Wyoming Wildlife - August 2017

Uncharted Waters

Sylwia Dial smiles at women back on shore as her canoe is launched. Dial had never been canoeing before the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Workshop. The program offers a variety of courses in recreation, utility and survival skills, such as mountain biking, backpacking, map and compass reading and rifle

Wyoming’s Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Workshop brings new faces to field and stream in an age when women hunters and anglers are on the rise

Erin Bormett
8/1/2017 9:28:03 AM

Despite the chill in the air at the base of the Bighorn Mountains, the atmosphere inside the Camp Roberts dining hall was inviting as 36 women stood and, one by one, introduced themselves around a family-style lunch. They were here with a variety of backgrounds and skill levels, each to gain confidence and hone their knowledge of outdoor activities.

Casper resident Lori Miskimins set her fork down, rose slowly and glanced around the room at those who had already shared their experiences before admitting with a laugh, “I know nothing about anything that’s offered here.” The others chuckled at her comment, many out of relief to hear they
weren’t alone.

As the meal carried on, Janet Marschner, from Cheyenne, stood and told the group that she had been volunteering with Game and Fish since 2010 and hoped to one day be a mentor for others. Sylwia Dial, originally from Poland who now lives near Sundance, has lived in Wyoming for over 13 years and said it was a “no-brainer” that she needed to be here. Regina Van Dusen and her daughter, Jessica, traveled from New Jersey to experience the outdoors in a way the East Coast couldn’t offer.

We may not be friends forever, but it’s building a strong community here among women, especially for someone who wasn’t born into it.

They gathered the weekend of June 23-25 for a program commonly known as BOW, the 2017 Wyoming Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Workshop, held this year at the YMCA of the Bighorns Camp Roberts near Buffalo.

The workshop offered the ladies 19 different courses, including archery, an introduction to firearms, outdoor photography, fly fishing, canoeing and Dutch-oven cooking. Each woman chose four sessions to attend during the weekend, and sessions were intermixed with meals, optional evening activities and a campfire to end the nights.

Winter Keepers Photo

Janet Marschner crouches with her camera to capture wildflowers from a low angle while learning outdoor photography. Marschner said that before BOW, her photography skills were all self-taught.

Whether participants had a lifetime of experience in nature or were using BOW as a place to start their venture into the outdoors, many women voiced an increase in confidence because of the program.

“With this all-women thing, it takes a lot of the pressure off,” said Miskimins. “Many times men like to do it for you, but here you can learn to do it on your own and not feel pressured or hurried. It’s just for you.”

Women are doing more than just participating in programs like BOW.

According to Game and Fish hunting and fishing license records, female participation in both activities has been increasing since 2011. Between 2015 and 2016, hunting license sales to both resident and nonresident men declined by 275, but sales to women increased by 602. That spike was enough to offset the license sales loss in male hunters and create an overall gain in the number of hunting licenses sold that year.

But at BOW, the weekend wasn’t about numbers or statistics.

“Many times men like to do it for you, but here you can learn to do it on your own and not feel pressured or hurried. It’s just for you.” Casper resident Lori Miskimins

Over the course of the weekend, the participants went from being strangers in a cabin to building lasting friendships. Since returning from the workshop, some have already started an email chain to keep in touch and schedule more outings together.

“We may not be friends forever, but it’s building a strong community here among women, especially for someone who wasn’t born into it,” said Dial.

A shared sense of empowerment strengthened bonds across the camp. The desire for independence drove several women to try unfamiliar activities, even if they were nervous about it.

“We’re not sitting around waiting for men to do things for us anymore,” said Regina Van Dusen.

BOW gives women of any age and background the ability to go forward and take full advantage of the many outdoors opportunities Wyoming has to offer.

“It’s great to be able to offer these educational tools to people who want the means to learn these skills,” said Janet Milek, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s public information specialist for the Casper region. This is her final year coordinating Wyoming’s BOW program, which she’s done since 2006. “There, of course, is a place for women in the outdoors, there has always been a place for women in the outdoors.”

The program builds confidence, builds relationships and builds valuable life skills.

“Women are getting stronger,” said Dial.

“It’s just a different way of saying ‘I can’.”

Winter Keepers Photo

S’mores are the dessert of choice around the nighttime campfire. After a busy day, BOW participants passed around marshmallow skewers and swapped stories about what they had been learning.


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