taking the life of an animal. That’s serious. There’s a lot to it. I wanted it to be welcoming for women who want to try something new.”

The 35-year-old Registered Maine Guide started the group at a time when the ranks of female hunters experienced significant growth. In 2011, women made up 10% of all hunters in Maine with 17,324 license holders. By 2020 the number had risen to 15% with 23,723, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

There are more than 20 other states with women-only hunting groups on Facebook. The majority have fewer than 1,000 followers and several have fewer than 100. Only a handful surpass the Maine Women Hunters’ membership of 6,000.


The Maine Women Hunters smelting trip to Worthing’s smelt camp in February 2022 drew more than a dozen Maine outdoor women. With 6,000 members, the Maine Women Hunters is one of the largest women-only outdoor groups of its kind in the country. It is run by one woman, Christi Holmes, who founded the group and runs trips for the group as a volunteer. Photo courtesy of Christi Holmes

Some women’s hunting groups mentor women on hunts – such as the Women Hunters of North Carolina and ReelCamo Girl, which leads trips throughout the U.S. and Canada. But many are run by a board of directors or pro staff of several expert women hunters. Holmes organizes the trips in Maine on her own.

At least a few times each month, Holmes invites the group’s members to try outdoor activities such as trapping, pheasant hunting, ice fishing, striper fishing, smelting or sea duck hunting. More than 400 have attended these trips since she started offering them in 2019. Many of the trips are free. Few cost more than $200, because Holmes wants to keep them affordable.

In January, she posted an invite to the third annual hare hunt weekend – a $125 trip that includes a hunt with beagles and lodging. The fourth-annual Maine Women Hunters ice fishing outing this winter cost nothing more than the $6 fee to enter Range Pond State Park in Poland Spring.

“To say she is a moderator of a social media group is a gross understatement. Christi is an ambassador,” said Judy Camuso, commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife. “She organizes outings that appeal to a wide range of outdoor interests, from hunting and fishing trips to shooting clays or fish printing. She coordinates and hosts all these events. She shows up and helps people.”

Christi Holmes, right, teaches Erin Oldham to ice fish on Trickey Pond in January 2022, when they caught a splake. Oldham is a member of the Maine Women Hunters group that Holmes started and has grown to 6,000 members. Photo courtesy of Christi Holmes

Holmes sought to grow her outdoor skills after college because she grew up hiking with her family. The Machias native said she likes to try everything at least once – and thrives on new outdoor experiences. She also is someone who strives for success.

In high school she was a 1,000-point scorer on the Machias Memorial High School basketball team. She attended the College of Engineering at the University of Maine on a full academic scholarship and, after graduating, thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2011.


But to find the hunting and fishing influence in her family you have to go back three generations to her great grandfather, Oscar Larson, a physician in the Machias region whose camp on Cathance Lake she hunts and fishes from today.

Women-only hunting groups are mostly founded on the principle that women learn easier alongside other women, without pressure or competitiveness. Many in the Maine Women Hunters said Holmes has offered this in a safe community.

“I think when I’m learning with other women, it’s not lecturing. It’s more like sharing information and trying to help. It’s not competitive. It’s supportive,” said Amanda Shortall, a member since 2020. “Christi is amazing with the group. She brings no judgment, and she brings all these opportunities. I’m grateful to have the group. So much of hunting is male-dominated.” 

Shortall joined the group because she wanted to learn to hunt. In the end, being a part of it changed her life. Shortall first participated in a firearm safely class through the group. Soon after, she became a Registered Maine Guide. Last year, she quit her job as a teacher in Rockland to manage a sporting camp in the North Maine Woods.

“I would say, definitely, being a member of that group inspired me,” said Shortall, 50. “I wanted to learn to hunt, but I didn’t know where to start.”

In January, Alyssa Audet of Fairfield posted a photo on the site of her holding a large northern pike with a rare brag – after she bested her husband while ice fishing. It’s the hat. The hat brings the luck I need to out fish my husband,” Audet said of her “MWH” winter hat.


“Guys don’t give the same advice for women that they do for each other,” Audet said. “I wanted advice on the best gear, the best shot gun. There is advice given on there that men won’t understand. The size and strength of a shot gun is different for a woman. No one knows the needs of a woman better than a woman.” 

From left to right, Jeanie Cote, Krysta West and Christi Holmes bond with the beagles from Briar Run guide service in Burlington after the end of a hare hunt in January 2021. The hunt was a guided trip offered by Holmes to the Maine Women Hunters, which she founded in 2018. Photo courtesy of Christi Holmes

A few of the Maine Women Hunters trips that Holmes leads as a Registered Maine Guide, and on a few led by other guides, Holmes has gone for free. But mostly she participates with the group and pays her way. Other than a little money she makes on the sale of MWH gear such as sweatshirts, winter hats and travel mugs – which net her around $3,000 annually – Holmes makes no money for the work organizing trips.

She also is an ambassador for Old Town Canoe and L.L. Bean on Instagram, where she has 10,000 followers. And Holmes has appeared in the L.L. Bean hunting catalog as a model. The Maine outdoor companies pay her a commission or give her gear. But Holmes said her work for the Maine Women Hunters is a volunteer and separate endeavor.

“People have all sorts of hobbies that are expensive and they don’t make money on. This one is mine,” she said. “I like being a role model to young girls, whether it’s engineering or hunting because I didn’t have any growing up and it was hard.”

Last fall, Roger Willette of Bradley became one of the few men that Holmes allowed to post on the Maine Women Hunters site. Willette had posted a photo of his 14-year-old daughter and her first deer on another Maine hunting site, where his daughter was ridiculed for shooting a small deer. So Willette asked Holmes if she could make an exception for his daughter’s sake. 

“It was a great experience,” Willette said. “My daughter was so excited. I gave her my phone to look at all of the comments because it was so completely safe.” 

A few years ago, Holmes hired an attorney to explore making the Maine Women Hunters a nonprofit to possibly grow it further. She was told she’d need a board of directors. She decided to stay the course and run it alone.

“You know, I feel like it could be this really big thing,” she said. “But I like keeping it small and making it affordable and local and just focused on Maine. Making Maine women more confident in the outdoors, I feel I’m satisfied with that.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.