The Becoming an Outdoors Woman program offered by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission takes place annually at the C.A. Vines Arkansas 4-H Center in Ferndale, about 10 miles west of Little Rock. The workshop focuses on learning outdoor skills usually associated with hunting and fishing, but includes other outdoor pursuits as well such as introduction to scuba diving, canoe and kayak paddling, and uses of wild plants, and beginning backpacking.
Jill M. Rohrbach
“This is going to be one of the greatest events of your lifetime. I guarantee you,” said Arlene Green, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission coordinator of the Becoming an Outdoors Woman program, during the opening session on Sept. 17.
She did not lie.
I’m the kind of girl that loves a goodie bag. So when I checked in at the Arkansas 4-H Center in Ferndale for the BOW program and that’s the first thing I received along with my name badge, I was a happy camper. The swag included a drawstring camouflage bag, water bottle, hunter orange BOW shirt, Knight & Hale Real Cow Talker (elk call), small towel, chap stick, numerous other smaller items, and several useful guidebooks and magazines.
But better than the swag, of course, were the handpicked, best of the best instructors, and the time we had to learn. Classes were three and a half hours. I didn’t just sit and listen to someone talk. I did the things they were teaching me.
My first class – basic fishing skills. His approach to the class was to ask us what we wanted to learn instead of teaching us what he thought we ought to know. A few people in the class knew nothing about fishing, but most of us had done some fishing. So he taught to our knowledge needs regarding rods, baits, hooks, types of fish, knots, and more. Christmas came early in this class when he told us we could keep everything in front of us – a bunch of great fishing guide books to back up the information we were learning in class, and a loaded tackle box. Loaded and labeled. For example, the little plastic baggies had info like “#4 hooks, catfish & crappie.” That’s the exact information I was looking for. I never know what hook to put on for what kind fish. So I now have all sorts of hooks, and tons of plastic worms and other bait; plus, some cool waterproof pliers that float.
Then he handed us new pink fishing rods, also ours to keep, had us tie on our weights and hooks and off to the lake we went. We threaded slimy, live worms onto our hooks and started casting to see who could catch the most fish. That person would receive a prize – a rod and more fishing tackle. I caught the first fish, but not the most, which was three.
My next class was archery. I took this just because I thought it would be a fun challenge for the weekend. I had no idea I would fall in love with it. All I want for Christmas is a compound bow. Seriously.
Dutch oven cooking came next. We split into small groups and cooked some tasty dishes. My partner and I baked a pizza. Others cooked apple cobbler, sweet potato hash, a sweet bread, and a Hershey cake. The cake was baked in a Bundt pan in the Dutch oven. I can’t wait to cook on our next family camping trip, which should be soon with this change to fall weather. Since I was taking that course, I picked up a Dutch oven cookbook, when I had my choice between door prizes earlier that day.
My last session was outdoor survival skills. I learned a ton of information that will come in handy when camping. I just hope I never have to use my new abilities because I’m lost in the woods. All classes are hands-on, and in this one we built our own shelters in the woods and practiced making fire with sparking devices and cotton balls covered in Vaseline.
The evaluation form asked us what we liked the most. I simply couldn’t pick. I loved it all – the loot, the knowledge and new skills I acquired, the instructors, the food, the raffles, the social night, new acquaintances, and the camaraderie that filled the air.