Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Weekend Brings New Experiences

Author: NCWRC blogger/Wednesday, April 18, 2018/Categories: Blog, Conservation, Education

Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Weekend Brings New Experiences

If you had told me just over 15 years ago that I would be firing rifles, daydreaming of buying a truck and researching venison recipes, I would have never believed you.

Back then, I was in high school. I was young. I had always loved spending time outside and had just taken an environmental science class that would change the course of my entire life.  After that class, I went “whole-hog” environmentalist: I gave up eating meat, I only wore second-hand clothes, I rolled my eyes at folks driving vehicles with poor gas mileage, and, much to my friends’ and parents’ shared dismay, I took fewer showers. I remember one summer “protesting” my parents’ use of air conditioning by sleeping outside in the dead of summer for multiple nights. 

Y’all, I was serious. And stinky. But perhaps most importantly, I assumed that there was no chance that a world existed in which environmentalism and hunting could overlap.

Fast forward to today. I just attended my first-ever Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) where I shot arrows and rifles and took a three-hour class called “Introduction to Deer Hunting.”  My 17-year-old self would say, “Who is this person, and how did this happen?” After my youthful foray into environmentalism, I went on to study Environmental Geology in college and later received a graduate degree in Environmental Sciences & Engineering, so I did stay true to my younger interests. But I eased up a little bit. I slowly began eating some types of meat again and I shower more frequently now. I even went on to teach Earth and Environmental Science to high-schoolers. 

I taught for seven years, so I thought I knew some stuff. But, again, I was wrong. I married into a family of country boys, and every time we went to the beach, walked in the woods or heard birds, they took me to school. They could identify birds from miles away by their calls, they knew every North Carolina fresh and saltwater fish, plus their patterns, and they paid attention to wind direction and meteorology with a highly impressive level of expertise.  I needed that—a good lesson in realizing that no matter what you know, there is always so much left to learn. 

I enrolled in the North Carolina Environmental Education certification course to try and catch up to the knowledge level of my new in-laws and to expand my repertoire as a teacher. Through that program, I met Casey Williams (NCWRC Northern Piedmont Education Specialist), who was teaching a class about the basics of fishing and fishing education. I told her a little bit about my marriage and new family members, and she recommended the BOW course to me. Needless to say, I was hesitant. I wanted to learn more about N.C. wildlife basics, but I wasn’t ready to fire a gun or (much less) kill anything. 

Nonetheless, I still signed up. I almost backed out 100 times before going. The whole week leading up to it, I came up with every excuse.  My husband nearly had to push me out the door. I waved goodbye to my toddler (who, thanks to my in-laws, has a lifetime hunting and fishing license) and drove to eastern North Carolina by myself.

I want to say this as strongly as possible: It was awesome!

I recommend this weekend to anyone, anywhere, no matter what your interests are. I was lucky to be selected as a Mel Porter Scholarship recipient, but even if you don’t qualify, it is very affordable and worth every penny.

I started with “Introduction to Archery.” Lynne Frady, the volunteer instructor, was amazing and so funny, on top of being a great shot with the bow. It was definitely challenging, but I felt empowered, made friends and had an incredibly fun time. When one of the teachers told me that he never kills anything that he doesn’t eat, things started to click for me. This is environmentalism, too.

Then my “Rifle Markswomanship” class rolled around, and there is no getting around it: I was terrified. In fact, I was so terrified that I hid at the end of the range and cried a little bit while the other girls started shooting. But Commission staff members Carissa Daniels and Casey Williams patiently came to my rescue, calmed me down and talked me through it. I took some deep breaths and shot the bowling pin seven out of seven times on my first round. It was fun to hit a target and feel that rush.

This past weekend introduced me to guns, made me understand why hunters have them and use them, and made me a little more comfortable around them. The other girls in the class were so kind. They kept recommending guns to me that weren’t as loud or didn’t have as much recoil. Everyone was looking out for me, and it made the experience so much better. By the end, I had used almost every gun on the table with confidence, poise, and, for the most part, pretty good accuracy. 

CP White, the Commission’s firearms safety instructor, told us that 10 percent of all gun purchases go towards wildlife conservation in the state. Things clicked for me again. These are wildlife conservationists. These are people who care about the environment, understand its cycles, fight to preserve it, and, in the end, pay to conserve it. This weekend opened my eyes. It gave me more confidence, more skills, introduced me to some truly remarkable women and perhaps most importantly, it gave me more understanding to be a better teacher, mother, family member and citizen who wants to help preserve the environment right here at home in North Carolina.

Jenna Hartley
Guest Blogger
Hillsborough, N.C.


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