Becoming an outdoorswoman

FWP weekend camp program instructs on outdoor-related activities
By: 
Liz Kearney
Yellowstone Newspapers
BOW attendees socialize on Saturday, Aug. 5 during an evening program of raffle prize drawings. Former Livingston resident Diane Papineau, in pink, stands at far left. The popular BOW program attracts sponsors who provide numerous products and other gifts for three substantial raffle prizes and lots of door prizes.
BOW Coordinator Liz Lodman, left, and participants Patti Beckley, of Missoula, center, and Kathy Milodragovich, of Butte, right, learn how to set up a lightweight tent under the picnic pavilion at the Lubrecht Forest, Aug. 5.

BONNER — It’s never too late to go to summer camp. 

Every year, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks hosts a weekend of outdoor-related activities for its popular Becoming an Outdoorswoman program. 

Over the course of a weekend, there’s a ton of three-four hour programs to choose from. This year’s offerings included everything  from archery and fly-fishing and gun basics to wilderness survival, standup paddleboarding, free-range yoga and even sausage-making. 

And yes, it’s as fun as it sounds. 

“My hope is that women will take an interest in this and want to learn more,” BOW Coordinator Liz Lodman said, “and be able to enjoy all the great things we offer in Montana and appreciate all our wonderful natural resources.” 

Dorian Kuper, of Helena, was attending her seventh BOW, which was held the weekend of Aug. 4 east of Bonner.

“I like the camaraderie,” she said, during a break in the Backpacking Basics course. “And even if you know how to do something well, it’s good to learn some new tricks of the trade.” 

This year’s BOW — its 24th, according to Lodman, who has managed BOW for 22 of its 24 years — was held east of Bonner at the Lubrecht Forest, a University of Montana facility that included lodging in cute little cabins, a main lodge and repurposed railroad cars, all tucked into the Douglas fir/ponderosa pines with a centrally located chow hall, picnic pavilion and meeting space. 

About 70 women showed up for the weekend’s activities, which began after lunch Friday, Aug. 4 and ran full-tilt until lunch Sunday, Aug. 6. 

Campers checked in Friday amid much chatter and hugs, getting settled and then sitting down to lunch in the dining hall, cafeteria-style, prepared by a caterer. 

Campers were lodged in cabins or a dorm, and the option of camping was provided, not far from the bath house, that included showers. With the relative lack of men on site, with the exception of a few instructors, the men’s room was appropriated for women during the weekend. 

BOW is designed for women to get together and learn collaboratively, Lodman said, but men are not excluded. 

“We don’t discriminate,” Lodman chuckled. “We have had men come if they’re brave enough to hang out with 70-80 women, but it’s designed for women.” 

I met up with some old friends who also attended BOW, and made a few new ones. I took four courses over the weekend — Wilderness Survival, Map and Compass, Backpacking Basics, and Free-Range Yoga. 

The yoga teacher was Anna Bradley, from Helena. We walked out into the woods stopping along the way to practice yoga poses. One of the participants, Patty Hough from Dillon, was buzzed by a hummingbird during a stop where we sat quietly with our eyes closed. 

In Backpacking Basics, taught by staff from the REI store in Helena, we learned about the latest gear in water-filtering, backpacking stoves and that most important backpacking item, coffee. Remember packing those awful coffee tea bags or schlepping a Melitta filter and ground coffee? No more. Jen Grigg showed us a teeny-tiny instant coffee single serve packet — from Starbuck’s, no less. 

The instructors also told us that sleeping pads have gotten softer and squishier while weighing less, and Lodman showed us some solar-powered lanterns. 

In Wilderness Survival, longtime BOW instructor Chris Dover talked about keeping yourself alive if you’re ever lost in the woods. She said most lost hikers get found within 72 hours, so it’s important to know how to survive that long on your own. 

One thing she doesn’t do is teach you what to try to find to eat. She joked, while patting her own sides, that most of us have plenty of fat reserves for surviving several days without food. 

“I don’t teach you how to eat icky things in the woods,” she said, to laughter. “But how to take care of yourself for 72 hours.”

The key points she made were to stay calm, warm and hydrated. Her best trick, that she has taught for many years, is how to build a fire quickly without matches. 

Carry cottonballs soaked in petroleum jelly. With a magnesium fire starter to create spark, the cottonball goes up fast and hot. Gathering firewood and building a fire is calming and gives you something to focus on rather than freaking out about being lost, Dover said. And the fire will keep you warm while also creating the sensation of companionship. 

“Fire nurtures us and makes us feel safe,” she said. 

 

History of BOW

BOW is held by many U.S. states and other countries, Lodman said before the BOW weekend.  BOW was founded in 1991 at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. 

“People were wondering why more women don’t hunt and fish,” Lodman said. 

Montana BOW started in 1994. Today, BOW features not only the annual summer camp, but day-long and other weekend activities throughout the year, including activities such as birdwatching, nature journaling and ice-fishing. 

And coming up Aug. 26 is a caving adventure at Lewis and Clark Caverns that will take participants off the regular tour pathway. 

Lodman said BOW is a great way for women to try out something new without committing to it financially. 

“You don’t have to go out and spend money on something you don’t know if you like yet,” she said. “It’s better to come to a workshop and see if you like it or not. And then if you’re going to make a purchase, you’ll know what to look for — you’ll be intelligent when you go into a store.” 

 

Outdoor tips

Here are a few tips shared by BOW instructors:

• For a lightweight emergency shelter, carry one of those large orange Halloween bags. You know, the ones people fill full of leaves to create large lawn jack-o’-lanterns. They’re big and lightweight and come prefolded in a very small bundle. 

• Another quick firestarter? Take along some of those joke birthday candles that don’t blow out easily. 

• When packing your backpack, put your water in first because it’s hard to cram it all in once your pack is full. 

• Always have a pack cover when you’re backpacking. It protects your pack from scrapes and tears and keeps your gear dry if it rains. 

• Carry bear spray, keep it instantly accessible — not buried in your pack —and know how to use it. If you think you’ll be storing it in your hot car, put it in a cooler. There are also heat-resistant containers you can buy devoted to keeping bear spray cool and  contained. 

• Duct tape is your friend. Wrap some around a water bottle so you’ll always have access to it. 

Duct tape can repair torn shoes, patch a tent, and help prevent blisters. Put it on your heels or anywhere you get “hot spots” on your feet. It prevents friction better than adhesive bandages, which can slip. 

Follow BOW on Facebook under “FWP Becoming an Outdoors Woman - BOW” or learn more on the FWP website at http://fwp.mt.gov/education/bow.

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