Program Instills Outdoor Skills in Women

NH Fish and Game's Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Winter Workshop includes instruction on tracking wildlife on snowshoes.

NH Fish and Game’s Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Winter Workshop includes instruction on tracking wildlife on snowshoes.

Becoming an Outdoors-Woman is Increasingly Popular as it Enters 20th Year

New Hampshire has no shortage of natural resources to enjoy, so it’s no surprise that the great outdoors are a great attraction in our state. For a long time, though, the great outdoors seemed to be the domain of just one gender. That’s where the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program came in.

Becoming an Outdoors-Woman, or BOW, came into existence in the early 1990s when a University of Wisconsin professor started looking at the barriers women face in learning outdoor skills. The answer was to create a non-threatening, comfortable environment that became the founding principle behind BOW. About to enter its 20th year here in NH, the program has become wildly successful.

“It was pretty popular from the get-go,” said Laura Ryder, an SEA member and administrator of the Hunter and Aquatic Education program at the Department of Fish and Game. “It was such a success, we didn’t know it could get better and it did. We wound up tapping into something that a lot of women were really looking for.”

Ryder said the program has expanded quite a bit, from the three-day fall workshop to the one-day winter workshop and beyond.

“We’ve added this other portion of the program called Beyond Becoming an Outdoors-Woman, where we offer workshops that are focused on just one thing,” she said. These workshops allow women to really hone in on something in the larger workshops that may have piqued their interest.

Many hands touch the BOW program, including a mix of Fish and Game educators, staff, conservation officers and volunteers. That group forms the committee that helps keep BOW going.

Tom Flynn, the facility manager at the Owl Brook Hunter Education Center, is a member of the committee and a BOW instructor. He said he’s seen a lot of women who are not only new to a particular sport, but new to the outdoors in general.

“The number of women who are getting into the outdoors has been on the increase in the last 10 or 15 years,” said Flynn, who’s also an SEA member. “It’s probably the biggest group getting into hunting.”

Flynn said that participants in the winter program — registration begins Jan. 6 — can pick from one of five classes, and the whole day is dedicated to that.

“We run an ice fishing class, a snowmobile class, a shoe and shoot class where we go out with rifles and snowshoes, a regular snowshoe tracking class and a winter survival class,” Flynn said. The shoe and shoot class, he noted, begins with firearms safety.

He said that the program shows Fish and Game is interested in building interest in the outdoors for all.

“It shows we’re not just focused on the macho hunters,” Flynn said.

Ryder said for Fish and Game employees, it’s heartening that the program is helping create a whole new group of stewards for our natural resources.

“It’s really encouraging to see these women be interested in getting outside and being engaged, because that gives them an interest in taking care of it,” she said. “When people care, they want to take care of it, too.”

“It really helps keep our enthusiasm up, because it’s a labor of love for everybody who’s involved in this,” Ryder said.

Tina Davenport, a part-timer who coordinates the program, agreed with Ryder.

“Loving the outdoors myself, it’s great to see women walk away with a great energy towards the outdoors,” Davenport said.

“It’s something special to see women come into their own in the outdoors and be able to walk away from the program confident in these skills that they can bring back to their families,” she said.

If you are interested in attending Winter BOW, Fish and Game recommends checking the website http://www.nhbow.com a few days before registration opens on Jan. 6, printing out the registration form and mailing it in right away.

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