Becoming an Outdoors Woman

By Kirstan Knowlton, reporter at The Berlin Daily Sun




During check-in, the room was buzzing with excitement as women settled in, looked over the day’s agenda and began introducing themselves to one another, hoping to connect with other women who were participating the same class.
Some women came with their daughter, sister, or friends, while others braved the new environment and tackled the experience alone.

This year’s winter Becoming an Outdoors Woman programming featured four courses including Ice Fishing Fun; Snowshoeing and Winter Tracking; Winter Survival; and Shoe and Shoot. All four courses offer a progressive approach designed to help beginners feel comfortable with the skills they are learning.
“BOW is a non-profit program specifically designed for women. With our beginner level programming, we try to help women overcome possible barriers that may be keeping them from participating in outdoors activities,” said coordinator Kim Proulx.

Proulx explained that many times women avoid trying activities like hunting and fishing because it is seen as a male dominated sport. It can also be intimidating for someone with no experience or exposure to these types of activities to try them for the first time.

“Examples of barriers could be: social pressures of hunting and angling being a “man’s sport”; being raised in a non-hunting or angling family; no strong “outdoors-woman” role model; increased urbanization of society — too much time inside, not a lot of time outside; possible fear of firearms, getting lost and an intimidating learning environment,” said Proulx.

Becoming an Outdoors Woman gives women the chance to try these activities in safe supportive environment with instructors who provide a good example of a strong female role model.

“Within the classes, volunteer instructors promote a supportive, non-competitive learning environment. It allows women to learn something new in a hands-on way without the investment in expensive gear/equipment. We strive to have strong, confident females as instructors to provide female role models for participants,” said Proulx.
During the initial registration participants were asked to rank the classes in order of interest and depending on availability, students were placed accordingly. The capacity for the winter program sells out each year with an average capacity of about 60 students.

After check in, students were giving a brief overview of the program, how it is funded and ways that people can support their mission through donations and volunteer opportunities.
Participants then split off into their individual groups and the fun began!


Ice Fishing Fun
Students gathered together and first learned the basics of ice safety before taking off on their daylong adventure out on the ice. Although the weather has been unseasonably warm, the ice was still about 12 inches thick, making it perfect for being out on the ice.

Once settled, participants began learning about different drilling techniques and got to try their hand at motorized and non-motorized ice augers. It didn’t take long before one lucky lady caught the biggest fish of the day.
It was Lisa Wiley’s first time ever ice fishing, but you wouldn’t know it judging by the size of the massive pickerel she caught.

“It’s an extraordinary educational opportunity with so many skilled people. To have this many people from all walks of life come together to learn something new is amazing. I am coming away from this with a ton knowledge that I can use,” said Wiley.

Wiley said that she plans on taking her children ice fishing over school break, and before taking this class it wasn’t something she would have felt comfortable doing.

Snowshoeing and Winter Tracking
Wintertime offers the perfect opportunity to get out and explore nature. Animal tracks are visible in the snow and snowshoeing is a great way to beat the winter blues.

In this class students were introduced to basic tracking, and went over common wildlife that they would likely encounter while walking through the woods. They also learned about different snowshoes and which ones were right for them.
Because of little snow, students were unable to test out their snowshoeing skills in the woods, but there was just enough snow to easily spot signs of wildlife like tracks, scat and areas where animals had nibbled away at the branches.
Students were treated to a sighting of a Snowshoe Hare and a variety of droppings left by woodland creatures.

Winter Survival
The thought of surviving the winter elements can seem daunting, but starting from the basics of what to pack and how to dress for the conditions, students began to understand that winter survival was something they could plan for.
N.H. Fish and Game Lt. Heidi Murphy reminded students when they find themselves in a survival situation to “STOP.” STOP stands for stop, think, observe and plan. Being mentally aware is critical to making it out safely.
Once they learned about basic survival techniques, students broke off into two groups where they learned how to build shelters and start a fire using a variety of techniques.

Diane Caron of Portsmouth said that she had signed up for her Hike Safe Card, and that she signed up for Winter Survival because she wanted to learn how to use the items that she was bringing with her.

“Having a Hike Safe Card is important, but it doesn’t teach you what you need to know,” said Caron.
For their final test students were divided into groups of four and given the task of building their own shelter and fire in the woods. The groups had to pick their own location and construct their area based on what they had learned from the day without the help of instructors.

Shoe and Shoot
First meeting at the indoor firing range, students received an overview of the day and instructors discussed firearm safety. Students were then paired off and began the hands on portion of their course.
Each pair had their own instructor guiding them throughout the process giving them advice and encouragement as they worked towards hitting the target. From there students moved outdoors to tackle challenging elements like terrain, distance and target size.

For some participants it had been the first time that they had ever shot a firearm.

Vivian Anastasia, a participant of the Shoe and Shoot class, said that she felt really welcomed and received a lot of personalized attention throughout the day.

“I had never used a firearm before, but with good instructions I felt safe using it,” said Anastasia.
Anastasia hopes to attend the weekend long program in the fall.

Future Classes
The very popular Becoming an Outdoors Woman fall weekend class will be held Sept. 9, 10 and 11 at Rockywold-Deephaven Camps in Holderness. Other classes include Wilderness Survival on Saturday, June 4, Intermediate Fly Fishing on Friday June 24-Sunday, June 26, Deer Hunting Basics on Saturday, Oct. 1 and Navigational Workshop on Saturday, Oct. 15.

To stay up to date on the latest events, subscribe to the newsletter available by email or mail. To subscribe, follow the link of the left hand portion of their website under Contact.

For more information about Becoming an Outdoors Woman, visit nhbow.com or call (603) 271-3212. Also find the organization on Facebook by searching Becoming an Outdoors Woman NH.

Owl Brook Hunter Education Center is located in 387 Perch Pond Road in Holderness, with its main office located on 11 Hazen Drive in Concord.

Registration for all programs will only be accepted by postal mail. Scholarships for the three-day fall program are also available.

History
Becoming an Outdoors Woman first began as a course offered at the University of Wisconsin. The concept of the course came about after the university found that many women chose not to participate in outdoor activities like hunting and fishing, because they preferred learning these skills in a non-competitive environment with other women. The popularity of the course grew and quickly filled to capacity with more than double the enrollment interested in attending.
In 1994 the N.H. Fish and Game Department partnered with the N.H. Wildlife Federation and began offering a weekend long program at Rockywold/Deephaven Camps in Holderness.

Over 20 years later, the Become an Outdoors Woman is offering courses in the fall, winter and throughout the year with Beyond Becoming an Outdoors Woman.
 

Becoming an Outdoors Woman Article in the Berlin Daily Sun 2016