BOW Weekend offers women opportunity for challenge, learning
By Megan Plete Postol
Last month I found myself doing things I never anticipated I would – processing a white rat hide in a taxidermy class, shooting a crossbow, learning about K9 first aid, deciphering how to use a map and compass, and sharing meals, stories, and laughs with fascinating (and super friendly) women I don’t know.
I attended the Becoming An Outdoors Woman (BOW) program, coordinated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in Silver Bay, on Lake George, in early September. The three-day conference offers women from all across New York State and beyond the opportunity to unplug in the Adirondacks and attend four skill-building workshops.
Some of the workshops offered are fly tying and casting, food preservation, kayaking, archery, rifle, shotgun, slower look hiking, field dressing game, big game hunting and tree stands, backpack camping, bowhunting, plant identification, paracord, tree identification, wild edibles, soap making, outdoor survival skills, mountain biking, knot tying, outdoor camp cooking, and more. There is even the opportunity to earn a hunter education or trapping education certification.
Many of the women I talked to had attended multiple times before and planned to keep returning. There are so many workshop options, they said, that they could keep coming back time after time and still learn new skills.
I have been wanting to attend the BOW weekend for a few years, but the timing was never quite right. This year I decided I was going to apply. Attendance is based on a lottery system and I was psyched that I got in on my very first try.
Jackie Williams, of Ithaca, attended for the first time this year, too. She said she was impressed with the instruction and felt confident to try her new skills out after going through the classes.
“I started out with wild game field dressing and it was so hands-on,” she said. “I went in not knowing anything and came out believing I could dress a deer.”
From a participant’s point of view, the weekend was well organized and smoothly executed. There seemed to be a good balance of workshop time versus free time. I didn’t feel rushed to get from one workshop to the next, and nobody I talked to expressed anything different.
Tara Gardner, from Sullivan County, was very pleased.
“I’m astounded by the different array of women who have come from all over the state,” she said. “Some of the women have driven as much as seven hours. The classes are amazing and are taught by amazing instructors volunteering their time to teach new skills.”
The 2021 Fall BOW workshop saw a successful return of in-person instruction for the program, according to DEC BOW program coordinator Katrina Talbot.
“The highlight of the weekend was seeing everyone in person again,” she said. “We had ideal weather in Northern Lake George for the weekend. Women chose from almost 50 different course offerings. Our participants and instructors all benefit the most from in-person instruction. One of the most common comments we hear is that women love the camaraderie of BOW workshops, and how inspiring it is to be surrounded by like-minded women.”
Pre-Covid, BOW weekends had around 300 participants. It was cancelled in 2020. This year’s workshop hosted 75 participants from all corners of New York State and even beyond. Anastasia Croinex flew in from California for the weekend. Her mother lives in New York and convinced her to attend. She took courses in crossbow, archery, and hiking.
“I had a lot more fun than I thought I would,” she said. “I had no expectations but it turned out to be absolutely wonderful. The detail the instructors take in showing someone how to do something that they have never done before is great.”
All of the instructors I dealt with were courteous and helpful. A crowd favorite was the canine helper, Beau, who was a good sport for K9 First aid demonstrations, including bandaging, packing out, temperature readings, and more.
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As I packed my Toyota Rav 4 for the two hour drive home, I reflected on the busy weekend. I felt empowered by the new abilities I had and excited to implement them into my life. The Becoming An Outdoors Woman program excels at giving women a safe space to try new things and the confidence to let themselves learn.
One of my favorite people once told me that the measure of an experience is whether or not you would repeat it. I can undoubtedly say that I would be willing to repeat my experiences at a future BOW program.
The winter BOW Workshop will be held February 4-6, 2022 at Allegany State Park and next year’s Fall BOW workshop will be held Sept 9-11, 2022 at Silver Bay YMCA. Once registration opens, information will be available on the DEC’s BOW webpage.
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