Becoming an outdoor woman

Published 10:44 am Monday, March 7, 2011

Workshop participants practice their stance during an archery course at the Alabama 4H Center Feb. 4. (Reporter photos/Jon Goering)

By KATIE HURST/ Lifestyles Editor

COLUMBIANA — When imagining a girls’ weekend, not many would think of camouflage prints, hiking books, hats, backpacks and walking sticks. However, those items were prevalent at the Alabama 4H Center March 4-6 as more than 100 women from all over the state gathered for a weekend getaway.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources hosted the three-day retreat for their 32nd bi-annual Becoming an Outdoor Woman workshop.

Designed for women 18 years or older who wish to develop their outdoor skills, the workshop offers more than 50 courses for participants to choose from during their weekend stay, said Kim Nix, information and education section chief with the department.

Courses include skills such as archery, boating, field dressing, fishing, outdoor photography, pistol shooting and rock climbing.

Many of the participants want to enjoy these activities with the male members of their family and use the workshop to develop their skills before going out with their families, Nix said.

“Our classes are very non-threatening,” she said. “All the instructors are very patient. Many of the ladies’ husbands will try to teach them things but might not have the patience they need to understand.”

Kara Barr of Helena worked on tying casting plugs to her fishing line March 4 during a fishing course at the BOW workshop. As the instructor guided her in tying her knot, she said it was a skill she always wanted to improve on.

“My husband showed me once but I couldn’t remember,” she said. “I always do like a sewing needle and he says ‘No, that’s not right.’”

Kara Barr poses for a picture after catching a "backyard bass" in the BOW fishing course Feb. 4.

Jerry Moss, one of the instructors of the fishing course, said he doesn’t mind showing the ladies the ropes. He joked and laughed with each participant as they practiced casting, aiming their lines at plastic fish in the grass that Moss called “backyard bass.”

“The ladies I particularly enjoy teaching because they’re more fun,” he said. “They show their emotions more.”

In the BOW archery course, participants lined up to learn to shoot a Mathews Genesis bow from seasoned professionals. From deciphering which is their dominant eye to caring for their bow, participants learned the basics of shooting that they can use as a hobby or for bow hunting.

“Women make great bow hunters because most of us are a little more patient and don’t want to hurt anything unless we have to,” said archery instructor Tes Jolly. “Women get a different experience out of it. It’s such a patient sport and it teaches you a lot about yourself and your discipline. It teaches you to control your emotions which can be really hard to do.”

On the other side of the 4H campus, participants in the frontier skills course practiced hatchet throwing under the watchful eye of instructor Dalton Halbrook, also known as “Mountain Man.” Halbrook said he has been teaching at the BOW workshops since the department of conservation first started hosting them in 1995.

“When we first started this it was so important because there were so many single mothers raising children and the children didn’t get to go out like if a father was around,” he said. “So the ladies could come here and learn the skills, then carry it out there with their children. Daddies are the ones who get to do those things traditionally, but I see a lot of ladies that are even more efficient than the men are.”

Nix said nowadays outdoor-loving women attend the workshop as a weekend getaway with their friends. To meet the popular demand, the department of conservation holds the workshop at the 4H center twice a year — once in March and once in October.

For more information on the BOW workshop or to register for the October weekend, visit