Duchess Digest: Becoming an Outdoors Woman

By SMW Staff

Becoming an Outdoors Woman“Becoming an Outdoors Woman” (BOW) is a non-profit, international educational program that offers hands-on workshops to adult women. If you’ve ever been interested in learning more about specific outdoors skills, but have felt intimidated about where to start, I highly recommend BOW’s programs.

Moving back to Alaska, I was brought face to face with how rusty my outdoorswoman skills had become. I wanted to learn more about fishing, backpacking safely in Alaska (conditions and wildlife are truly dangerous factors here) and other skills that could help me enjoy this beautiful state. But where could I begin? The equipment is expensive and my learning curve is slow, and without a father, brother or significant other to mentor me, how could I break into these activities?

The answer, and my action, finally came about this spring when I began my pilot’s license training. Part of the state’s aviation regulations require the inclusion of a certain kind of firearm in your survival kit. The realization that if I survived a plane crash, my real survival journey would require outdoor skills and potentially the use of a firearm for food or protection became a sobering thought. I had never so much as touched a firearm, much less used one. Would I feel confident enough and have the necessary skills to safely and ethically use a firearm? Would I be able to use the tools in my airplane’s survival kit to navigate, create shelter and keep myself (and potentially my passengers) safe until rescue in Alaska?

It was with this scenario in mind that I decided I needed to proactively familiarize myself with basic wilderness skills and firearms use. In the event of an emergency, I needed to have some kind of knowledge to fall back on. Doing some research, I quickly found BOW. This non-profit group works across the country and the world with local outdoor groups, universities and state departments to provide low cost, convenient (almost all courses are offered nights and weekends, with the modern, working woman in mind) options to learn a broad spectrum of outdoor skills. Any Google search of “BOW” and your state’s name will yield a list of options available to you. Here in Alaska they offer basic fishing courses, archery lessons, winter camping skills and other locally focused instruction; just for women.

My course was offered through BOW and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. For only $35 I joined a 9am to 5pm all-day Saturday course about the basic introductions to safe hunting and firearm use. It was taught by incredibly skilled, competent women whose passion and knowledge for the subject was beyond what I was expecting. There were hours of studying and discussion, a long trip out into the woods to learn safe carrying and handling of firearms, hours spent on the firing range working with instructors to actually practice loading and discharging firearms and even a complimentary lunch. For the inexpensive $35 investment, I found the course to be invaluable. While I have no intentions of using my basic firearm knowledge in my “regular” life, knowing the safe and proper way to handle a firearm and the basics of Alaskan survival skills gave me the confidence to fly more assured that if I needed the skills, I could recall them. I plan to make an annual BOW class part of my adult continuing education investment in myself – I highly recommend you do the same! With the right courses you’ll have fun, learn and develop the skills to enjoy the outdoors with more confidence.

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Jill BrownJill Brown is an Anchorage, Alaska based writer and blogger. She earned her Bachelors in Humanities and Sociology from USU and is the founder of “The Duchess Guide” a website dedicated to sharing the ups and downs of life in Alaska. For more on The Duchess Guide or Jill visit: http://theduchessguide.com/

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