Beyond Becoming an Outdoors-Woman

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Published on: May. 27, 2010

of dutch ovens, I came face-to-face with white wine chicken and pineapple upside-down cake. That's when I knew I wasn't on a standard canoe trip with my brothers, where I felt lucky to get a hotdog.

One thing all the women on the canoe trip had in common, besides an implicitly understood need for something chocolate every day, was that none of them had ever paddled in the stern of a canoe. Not one of them knew how to steer a canoe safely downriver.

Linh Dye, a senior analyst for nursing systems at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, said she came to the workshop because of a scare during a canoe trip she took with her husband in the Minnesota boundary waters. Dye's husband is a skilled canoeist, but Linh had no paddling experience at all.

"When an injury to my husband made me realize I might have to go for help by myself in the canoe, I was really scared," Dye says. "We were days away from help, and I didn't think I could safely make the trip alone. Fortunately, the way things turned out, I didn't have to go without him, but we made a decision on that trip not to put ourselves in that kind of situation again. I'm here to learn some skills so if I ever have to handle a canoe by myself, I'll be able to do it."

During the Beyond BOW canoeing workshop, Dye sat in the stern and steered a canoe for the first time in her life. She did pretty well, too. Surprising herself with her new ability, Dye says, "My husband said it would take years to learn how to do this! But I'm already steering the canoe!" From a nearby canoe came a decidedly inappropriate reply, "Well, maybe it does take a man that long . . ."

In defense of Dye's husband, it does take years to develop solid canoeing skills, and the Beyond BOW workshop is just one step in the right direction. During a Beyond BOW course, our goal is to send participants away with the confidence to pursue an outdoor activity on their own. We don't claim to turn them into experts, but we do move them a little closer to the time when they can hunt, fish, camp or canoe on their own.

Diane Rice was one of 10 participants in a Beyond BOW quail hunt at Prairie Forks and Whetstone Creek conservation areas. Before the quail hunt, Rice had never had the opportunity to hunt quail or watch bird dogs in action.

"The staff took 10 women with little or no experience and filled us with information about quail, their habitat, their habits, the dogs that hunt them and hunting safety," Rice says. "I don't believe we could have learned more in the same amount of time. We put theory right into practice by hunting Saturday. The staff even improvised a quail barbecue Saturday night!

"Personally, I went from being uncomfortable with my shotgun to being enthused about quail hunting. In fact, the week after the Beyond BOW quail hunt, I contacted Bill Bergh, Conservation Department wildlife management biologist, asking him to visit our farm to see how we can promote quail reproduction."

Rice is a great example of how a small program like Beyond BOW can have a big impact. Just like that old proverb says (gender modified), If you give a woman a fish, she'll eat for a day. If you teach her to fish, she'll feed herself for the rest of her life.

I'd like to expand that proverb. That same woman will not only feed herself, she'll feed her family and the neighbor kids, and she'll probably teach all of them to fish. Then she'll contact the fisheries biologist to talk about improving fish populations in her farm pond. Next she'll tell her friend about this great fishing hole and ask her to come along on the next trip. She'll tell anyone who'll listen about the great things she's learning.

I'd like to tell that woman thanks. Now she's a teacher, too.

If you'd like more information about the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman or Beyond BOW programs, e-mail Mariah Hughes at <Mariah.Hughes@mdc.mo.govs> or write her at Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180.

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