I’ve been very fortunate. I grew up in a time and place and with parents who supported the idea that in Summer you threw kids out the door after breakfast and expected them back relatively unscathed for supper. My Dad in particular was an educator by profession and inclination and shared his love of all things outdoors. By the time I was in high school, I could fish, build a campfire, use an axe, shoot a gun (and had completed hunter safety training), be useful for Audubon bird counts, read water and canoe a river, and generally feel comfortable venturing into the woods on my own.
Unfortunately, that is more and more not the case for the average American, especially women. In 1990, Dr. Christine Thomas, a professor of Natural Resources at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, attended a conference to discuss the reasons why women do not participate more in outdoor activities like hunting and fishing. At the end of the conference, twenty-one barriers had been identified and they included such things as clothes and equipment that do not fit a woman’s body, the lack of mentors, and few opportunities to learn outdoor skills in a non-competitive environment.
Dr. Thomas, who has been a hunter and fisher all her life, organized a weekend workshop in 1991 which is now the Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) program. Since its inception, BOW has grown to include programs in nearly every state and several Canadian provinces. Each state holds it own program and the classes offered reflect each state. Minnesota offers lots of water-based classes, Colorado has mountain skills, and Arizona covers topics including desert survival. In less than ten years, more than 50,000 women had attended BOW classes and popularity of the program continues to grow.
New Mexico’s first BOW was held in May 1995. Its mission is clear. Provide basic classes from qualified volunteer instructors in a wide variety of outdoor skills, teach them in a friendly but non-competitive atmosphere and make them as hands-on as possible. Every workshop offers classes in the shooting sports particularly as they relate to hunting and lots of angling classes. Other introductory classes round out the program such as Dutch oven cooking, nature photography, conservation and ecology, map and compass navigation, survival skills, wilderness first aid and many, many more. I’ve been honored to be part of this program as an instructor since 1997.
Since that time over 1200 women have attended BOW-New Mexico which is held annually. This year’s BOW-NM will be held May 13-15 at the NRA-Whittington Center in Raton, New Mexico. Cost for the three days includes lodging and meals at the Center, and four 4-hour classes by pre-registration. Like Girl Scout Camp for grown-ups!
If you or someone you know would like to participate in BOW, contact the organization in your home state–a quick internet search should turn up information. You can view the BOW-NM blog and download registration packet HERE. Because of limits on space, don’t delay to register. I hope to see some of you at BOW-NM!
Thanks to Leilani Granahan, BOW-NM coordinator, for information used in this article and all her hard work on making BOW-NM a great program.