FERNDALE, Ark. – (AGFC) More than 130 women took up the torch of carrying on our outdoors passions to the next generation at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Workshop, held at the C.A. Vines 4-H Center west of Little Rock during the last weekend in September.
Becoming an Outdoors-Woman is a special workshop held each year to introduce many different aspects of the outdoors specifically to women. Lea Gray, coordinator of the event and the AGFC’s new Hunt Natural program, says offering the program enables women to build confidence in these activities that have been dominated by men for generations.
“Many women who hunt and fish were introduced by a father or a husband who pursued the outdoors,” Lea said. “We try to get as many female instructors as possible to help women who may not have those influences gain the confidence and knowledge they need to get out there on their own and learn how much is available for them outdoors.”
Eighty-five of the women participating in the event were first-time attendees. Women from all walks of life and ages were represented as well.
“We had one woman who had six children and was excited just to have a little time to learn something for herself, and we had others who were students at [University of Arkansas at Little Rock],” Gray said. “Ages ranged from 23 all the way into their 80s.”
During the weekend, women chose four courses from a possible 28 topics ranging from boating and kayaking to turkey hunting.
“Each topic had a 3-and-a-half-hour course,” Gray said. “We try to give a good mix of all outdoor pursuits including photography and nature crafts all the way to shooting rifles and shotguns and learning how to get in the woods hunting.”
Gray says each session at the workshop goes much more in-depth than a standard seminar or class.
“We take people from the absolute basics all the way through what they need to be successful, and you just can’t learn that in 30 minutes,” Gray said. “We’ll have people learn Dutch-oven cooking from lighting the coals all the way to a finished meal. The shooting and game calling courses also require a lot of one-on-one time to help individuals get comfortable.”
Mentors from many agencies and organizations pitched in to help teach the variety of topics. Women from the Department of Parks and Tourism led kayaking, a volunteer from the Army Corps of Engineers handled boating safety and on-the water boating fundamentals, and the Audubon Society had a representative teach birdwatching.
While the workshops taught outdoors skills, one of the biggest benefits to the three-day weekend was the opportunity for women to meet other outdoors enthusiasts to pursue their passions together. Gray says many “extracurricular” activities are planned, such as bonfires complete with S’mores and open lunches to promote conversations and fellowship.
“Many ladies got to know each other, and over the course of many years, we’ve had quite a few groups of ladies schedule hunting and fishing trips with each other to keep the spirit going,” Gray said. “I’ve already gotten some calls from women who have bought kayaks, guns and other outdoors equipment and joined together for some hunting and fishing trips.”
Thanks to the program’s Facebook page, networking and finding partners for outdoors excursions also has become much easier.
“We have a lot of workshops called Beyond BOW events that help take things to the next level,” Gray said. “The workshop is our big event for the year, but these Beyond BOW events also are great to keep the campfire burning.”
Beyond BOWs are held throughout the year and in many parts of the state. They will focus on one topic at a time, but go into even greater detail than the weekend workshop.
“You don’t have to have attended the larger BOW weekend to go to a Beyond BOW event,” Gray said. “Many workshop attendees will visit these smaller one-day events, but we get quite a few first-timers who can’t devote an entire weekend because of busy schedules and obligations.”
Visit www.facebook.com/BOWArkansas to learn more about Becoming an Outdoors-Woman and find a workshop near you.