A few years ago I found out about Becoming an Outdoors Woman, a program hosted by Texas Parks and Wildlife. This limited participation outdoor conference is held twice a year in various locations around the state of Texas, and teaches women outdoor skills such as hunting, gathering, and enjoying nature. It’s like Boy Scouts for grown women. Skills that are taught to boys at a young age aren’t usually taught to girls, so this is a wonderful program. Being somewhat outdoorsy already, I registered myself and a friend, thinking it would be a great weekend where I might learn some new or supplemental skills.
The first workshop I attended was in Burton, Texas at Camp For All in October of 2013. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’m always up for an adventure. The facilities were very nice with large cabins and various buildings for indoor and outdoor classes (including horseback riding and archery). This was more glamping than camping, and I was impressed by the organization required to pull these events off. The participants were all women ranging in ages from 20s to maybe 60s. Having never been around 120 women before, I was intimidated by the potential for catty cliques and competitive behavior. What I experienced was quite the opposite! These women were very friendly, nurturing, and helpful…because we were all there for the same reason.
I attended four workshops that weekend: Astronomy Basics, Archery Basics, Outdoor Survival, and Introduction to Birdwatching. I learned how to read a star map, shoot a compound bow, start a fire, build a debris hut, and identify birds by sight and sound. The astronomy class was very informative and I loved the way the instructor simplified concepts for us. The archery class was my favorite, and I was a natural at it. The outdoor survival class was so much fun. The instructor shared so many life-saving skills that would have never occurred to me. Birdwatching was a surprising joy, and I developed a new appreciation for the hobby. What an incredible experience! Meals were included and served in a large dining room where we also had announcements, raffle and silent auction, and wifi. We had some free time as well, and surprisingly I didn’t stay up late. There were s’mores at the camp fire, but I don’t remember joining in on that. All the activity was exhausting! By the end of the weekend, my friend and I decided we would return and maybe even teach geology since it wasn’t one of the classes offered.
The second BOW I attended as a participant was near Killeen, Texas at Parrie Haynes Ranch in April of 2014. My friend and I brought a proposal for a geology class that was approved that weekend. Since we would soon be teaching, I knew this would be my last BOW as a participant, so I made the best of it during four workshops: Outdoor Cooking, Introduction to Fly Fishing, Plant Identification, and Advanced Archery. The outdoor cooking class was the best! We learned how to make cowboy coffee, cook real meals over a camp fire with cast iron and charcoal, and smoke salmon on a small grill. The fly fishing class was a nice surprise, as I had never considered that particular hobby before. We learned how to pick flies and cast. The plant identification class reminded me of learning rocks and minerals in college, so that was fun and easy to follow along. I really enjoyed the walk around the facilities looking for different plants. And needless to say, I loved the advanced archery class. We learned how to shoot more complex compound bow equipment, and even had a shoot off (which I won). During our free time we shot some arrows, played with some snakes (not kidding), and took a trip to a nearby planetarium with the astronomy instructor. It was a wonderful weekend.
I can’t say enough great things about this program, from the organizer (thank you Heidi Rao), to Friends of Bow, to the top notch instructors, to the women who participate each year. This experience has enriched my life and I plan to come back for many years to come.
Next: Becoming an Outdoors Woman as an Instructor