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Outdoors Women Retreat on Hawai‘i Island

September 8, 2019, 11:49 AM HST (Updated September 8, 2019, 11:54 AM)
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Hawai‘i DLNR hosts state’s first Becoming an Outdoors Woman retreat. PC: DLNR

Nearly four dozen burgeoning outdoorswomen honed their skills on Hawai‘i Island over the weekend.

According to a Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) press release, 45 women, mostly from Hawai‘i, spent a few days learning the art of the outdoors during the first-ever Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) retreat in Hawai’i.

This is the state’s initial foray into a 20-year-old international program that sponsors skill-development weekends in 41 states, seven Canadian provinces and seven other countries, the DLNR said.

DLNR’s Hunter Education Coordinator Andrew Choy led a team of 20 instructors, trip-leaders, drivers, observers and cooks for the weekend on Hawai‘i Island. On Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, the second day of BOW, Kathy Camp of O‘ahu stood far below Mauna Kea preparing to go on a trail ride.

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“This has far exceeded my expectations,” she commented. “The company is great and one of the appeals for me was to meet new friends—like-minded women but all with a variety of reasons for signing up.”

She said she looks forward to practicing newly-acquired rifle and handgun skills after going through a firearm safety and handling class on Friday. She hopes to improve her shooting skills to show her husband she can actually hit clay targets while skeet shooting.

“He’s not a great teacher,” Camp joked, “so with my new-found skills, maybe I can beat him?”

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Choy said the BOW concept was born of studies two decades ago that showed sharp declines in women’s interest in outdoor sports. While hunting- and fishing-related skills make up the majority of the curriculum, the rest is dedicated to non-harvest or non-consumptive outdoor pursuits like camping, kayaking, hiking and backpacking.

“The Becoming an Outdoors Woman program is one of the reasons adult women are the only demographic group showing growth in fishing and shooting sports,” Choy said.

BOW is a nonprofit headquartered at the University of Wisconsin in Stevens Point. Home base for the weekend was the Gilbert Kahele Recreation Area, but other venues included the Dahana Ranch near Waimea for horseback riding, Camp Honokaia at Honoka’a for rifle and handgun training, Kealakekua Bay for kayaking and Hilo for fishing.

In addition to the Hawai‘i women who attended, a woman from Texas and two sisters from New Mexico joined the fun. Catherine Matthews and her sister, both from New Mexico, joined their younger sister from Honolulu to celebrate her 50th birthday.

This was not only a chance to celebrate a birthday but to embrace the kind of independence that outdoor skills provide, Matthews said. She added that a course on canning and making jerky is one that she’ll be able to use immediately, along with a first-aid course.

“This is a great group of women and it’s been so much fun getting to know them,” she said.

The Hawai‘i BOW team will analyze what worked well and what didn’t in preparation for the program’s expected return in 2020, the release said. DLNR will publicize application dates.

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