March always brings a trip to the Becoming an Outdoor Woman workshop held in Ocala, Florida. For Years this event held each March has sold out. 100 ladies pack up for a weekend out with the ladies and they are not heading to the beach or a 5-star hotel, they are heading for a Boy Scout Camp in the middle of the Ocala National Forest. These ladies come from every walk of life and ages 18 to 80+. They have been brought her by friends, sisters, co-workers or some even have their husbands give them a gift away for the weekend. All the “first-timers” are a bit hesitant upon check in – not knowing what to expect. There are bears here and no private facilities. Bath houses are clean and the meals are wonderfully catered. Cabins all have nice bunk beds and heat/air conditioning. but that is as “cushy” as it gets.
The weekend begins with an introduction by Lynne Hawk with the Florida Fish and Wildlife conservation Commission. She has been running these workshops in Florida since the beginning and this is # 61. She starts off with some introductions, lots of class information, she makes sure everyone knows where they are going and when dinner is and to break the ice there are lots of door prizes handed out. Many companies have donated outdoor related items that the ladies will be able to use during the weekend! This gets nearly everybody excited and ready to head off to their classes.
By Friday evening we see new friendships forming, everyone talking about the new skills they learned. Those who were in handgun class are showing off their targets and other from Primitive Chef are bragging about the wonderful food! Dinner and evening activities last well past 10 PM and the ladies reluctantly head off to bed.
Morning arrives and everyone is up early for another full day of new friendships and classes (many have “forgotten” their make up today) . Now we are really seeing the power of a natural environment take over – there are no strangers here, it seems everyone has become a family overnight! Everyone feels like old friends and by the time they are done with classes for the day many have exchanged emails and phone numbers and started lifelong friendships.
But there is still a bit of competition remaining – the silent auction! Everyone has brought an them from home for the auction, a lightly used outdoor themed book, nick-nack, clothing or camping item to donate. There are hundreds of items to bid on and many ladies have items one 2 different sides of the room and are struggling for their bid to be the winning one as the auction closes at 7 pm sharp. Everyone gathers their winnings and proudly letting their friends know they got what they wanted! The evening closes with campfire stories, lectures, crafting classes and smiles.
Sunday morning takes a bit longer for everyone to get motivated. Many have had more fun in the last 2 days than they have had in years. Some have for the first time overcome a fear they have held onto their entire life. They have fished and paddled, handled firearms at the range, done some geo-caching, and experienced many new found activities to take home and introduce to their families.
Goodbyes were hard to say. Soon all packed up and headed back to their homes, families, jobs and city. Nearly all planning to attend the next workshop in West Palm Beach in November. This event had over 1/3 return attendees, many come back because it is the only “forest therapy” they get. It is wonderful to be a part of such a wonderful organization bringing the outdoors to so many who have never had the opportunity to really learn what blessings surround them! Check for a BOW event near you and just go, you won’t regret it! Share your new skills with your family and friends and enjoy all Florida has to offer!
Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) is a non-profit, educational program offering hands-on workshops to adult women. We encourage a supportive environment conducive to learning, making friends, and having fun. No experience is necessary and BOW is for women of all ages and fitness levels.
The “Original BOW” workshop format is a 3-day, multi-course event with more than 20 classes to choose from including fly fishing, archery, shotgun and rifle shooting, wildlife habitat, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, camping, nature photography, basic fishing, boat and trailer and more.
Several states also offer Beyond BOW opportunities which might include 1-3 day events with a single topic like a day at the shooting range, charter fishing, kayaking on a local lake, a weekend of camping, or an archery clinic. For more information visit http://www.uwsp.edu/cnr-ap/bow/Pages/default.aspx
BOW in Florida – Http://www.myfwc.com/bow