Just a weekend with the girls: 4-H welcomes outdoors workshop

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Every year Nancy Hanks and her daughter Elea take a mother-daughter trip. This year&8217;s trip was a change of scenery for the two Madison County women, as they attended the 4-H Center for Alabama&8217;s Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) workshop last weekend.

&8220;We normally go to Orlando for a Disney spa or out shopping, but we wanted to come and give this a try,&8221; Hanks said.

Her daughter learned about the semi-annual workshop when looking for hiking trails on the Outdoors Alabama website.

The Hanks were just two women attending the workshop for the first time.

Mary Barr of Pelham first learned of the workshop while attending an expo at Oak Mountain State Park and thought she would give it a try for the first time since she enjoyed fishing.

&8220;I was real surprised to find out that there was an event like this for women. I think women are more open to learn in a group, and the teachers are patient here. It&8217;s a lot of fun too,&8221; Barr said after her intro to fishing session on Friday.

The workshop began Friday at noon with the first session lasting from 1:30-4:30 p.m. It continued with two sessions on Saturday and one on Sunday. The 120 women present participated in classes about boating safety, archery, canoeing, pistols, turkey calls and how to turn your hunted game into a meal.

Drifting up from the side of the main lodge Friday was a smell of fresh blackened fish on the grill.

Don Johnson, a retired meat cutter from Maxwell Air Force Base, was preparing blackened fish for a group of nine women, after showing them how to cut their fish into filets and season them for cooking. He also showed a video on how to field dress a deer.

&8220;I love this, because I killed a deer this year and I helped skin and gut it. But this year I wanted to learn how to do it on my own,&8221; Nector native Joann McCay said.

McCay&8217;s attendance was her 10th since Alabama&8217;s program began. She, and others like Renee Smith of Jackson, comeback each year, bringing at least one new participant each time.

&8220;If you walk around, you hear groups of women laughing and encouraging each other. That&8217;s the part that makes this fun,&8221; Smith said while standing with her sister-in-law Polly. Smith first attended the event by herself six years ago, but has since brought four others with her each time.

This theme seems to carry throughout the other 46 workshop sites across the continent, according to the program&8217;s assistant director Peggy Farrell.

&8220;The growth of BOW means we are reaching more women and providing them with a venue to learn not just outdoor skills, but also more about themselves. Women all across the country have told us, &8216;BOW has changed my life.&8217; That&8217;s a powerful endorsement telling us the program is even bigger than learning how to set up a tent or tie a fly,&8221; Farrell said on the program&8217;s website.

The event takes place every March and October