Michelle Elfers loves the outdoors. But like many women - even Alaska women - she was frustrated in her efforts to learn new outdoor skills.
"I wanted to learn how to hunt," she said. "But my husband doesn't hunt and he couldn't teach me. I knew guys that hunted but I didn't feel comfortable asking them to teach me since I'd never even picked up a gun."
In the spring of 2007, the Juneau woman learned that the Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) program was offering a weekend workshop in Fairbanks. She signed on and took all the hunting classes that were offered.
"Archery, rifle, field dressing and intro to firearms safety...I did all the hunting classes," she said. "Then last year I did a hunting trip with all women. And now I just bought a new rifle - I'm picking it up today."
Elfers was so impressed with the Becoming an Outdoors Woman program that this summer she is helping to organize a Southeast Alaska offering. The weekend workshop will be held Aug. 1-3 at the Rainbow Glacier Camp in Haines, and an Allen Marine charter boat will transport participants to and from Juneau. About 20 hands-on workshops will be offered.
Participants choose from about 20 hands-on classes offered during four half-day sessions including: hunting big game, firearm safety, shooting a rifle and shotgun, trailering and handling a skiff, backpacking in the rainforest, field dressing deer, fishing (flyfishing, spincasting or salmon trolling), using a chainsaw and bucking firewood, Dutch oven cooking, identifying wild edible plants, kayaking, wilderness survival, wilderness navigation using GPS and compass, and classes on cleaning, cooking and smoking salmon.
In addition to organizing, Elfers, a skilled angler, will also be teaching flyfishing with her husband Brad. All BOW instructors are skilled in their respective fields, and trained to effectively teach the BOW participants.
BOW, as it is commonly called, is a national program that began in Wisconsin in 1990. About 80 BOW workshops are now held in 40 states each year. Volunteer instructors and organizers put the weekend events together, in conjunction with agencies such as the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Space is limited to 60 participants, ages 18 and older. Debbie Spencer of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said there is still space available, but it's important to register soon as the camps usually fill up. The cost is $250, which includes three-day workshop tuition, all meals, and lodging in rustic cabins. All equipment is provided. Transportation to and from Juneau is an additional $70.
Participants signing up before June 15 receive a $25 discount, and pay $225.
For more information, contact Spencer at 465-6196 or Deborah.firstname.lastname@example.org. Complete details can be found at the Fish and Game Web site at http://www.sf.adfg.state.ak.us/Region3/Programs/BOW/PDFs/BOWSERegFinal08.pdf.
Riley Woodford is a writer with the Alaska Department for Fish and Game and will serve as a fishing instructor at the BOW workshop.