If You Plan It, They Will Come

Becoming an Outdoors Woman in New Hampshire

Barbara Neville Wilson for Sweet 16

Lisa Wiley 2016 Winter BOWDonna Chick of Ossipee couldn’t believe her ears. “Do you mean to tell me,” she said at the Wolfeboro Women’s Network Luncheon in mid-January, “they opened registration January 4th and all the spots were taken by January 7th? How can that be possible?”

It is possible, but to understand why, a little translation is needed. “They” refers to the folks running “Becoming An Outdoors Woman” at New Hampshire Fish and Game and the New Hampshire Wildlife Federation. “Registration” is for a 1-day Winter workshop at Owl Brook Hunter Education Center in Holderness February 20th.

Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) brings women together to learn and improve their skills for outdoor living. Four programs will be offered at the winter workshop: Ice Fishing, Snowshoeing and Tracking, Shoe and Shoot, and Winter Survival. Each of the programs starts participants at a foundational level and teaches them about equipment, technique and strategy. Equipment and training is provided, but attendees are expected to come prepared to participate fully. In other words, dress for the weather.

Donna is intrigued by the “Snowshoeing and Winter Tracking” program at Winter BOW but knows nothing about the sport. “I bet I’d have to spend a lot of money to get snowshoes,” she says. Kim Proulx, BOW coordinator, and guest speaker at the Women’s Network, says equipment is not a problem. The workshop teachers participants to choose the right snowshoe for their adventure.  They will also practice maneuvering on snowshoes provided as they learn to track and identify wildlife.

Outdoor Survival by Jane VachonNew Durham’s Cecile Chase has been snowshoeing for years, but is seeking to add a little challenge. She plans to snowshoe and target shoot from her bow this winter. Fellow table members ask if she will sign up for the “Shoe and Shoot” if it’s offered again in next year’s rotating line-up. Participants don’t need firearm experience to take the course. Everyone starts their day at Owl Brook’s shooting range learning .22 caliber safety and technique. Afterwards they will snowshoe the woodland course, shooting targets for practice.

But how is it possible that BOW Winter registration opened January 4th and was filled January 7th? BOW’s popularity has grown steadily since New Hampshire Fish and Game first started offering the program in 1994, and as fast as they offer new events, registration fills completely. BOW Coordinator Kim Proulx has been in her position for just over a year. “I was so excited when I learned about this program and knew I wanted to be part of it.” She travels the state, talking to groups like the Wolfeboro Women’s Network about what BOW offers, not only for winter, but year-round.

Shoe and Shoot by Jane VachonUniversity of Wisconsin-Stevens Point college professor Christine Thomas founded BOW after researching reasons why few women participate in outdoor activities like hunting and fishing. Her conclusion?  That women want to learn and get first practice with sports alongside other women in a non-competitive atmosphere. The state of Wisconsin started their BOW program in 1991, and since then, 38 states, including New Hampshire and six Canadian provinces, have come on board.

“In each state, the program looks different,” says Kim. New Hampshire’s signature event is the Fall BOW weekend. This year the workshop will be held September 9-11 at Rockywold-Deephaven Camps in Holderness and features workshops on fishing, shooting, hiking, outdoor cooking, orienteering, and self-propelled water sports. “The Outdoor Cooking class is always a hit,” says Kim. For $335 participants receive instruction, materials, use of equipment, all meals and two nights lodging. Registration opens June 6th and must be completed by mail.

“I’d like to do that,” says Donna. Sixty-one years old and mother to a brood of six adopted sons, she says she sometimes just needs time away, and her husband and children understand. She’s not looking for time lounging on a beach, though. In the last year, she’s discovered joy in running and competing in triathlons. The BOW programs are a natural extension of what she’s doing already. “Truth be told,” she says, “I feel better when I’m active.”

Ice Fishing Winter BOW 2016It’s that rush of high-activity endorphins, enjoyment of nature, and sense of accomplishment that keeps bringing women back for more BOW programs, says Kim. “If we had more capacity, I know we would still fill up.”

The Winter BOW program has run for a number of years, and now BOW has added in-depth focused courses called “Beyond BOW.”

On the calendar for June is a Wilderness Survival course that complements the cold-weather Wilderness Survival program offered at Winter BOW. Participants learn what to include in their survival kit, how to build a shelter, make a fire, signal for help and purify water. Taught by Fish and Game Conservation officers, and held at Owl Brook, registration is limited to 18 and will open April 25th.

Like to fly fish but want to learn the finer points of casting, reading the water, picking a fly and landing a fish? Then reserve June 24th-June 26th for the Intermediate Fly Fishing Weekend at Coleman State Park in Stewartstown. In addition to instruction (bring your own fly-rod), participants receive two nights lodging and five meals. Registration opens May 9th and is limited to 15.

Plan ahead now if you’re interested in learning Deer Hunting Basics October 1 or would like to attend a Navigational Workshop where you can compare old-fashioned map and compass orienteering to GPS-aided navigation October 15th. Registration is limited to 15 and 20 respectively and opens August 15th for Deer Hunting Basics and August 29th for the Navigational Workshop.

Other courses that have been offered include Handling Handguns, Waterfowl Hunting Weekend, Introduction to Turkey Hunting, Overnight Backpacking, Introduction to Trapping, Saltwater Deep Sea Fishing Day Trip, Introduction to Rifle and Shotgun, Seacoast Wild Edibles, Introduction to Bow Hunting, and Wilderness Survival.

According to Kim, most of the women participating in BOW programs fit the profile of those attending the Wolfeboro Women’s Network Luncheon: curious and active women finding new time in their schedules when families are mostly grown and less needy of their time. However, NH BOW actively targets younger women to join BOW programs, too.  To encourage more participation of that younger, and often more financially strapped group, BOW is offering discounted rates in select programs to women aged 18-25. For Winter BOW, young women are charged less than half of what their older counterparts pay. Scholarships are also available for the Fall BOW for single parents, students or members of fixed/low income households.  Applications are due May 2nd.

In the old movie Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner’s character listens to a whisper, “If you build it, they will come.”

At BOW, Kim Proulx and her team listen to another whisper, “If you plan it, they will come,” and women of all ages prove the words true.  Together they build a broader future for outdoor sports in New Hampshire.

Are you interested in Becoming an Outdoors Woman?  Be ready to register the moment your program opens or you may be left waiting a whole ‘nother year! Go to www.nhbow.com or call NH Fish and Game at 603.271.3212 to start plotting your game plan now.