Just for the Ladies E-mail

Just for the Ladies

by

Stephanie Mallory

Although hunting, especially bow hunting is quickly becoming a popular pastime for women, many females run into barriers when it comes to pursuing their passion. Some women want to learn more about bow hunting, but can’t find a willing teacher. Others already know the basics but have no one to hunt with. Still others have the option of hunting with their husbands or boyfriends but would like to hunt with other women who share their interest.


 Alabama has several opportunities for such women. From the beginner to advanced bowhunter, the annual Bows and Does event at White Oak Plantation in Tuskegee, Alabama, offers a fun and intimidation-free setting for women hunters. For the woman who wants to learn more about archery and other outdoor pursuits, the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman event sponsored by Alabama’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is the answer.


Bows and Does


Christina Holloway, 28, never thought she’d find herself hunkered down in a tree stand in the pitch-black Alabama woods at 5 in the morning. The Oregon resident and self-professed “cranky morning person” says her parents actually laughed out loud when she told them she had plans to wake up before dawn with 30 other women in hopes of getting a shot at a whitetail. But that’s just what she did on her first bow-hunting experience at White Oak Plantation’s Bows and Does annual hunt in 2003. Even though she didn’t get a shot at a deer that year, she had such a great time that she decided to return for another chance at a deer in 2004. 


 The tall, enthusiastic blonde says she decided one day that she wanted to give hunting a try. And when the opportunity to attend the all-women’s hunt at White Oak Plantation presented itself, she jumped on the opportunity.


“The Does and Bows event provides an encouraging atmosphere for women hunters of all levels,” Holloway, says. “As a newcomer to the sport, I was so nervous about the entire experience. But the women here really put me at ease. The other hunters gave me very useful tips and advice, and they made me feel like a welcome member of the group. This all-woman’s atmosphere provides female bowhunters with a laid-back environment where they can enjoy hunting and each other’s companionship.”


Although Holloway saw numerous deer during the 2004 Bows and Does hunt, she didn’t get a shot at one. But that’s ok with her. She had a great time and plans to return to White Oak in 2005 for another opportunity.


Modest Beginnings


 Ten years ago, with the desire to expand hunting opportunities for women bowhunters, the folks at White Oak Plantation began the all-woman’s event known as Bows and Does.


Robert Pitman, owner of White Oak Plantation, says, “Our main goal for starting the Bows and Does hunt was to get more women interested in hunting. There were limited opportunities for women hunters 10 years ago, and we wanted to change that. We also realized that if more women started hunting, more children would start hunting. Many children grow up without their fathers’ influence these days. Without their fathers to take them hunting, these children often never get exposed to this fine sport or to the great outdoors.  Over the past several years, the number of young hunters has dropped dramatically. We want to do all we can to get as many women and children hunting as possible thus securing the future of this sport for generations to come.”


Pitman says the goal of Bows and Does is to not only continue to attract more and more women to the sport but also to gain the attention of the outdoor industry. “There simply needs to be more opportunities for women hunters. Right now, the industry caters almost solely to men. Women hunters are often forgotten about. We hope Bows and Does will have a lasting impact on this segment of the industry and will be an example to other outdoor businesses on how to pull women into the sport.”

  
This women’s-only bow-hunting opportunity, which began with just a dream and five enthusiastic women, is now one of the most popular hunting opportunities in the country for female bowhunters. Now, women who’d like a shot at a White Oak deer during the annual event, have to join numbers of other women on a lengthy waiting list. But, the women who are fortunate enough to attend the hunt will vouch that the wait is worth the while.


     Encouraging Atmosphere


“White Oak Plantation is a beautiful and unthreatening location for this woman’s only event,” says Lisa Metheny of Farmersburg, Indiana. “I once attended a hunting camp where one of the men made it apparent that he didn’t want me there – he didn’t want to share the camp with a woman. I felt extremely unwelcome and uncomfortable. Women hunters shouldn’t have to deal with that type of negativity. At the Bows and Does event, everyone is positive and so glad you’re there. Whether or not you take a deer, you leave the event feeling good about yourself and the friendships that you’ve made.”
 The Does and Bows Hunt held the opening weekend of the Alabama bow season each October gives both veteran and beginning female bowhunters the opportunity to see lots of deer, learn about great new products from various industry representatives and develop friendships with likeminded women. The beautiful resort accommodations at White Oak Plantation provide an ideal setting for this unique occasion and the dense oak groves and lush green fields are a whitetail hunter’s dream.


All Levels


The ladies range in experience level from beginners on their first hunting trip to veterans who’ve hunted all their lives. Some of the women are competitive 3-D archers, and other women are just backyard target shooters. But, no matter the level of experience, all of these women share something in common – the desire to get outdoors, to enjoy nature and to build meaningful relationships with kindred spirits.


The excitement these women share for the sport and for the event is evident on the first day of the hunt each year. The participants gather on the large porch in front of the dining room in their camouflage clothing and chatter anxiously as they await instructions.


Each year, before the first afternoon hunt, Bo Pitman, a guide at White Oak Plantation, explains the rules of the hunt to the women. He tells the ladies that they can only harvest bucks with 8 points or a 16-inch spread to their antlers. He tells them they can harvest two does a day (one during the morning hunt and one during the evening hunt), and to be careful not to harvest a button buck, which is often almost indistinguishable from a doe. After listening to Pitman’s rules, the women pick numbered chips from a cup sitting on the old fashioned Coke machine in front of the dining hall. The sequence that the ladies will hop out of the trucks to get to their stands is determined by the numbers. The women with the lowest numbers will be dropped off first and picked up first. After the numbers have been drawn, they crowd into the trucks and head off on their hunts.


Good Times and Good Company


In 2004, the women took a total of four deer – three does and one spike. But they saw numerous deer –  more than 90 bucks and several hundred does. As these women will tell you, whether they harvest a deer or not, the opportunity to share quality time with other female hunters is worth the trip. And when the women aren’t hunting, they do just that. They relax in wooden rockers aligned in rows on the shady decks that surround the dining hall and talk about their families, their jobs, past hunts or anything else that comes to mind or sparks an interest. Some of the women spend time honing their archery skills using the 3-D targets behind the dining hall. And still, other women try their luck fishing the two ponds, which are stocked full of nice-sized bass.


In the evenings, after a delicious home-cooked meal, the women gather around the fire place in the common room to listen as industry representatives talk about and demonstrate new products. Representatives from Nikon, Plano, BowTech, ATSKO and Mossy Oak Apparel attended the 2004 hunt and provided sponsorship for the event. After the presentation, much to the attendees delight, the representatives handed out free gifts to the women.


In the beginning, sponsorship for Bows and Does was a little difficult to sell. But as the hunt grew in popularity each year, and it became evident that Bows and Does was a perfect environment for getting exposure for their products, the companies began to jump onboard.


Headed Home


On the final day of the 2004 hunt as the women packed up their clothing and gear to head home, there was already talk about next year. To so many women, the Bows and Does event has become a tradition. They couldn’t imagine going through a hunting season without joining their friends at White Oak for a good ole’ southern whitetail hunt, fantastic food and great companionship.


Becoming an Outdoors-Woman


The Bows and Does event isn’t the only opportunity in Alabama for women to hone their archery skills and spend time with other like-minded women. Thanks to the exciting Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program sponsored by Alabama’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, scores of women are getting professional advice on archery technique as well as guidance on numerous other outdoor interests.


 BOW is a three-day workshop designed for women ages 18 years or older, which offers hands-on instruction in a fun and non-threatening learning environment.


Aside from archery, participants choose from more than 50 courses such as scuba diving, backyard wildlife, rock climbing, camp cooking, map and compass, camping, mountain biking, shooting sports (pistol, rifle, shotgun,  muzzleloader, as well as gun safety), fishing, hunting, canoeing, nature photography, nature crafts, ATV handling, bird watching, motor boat handling, and more.


This workshop is catered to women who…


* have never tried these activities but who want an opportunity to learn.
* are beginners who hope to improve their skills.
* already participate in some of these activities but would like to learn some new ones.
* enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded individuals.


 Participants can also obtain their Hunter Education Certification and Boating Safety Certification during the weekend event.


Many of the women are repeat attendees who bring someone with them to experience what they have discovered to be an exciting weekend filled with challenging activities. Attendance regularly includes senior adults, mothers and daughters, co-workers and best friends.


Instructors are Department of Conservation employees and volunteers who enjoy sharing their skills with beginners.


Confidence Builder


Tes Jolly, an outdoor writer and photographer from Tuskegee, volunteers as the archery instructor for the program and says the BOW event offers the perfect learning atmosphere for women who have never been exposed to these various outdoor activities.


“BOW not only provides women with an opportunity to learn the basics of outdoor skills, but to build confidence as well,” Jolly says. “The women come to this event excited and nervous and ready to have fun, and they leave with new skills and a renewed self assurance. These women accomplish tasks that they never thought they could, not to mention they have a great time. At BOW they learn to ‘never say never.’”


As far as the archery program is concerned, Jolly says women of all skill levels participate in the course. “Many of the women who take the archery class have never even held a bow, and they’re really nervous about giving archery a try. But they all do great, and end up really enjoying themselves.”
 Some of the ladies take the archery class because they want to have something to do with their kids in the backyard. “Archery is a great sport for children because it teaches discipline and builds confidence, and it’s a relatively inexpensive sport because bows like the Mathew’s Genesis can be shared by everyone in the family. In fact, we have several mothers and daughters who come to the BOW event and take the archery course together.”


Jolly says other women take the course because they want to give bow hunting a try. “We actually teach the women to shoot out of a tree stand,” Jolly says. “So they get hands-on, one-on-one instruction that will help prepare them for their first hunt. These days, I’m actually hunting with some of the women I taught archery to during a past BOW event,” Jolly says. “It’s very exciting to watch the women take their new-learned skill all the way to the next level.”


Most of all, Jolly says, the BOW is just a great place to meet like-minded women who love the outdoors. “It’s a great place to make lasting friendships. Without the BOW program, I wouldn’t have met all the women who I hunt with today. It’s provided me with a circle of hunting buddies that I enjoy spending time with in the outdoors. Not to mentions, boyfriends and fathers are really appreciative of the program as well. They like that the women in their lives are learning to enjoy the same sport they’ve been enjoying for years. I like to tell the men that thanks to BOW, their secret is out. We know why you like the outdoors so much now, and we’re going to get out there as well.”

Twice a Year


Becoming an Outdoors-Woman is held twice each year – in March and October at the Alabama 4-H Center in Columbiana.  Cost for the weekend adventure is $195 and covers meals, lodging, program materials and instruction. All instructional equipment is provided. Written confirmation is sent upon receipt of the registration and payment. Enrollment is limited to the first 130 applicants, so sign up soon. The next event is October 7-9, 2005.

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