Outdoor class puts women in the know

Posted: Friday, April 23, 2010

Before participating in a women's outdoor workshop in Haines, Juneau resident Jill Matheson had never wielded a chainsaw.

But she donned the ear protection, gaiters and gloves, grabbed the steel contraption and attacked the little logs provided for her practice.

"It was pretty fun," she said, not as scary as she first thought. She hasn't run a chainsaw since, but bought one for her husband last Christmas and plans to teach him how to use it.

That's the idea of Becoming an Outdoors-Woman - learn something new and use that skill in real life.

A three-day workshop is coming to Juneau next month with classes in spin casting, field dressing, skiff handling and orienteering, among other topics.

The event will be held May 21-13 at Echo Ranch near the end of the road at a cost of $250 per participant.

The price includes meals, lodging, gear and instruction. The field dressing class costs an additional $50.

Classes are open to anyone 18 and older, but the teaching style is designed for women.

About 20,000 women a year learn fishing, hunting and other outdoor skills through the program, which was founded in 1990 and now has classes in 46 states, Canada and New Zealand.

The program in Alaska is supported by the Outdoor Heritage Foundation and state Department of Fish and Game. In Fairbanks in the winter, participants learn skijoring, snow machining and fly fishing.

Matheson recommended the classes as fun and empowering. She attended with her step-daughter, and together they also took a shotgun class and a few fishing lessons.

She likes the idea of using a gun and chainsaw with confidence, she said.

"At first you touch these things and think, that could kill me, but then realize you can do this," she said.

• Contact reporter Kim Marquis at523-2279 or kim.marquis@juneauempire.com.

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