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Outdoor Journal: Women need more opportunities to participate outdoors

Outdoor Journal: Women need more opportunities to participate outdoors

For many years, I’ve directed the majority of my columns toward men. Generally, the only times I hav

For many years, I’ve directed the majority of my columns toward men. Generally, the only times I have made references to women have been in my fish or buck tale reports when they’ve been successful, and then only if I received a telephone call or an e-mail.

I know there are a number of women who actively participate in these so-called men’s sports. I suggest we men begin to cultivate more female interest in “our” outdoor angling/hunting/shooting

activities. Introducing women to the outdoors is not a new concept; they have their own organizations doing a fine job of it. I’m talking about getting women outdoors.

As hunters, we know our right to hunt is in serious jeopardy, and it is a tradition that needs all the support it can get. Sandra Mellon and Kim Schwanky, also referred to as the “Outdoor Chicks,” summed it up very nicely on their Web site (www.outdoorchicks.com) when they said that promoting our hunting heritage is not a “guy thing.”

The right to hunt is shared by both men and women, but over the years, for a number of reasons, women have been squeezed out.

One of the first to recognize the need for this diversity in hunting on the national level was the National Wild Turkey Feder­ation. In 1998, they launched their Women In The Outdoors program,

designed to give expert instruction and hands-on education through events specifically designed for women. That first year, they hosted 18 events. Today, their program has organized over 300 of these events nationwide. As NWTF’s first lady of hunting, Brenda Valentine, says, “Our program is about encouraging women to try new outdoor activities in a safe environment that makes them feel at ease.”

Through this program and others similar to it, women now have the opportunity to experience the thrill of all outdoor activities, not only in shooting, but all types of hunting, angling, camping, canoeing, etc. The list I saw included 38 different classes. These classes provide an opportunity to obtain a better understanding of wildlife conservation and allow them to share it with other women with the same enthusiasm.

One of the classes I had the oppor­tunity to watch was pioneer women skills in which they learned how women lived in the 1800s.

Included was fire-building with flint and steel, demonstrations of flintlock guns and learning to throw a tomahawk and knife.

Tammy Mowry, national coordin­ator of the NWTF Women in the Outdoors program, is dedicated to providing interactive educational outdoors opportunities for women, conservation of the wild turkey and preservation of the wild turkey hunting tradition. For more infor­mation and membership in the national Women of the Outdoors program, go to www.womenintheoutdoors.com.

The NRA’s Women On Target program is designed to create more hunting and shooting opportun­ities for women. According to the NRA, there are about two million women who hunt and an additional four million who target-shoot. This program is designed to encourage, educate and mentor women’s responsible participation in the hunting and shooting sports in general.

The NRA provides shooting and hunting skills training in a safe and supportive, women-only atmos­phere which includes women-only hunts. Several years ago, I was asked to be one of the turkey guides for the NRA’s Women On Target turkey hunt in Florida. It was actually the first time I had ever hunted with a woman, but I quickly learned one thing: They can be fine hunters and pay closer attention to the details than we men do.

The woman I guided on this hunt listened to every word I said, and followed my instructions without any questions. And when that tom came in ever so slowly, I believe I was more nervous than she was. Now for the good part. On this hunt, the guns were furnished by H&R 1871, and her choice was a single-shot 10-gauge.

When that tom was 25 yards away, I told her to take him, and when she touched the trigger, he folded immediately and she rolled over backward from the recoil, but was up, on her feet and out to retrieve the bird before I was. Her shoulder hurt and her arm was bruised, but she never complained. This lady is now just one turkey (eastern) away from completing her first NWTF Grand Slam.

For information on Women On Target, go to www.nra.org/women.

The New York state Department of Environmental Conservation has been sponsoring workshops on Becoming an Outdoor Woman (BOW) for more than 14 years. The New York programs are broader in scope and designed for women who have little or no experience with outdoor activities. These are three-day workshops aimed at beginner or “next step” classes for those who are more advanced or taken the introductory BOW class. The classes can also be actual hunts, fishing trips, canoe trips or camp-outs.

For newcomers with a desire to learn all aspects of firearms or those who just want to brush up on shooting knowledge, there’s a weekend called Firearms in the Forest. Training includes firearms and how to use them safely, shooting time on the range that includes rifle, shotgun and handgun training, gun cleaning and how to store your firearms safely.

For paddlers or would-be paddlers, there’s an On-Water Canoe/Kayak Interpretive Paddle outdoor workshop in which participants spend a weekend paddling in the St. Regis watershed. Here, you will see a variety of wildlife that includes bald eagles, ospreys, otters and beav­ers. Participants should be in good physical condition and bring their own canoe/kayak and personal flot­ation devise. The trip is scheduled for June 13–14, so get out there and buy your canoe/kayak now and call Carol Drury (524-2036) or Angie Berchielli (797-3747).

If you would like to get notices and registration information of all BOW events sent to your e-mail address, register at to their Web site, by clicking here.

I recently spoke with a friend, Patti Kelsey of Saratoga Springs, who, through guidance of the Kayaderosseras Fish & Game Club, attended her first BOW workshop in September 2007 at Camp Long Point on Seneca Lake. On that three-day weekend, she signed up for four classes — beginning fly-fishing, deer hunting skills, small- game hunting and wilderness camping. She told me that the fly-fishing class was prompted by the fact that her husband, Gordon, was an avid fly-fisherman.

“The weekend after my class, I was able to set up my rod, reel, lines and flies, and it was a thrill being able to tie my own knots and cast my line into the running stream,” she said. I also know that Patti has a desire to give turkey hunting a try, and I’m sure that she’ll be successful. She also plans to attend future BOW classes.

There’s one other woman with whom I have hunted. Her name is Vickie Gaydos , from Pennsylvania, who I guided on my second trip to Florida with a NRA Woman On Target hunt. It was her first turkey hunt, and she was surprisingly calm, but very anxious to shoot her first tom. We entered the woods well before daylight, walked about three-quarters of a mile before setting up where I had roosted a tom the night before. He was still there at sunup and answered all my calls all morning, but never came in.

At noon, when I told her it was time for lunch, she said she wasn’t hungry. It was then I knew she was a true hunter. After radioing back to the camp that we were going to continue the hunt, we headed out to another area a little over a mile away where I had seen birds the day before. She never complained; in fact, he was out in front of me on the trail most of the way.

About 200 yards from the field I wanted to go into, I saw several birds, and we quickly set up. Ten minutes later, 14 jakes, all in single- file, were headed right to us. I told her to wait, and that she could shoot the last one. Any other shot could result in multiple turkeys being hit. She waited, pulled the trigger and had her first tom.

One year later, on a writer’s turkey hunt in western New York, I met Vickie again, and she and her husband would be hunting with us. She got a nice tom her second day — and she did it while she was seven months pregnant. Women are as passionate about this sport as men are.

I believe there are a number of women who would jump at the opportunity to experience hunting, shooting, fishing, etc. All they need is a little coaching and guidance.

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