I’m on my way to becoming an outdoors-woman.
On my weekly hiking excursions, I’ve seen my share of squirrels, snakes and spiders. Like many a Mainer, ice fishing and berry picking were highlights of my childhood. But I’ve got a lot to learn, so I’m participating in the annual “Becoming an Outdoors-Woman in Maine” three-day introductory skills workshop Sept. 14-16 at Camp Caribou in Winslow.
After a gradual decline in participation over the past decade (hitting an all-time low last year at 65 participants), workshop attendance has skyrocketed. This year, more than 100 women signed up, and registration is already closed.
“It’s very exciting for us to be back over 100,” said Emily MacCabe, who as activity coordinator for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has organized the BOW weekend for the past eight years. “This is the 16th year we’ve had the program in Maine. It’s been around a long time, so it’s amazing how many people haven’t heard of it. We’re working to change that.”
This year, participants will gain a variety of wilderness skills, from canoeing to muzzleloading, in a sequence of four 3½-hour, hands-on classes.
On the registration form, I designated my first, second and third choice for each session — a list that includes classes on wild edibles, archery, fly tying, primitive skills and knot tying — but I have yet to learn my final workshop schedule.
“All of our firearm-related classes were really popular this year as well as our camping related and hiking related sessions,” said MacCabe. “All of our instructors are so passionate about what they do — it’s great. They often inspire people to get into the topics a little more.”
While many courses return year after year, new courses are often added to the $225 program, which includes meals, lodging, instruction, equipment and materials for the weekend. This year, return participants will notice two new courses — a nature photography course taught by registered guide and nature photographer Nick Leadley and a course on extreme wilderness trip planning taught by adventurer Gretchen Lescord.
The BOW program was first offered through the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 1991 after a study conducted by professor Christine Thomas determined that women preferred to learn hunting, fishing and outdoor skills in a noncompetitive atmosphere along with other like-minded women.
In the past decade, the program has grown. Today, more than 80 weekend-long BOW workshops are held across the country each year.
In Maine, the program is co-sponsored by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife and the Friends of Maine BOW.
“I grew up in Maine, and of course, being a woman, I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors and always found myself to be in the minority,” said MacCabe. “I really enjoy teaching adult women and getting them inspired to do outdoor activities. It’s one of my favorite programs we run all year, and I always leave the weekend feeling like we’ve really accomplished something.”
In addition to the BOW introductory skills workshop, Maine women can learn additional skills in specific topics at Beyond BOW workshops held throughout the year. For information about BOW in Maine, visit mainebow.com; or call Emily MacCabe, BOW coordinator, at 462-1017; or email Emily.MacCabe@maine.gov.