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Outdoor Women at Big Oaks

Today marked the 14th annual Outdoor Women at Big Oaks. This is one of the largest events to take place on Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge. This is a one day event, where women ages 12+ can participate in various outdoor classes and activities. The purpose of this event is to get more women interested in the outdoors and nature. The reason this is an all-women event is to create a welcoming environment, where women can feel safe and comfortable to step out of their shells, and sign-up for a class they might not otherwise. This event allows women to learn new skills, without being embarrassed of failure. This is a very empowering day for woman, and one that I was thrilled to be a part of this year!

As usually, over 100 women registered this year for the event, and as usually, all spots were filled. This year there were over 30 classes to choose from, of which 28 were taught! Every year Big Oaks tries to introduce a few new courses. This year's new courses were Atlatl Throwing (an atlatl is a spear throwing tool used by Native Americans and Eskimos), Kombucha Basics (kombucha is a fermented tea that you can buy in many grocery stores and health food stores, plus you can make your own!), and Rappelling. All 3 courses had a wonderful turn out, and the women really seemed to love them.

Looking at all the courses offered and trying to choose the ten that interest you the most can be very daunting. If your interests lie in getting outdoors and connecting with nature more, I suggest classes like: Beginners Outdoor Yoga, Backyard Gardening, Bird Watching, and Backyard Pollinator Habitat. These classes are low maintenance but spark the flame of interest in the outdoors. If your interests lie in becoming a more outdoors-y/backwoods woman try classes such as: Archery, Canoeing/Kayaking, Firearms Familiarity, Fly Fishing, Rappelling, Muzzleloading, or Sporting Clay Shooting, to name a few. There are also classes offered to build your survival skills/knowledge: Knot Knowledge, Mushrooms: Fungus Among Us, Fire/Shelter Building, Self-Defense, Wild Edible/Medicinal Plants, Wild Water, and Backpacking for Beginning. These are just a few of the classes offered. There are many others to choose from, like: Amazing Insects, Getting Children Outdoors, and Living Green.

This year was this first year I was able to be a part of Outdoor Women at Big Oaks. Though I was a volunteer, helping with the event, I was able to go around to the classes, and listen in for a few minutes. I learned how to tie a few knots, watched women shoot arrows, in archery, and clay discs in sporting clays. I got to try wild game and dutch oven cooking-- both were so delicious! When I passed over the dam, looking out over Old Timbers Lake, I saw women kayaking, it was such a peaceful scene. By far the most exciting thing, for me, was getting the opportunity to load and shoot a muzzleloader. It made me feel like I traveled back in time, to the Revolutionary War!

I also got the chance to step inside Old Timbers Lodge, and listen in on a few more classes. One of the most intriguing classes, that I saw on the course list for this year, was Getting Children Outdoors. I was very curious to find out what this class was all about. Turns out it informed women on what makes a child curious about the outdoors, and how to keep their interest in the outdoors, along with ideas on getting a child interested in the outdoors to begin with. I also listened in on Wild Edible/Medicinal Plants. The speaker, was not only knowledgeable in the edible or medicinal qualities of plants, but on the history of use of plants. Wild Edibles is definitely a class I would like to experience all of next time. At the end of the day, I stepped into the Amazing Insects room. The insect collection the entomologist had was, in fact, AMAZING! I never saw insects that large in my life! After talking with the entomologist, he informed me that he collected his specimen from South and Central America and Asia.

During the day, the women had the opportunity to buy tickets for a raffle. The items at the raffle included a hunting package, Rockin' Thunder boat rides, and a variety of flowers, just to name a few. Plus, merchandise was available for sale all day. All proceeds go to the Big Oaks Conservation Society to help Big Oaks NWR.

Like every year, Outdoor Women at Big Oaks was a success. The women enjoyed themselves, their classes, and the instructors. I didn't have the opportunity to participate fully in any of the classes, but I too enjoyed myself. I am a lover of learning, and especially love learning new skills to be more self-sufficient. Each year, women come for various reasons. Some, like me, want to learn practical skills. Others want a day they can spend entirely on themselves. Still others see it as a perfect opportunity to spend with their mothers or daughters. Whatever you're reason may be, I strongly encourage you to join us next June, you won't be disappointed. But you better register early, spots get filled quickly!

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