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Survival skills

Women learn ways of the wild
at Big Oaks outdoors training

Participants enjoy natural beauty while learning

By Michella Marino
Contributing Writer

(July 2007) – Outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing and camping have been traditionally viewed as male pastimes. However, throughout the years, many women have found themselves drawn to the outdoors in pursuit of such leisure activities. Some women do not have much training in particular outdoor activities, even if they have been active in various outdoor hobbies or sports. Thus, for the third year, the “Outdoor Women at Big Oaks” event has drawn women of all ages and interests to the historic Old Timbers Lodge at the Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge, 1661 W. JPG Niblo Rd., Madison, to learn about such things.

Barbara Hoard, Julie White ad Gretchen Lindquist

Photo by Don Ward

From left, Barbara Hoard of Louisville,
Julie White of Hanover, Ind., and
Gretchen Lindquist of Madison, Ind.,
work together to set up a tent.

The one-day “Outdoor Women at Big Oaks” event was held on June 2 and was sponsored by the Big Oaks Conservation Society, Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge, and the Indiana Air National Guard at Jefferson Range.
According to the event’s website, the program was “designed to offer women age 14 and older the opportunity to gain valuable in-the-field skills and knowledge in an environment that encourages fun and success in the outdoors.” Jean Heron, co-chairwoman for the event, said, “The purpose is to help women who are interested in learning more about the outdoors. It is designed to give them an introduction to outdoor activities such as canoeing, fishing, and archery.”
Outdoor Women at Big Oaks originated three years ago when the Big Oaks Conservation Society was looking for a way to increase community awareness for the refuge. Deanna Robison, also co-chairwoman for the event, said the members wanted to expose women to the outdoors as well. So the event evolved through the need to educate people about the outdoors and the refuge and the need to include women in this education.
Both Robison and Heron believed this year’s event was a success, although they did not have as many participants as in years past.
The event was divided into three mini-classes or courses, each lasting one hour and 50 minutes. The classes were designed for all ages and for novices on the subject matter. The topics covered ranged from activities such as photography, hiking, canoeing, bird watching, archery, fishing and camping. Trained volunteers from such organizations as the Conservation Office and an archery club in Indianapolis taught the sessions. Local specialists were used whenever possible.
Participants paid $40 for the event and were also provided with snacks, a catered lunch, and door prizes, along with a year membership to the conservation society and refuge grounds. Raffle tickets were available for purchase for such items as a fly-fishing pole and a night at a Holiday Inn.
“The event was very well-organized and put together,” said participant Julie White, 57, of Madison.
Heron believed the event drew a “good age spread” with the youngest woman being 21 and the oldest in her 70s. Fifty percent of the 60 or so women came from the surrounding counties, but women traveled from northern Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and even Illinois to attend. Although the primary goal for the event is educating women and getting them interested in the outdoors, the secondary goal with any leftover funds was, according to Heron, “to put it toward a hiking trail near Old Timber Lake on the refuge.”

Sherri Price and John Carroll

Photo by Don Ward

Sherri Price gets an
archery lesson from John Carroll of Alexandria, Ind.

The chairwomen of the event always have an evaluation of the program at the end of the day. They were pleased with the evaluations since the participants stated their satisfaction with the event.
The goal for next year’s “Outdoor Women” is to expand the class listing offered to keep people interested in attending. Heron and Robison believe it is important to offer a wide variety of topics and skills for women to learn, while also providing some basic repeats for newcomers.
Gretchen Lindquist, 30, of Madison, attended this year’s event for the second time. Lindquist has always enjoyed being in the outdoors, especially since she owns a 100-acre farm. This year she participated in the camping-hiking, archery, and tree identification classes. She was particularly excited with the results from her archery class because she learned how to use a compound bow.
“They had excellent teachers from Carroll Archery, which is north of Anderson, Ind. It was really nice equipment,” she said.
Lindquist and her best friend attended the event and the archery class together. They enjoyed spending time with one another in the outdoors and decided to put their newly acquired skills to use by purchasing a bow together.
“We are almost the same size, so luckily we can use the same bow,” Lindquist said.
White attended the event as a newcomer because she viewed it as an adventure and was interested in viewing the architecture of the Old Timbers Lodge. White loves the outdoors and felt the classes she took were great. She learned about camping techniques, fly fishing and canoeing.
“I learned a lot of skills, and the classes were extremely informative,” she said.
She enjoyed the time spent outdoors with other women who shared similar interests. “It’s nice to know how many women hunt, hike, and fish. It’s not just a guy thing,” she declared.

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