Beyond Becoming an Outdoors-Woman

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Published on: May. 27, 2010

It was 4 a.m. and the morning was coming in wet. Twenty-one women in various combinations of camouflage and hunter orange emerged from the cabins with their rifles and moved quickly through the deluge. They converged on a large, well-lit building dominating the center of the University Forest Camp near Poplar Bluff and made squishy entrances into the hall.

Rifles set carefully aside, they tossed raincoats, jackets and hats into a soggy pile. The deer hunters made a beeline for the coffee pot before getting in line for breakfast. An air of nervous expectancy filled the room as the hunters met with their guides over plates of pancakes, asking last minute questions before heading to their deer stands. By the end of the day, 10 of them would be taking home venison for their families.

This wasn't an ordinary deer camp. Not only were all of the hunters women, most of them were hunting deer for the first time. They were participating in a Beyond Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (Beyond BOW) deer hunting clinic. Sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation, the clinic provides soon-to-be hunters with an opportunity to learn about deer ecology, tracking, hunting safety and field dressing. This particular event was co-sponsored by the National Wild Turkey Federation's Women in the Outdoors program.

I was surprised that not a single woman slogging through the pouring rain at 4 a.m. even asked if we would still be going out to hunt. After all, I'm the coordinator of the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program, and I felt like asking that question.

As I've gotten to know the women who participate in our Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) and Beyond BOW events, I've come to expect their "no limits" attitudes. Whether they are 18 or 80, wealthy or struggling, married or single, their one common denominator is a belief in the value of trying something new. They simply won't let a little - or even a lot - of rain stop them.

The first BOW workshop in Missouri took place in September 1994 at the YMCA of the Ozarks in Potosi. The Conservation Department offers these weekend workshops twice each year. Other agencies conduct similar workshops in 44 states and nine Canadian provinces. Sponsors design the programs for women, but they are open to anyone 18 years of age and older.

A typical BOW weekend starts at noon on Friday and ends with lunch on Sunday. During the workshop, participants

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