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Take It Outside

By wmadministrator

For many folks, January means resolving to turn over a new leaf and learn new skills. Those resolutions run the gamut from losing extra holiday-induced pounds and living a healthier lifestyle to spending more quality time with the kids.

For women who want to get out in nature more and feel comfortable doing so, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the Kentucky Department of Parks have teamed up to offer the perfect entrée.

During weekends focused on camaraderie and learning, women can develop a repertoire of outdoor skills historically targeted as male pursuits. Think fishing, hunting and a raft of other intriguing options. “Becoming an Outdoors Woman” (BOW) workshops at several of the commonwealth’s gorgeous state resort parks offer the fairer sex the opportunity to discover their inner outdoorsman.

“For years, the outdoors has been thought of as a man’s world,” explained Beth Minch, volunteer coordinator for the Kentucky Becoming an Outdoors Woman program. “Often, women feel reluctant to participate in outdoor activities, whether it’s hunting or fishing or target shooting or maybe even just being in the woods camping or hiking. Our professional instructors teach women in a non-intimidating way, with others of like mind. They all come away with confidence, having learned new skills that they can then use either on their own or with someone else.”

Since January 1995, when Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park (SRP) hosted the first such program in Kentucky, BOW workshops have been held across the state in state parks, at Otter Creek in the Louisville area and at the Leadership Center on Lake Cumberland. Due to their increasing popularity, five currently are scheduled for 2008.

Offerings can include firearms selection, safety and use; basic and advanced fishing and hunting techniques, which includes measuring and scoring deer antlers; basic and advanced archery; boating; canoeing; backpacking; trail riding; first aid and survival; fly tying; reading the woods; winter tree identification and journaling; Dutch oven cooking; and seasonal outdoor crafts, such as antler basket-making.

“The antler baskets are beautiful,” said Minch. “We offered this for the first time last January, and when the women saw them, everyone wanted make one.”

In a “turkey walk and talk” class, participants learn about turkey hunting and actually make a turkey box call. All classes are not offered in every location, but the selection is always wide and wonderful.

“Women now are taking leading roles as breadwinners in the family, whereas men held those roles in the past,” said Lisa Davis, park manager at Cumberland Falls SRP. “So it’s important for women to have physical outlets for relieving stress, and the Becoming an Outdoors Woman program provides an nontraditional means of doing that.”

Workshops tend to consider a park’s personality in their focus. A November 2007 program at Pine Mountain SRP featured the state’s elk restoration program and in addition to regular outdoor skills classes, added an elk-viewing tour, while the January 2008 BOW at Kenlake SRP highlights its population of wintering American bald eagles.

A moonlight hike during February’s Cumberland Falls SRP weekend workshop could climax with the viewing of a spectacular moonbow over the impressive 125-foot-wide curtain of water in a phenomenon not found anywhere else in the world except Africa. Showing off its natural wonders, Carter Caves SRP will lead a group caving expedition.

Rough River Dam is getting the younger generation in on the action too. Their April BOW weekend will allow an adult to bring a child age 10 or older to share in the experience.

“Sometimes it’s hard for women to get away for the weekend because of family commitments,” Minch says. “Once everyone in a family learns about the outdoors and becomes comfortable with being there, it becomes easier to plan family getaways.”

BOW was started at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point in 1991 and is now a national program that has grown to offer more than 80 weekend workshops across the U.S., Canada and New Zealand each year. The adventures have included trips to Alaska, Hawaii, Wyoming’s wilderness and the Bahamas, a jaunt that featured snorkeling, deep-sea fishing and ocean kayaking. Annually, more than 20,000 women from 18 to 80 and beyond attend BOW events.

Accommodations may be rustic, but all have basic modern amenities, including hot showers and staff-cooked meals. The goal is to learn in a comfortable setting and to have fun.

“We want women to know that the outdoors is there for both genders and for every age and every outlook,” said Minch. “It’s not just for the hook and bullet individual. It’s also for the individual who’s wildlife-watching or nature journaling or just wanting to spend time in the outdoors finding themselves again, getting that peace.”

To register for one of the Becoming an Outdoors Woman events, contact the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife at (800) 858-1549 or download a form from the Internet at http://fw.ky.gov.