Today I attended the becoming an Outdoors Woman workshop put on by Prince Edward Island Forests, Fish and Wildlife. I found out about the workshop after the registration deadline but lucked into a cancellation spot and had to cancel two personal commitments in order to attend. It was worth it.
The weather was incredibly cooperative, with sufficient sunshine to shed two layers of clothing as the day wore on. Well organized, presenters and facilitators who were knowledgeable and skilled, a great barbeque lunch and a stunning location – the recipe of a successful event. From the outset I knew this would be an enjoyable and educational day for me and I was not disappointed. Mingling with 45 other curious, enthused women I caught a bit too much sun and some novel opportunities.
Let me make clear that I have little experience as an Outdoors Woman. I have not fished since I was a preadolescent – and then it was recreational play. I have strong moral aversions to the use of firearms and have never sighted a rifle before nor have I even seen a hunting bow. Some of the topics were so far out of my realm of experience even the language was a bit challenging for me.
The morning began with a walk along a red clay logging road where the changing colours of autumn were vibrant and the rich loamy smell of vegetative decomposition was heavy in the air. The tree and plant identification was not new to me; there was once a time I could eat and heal with wild plants. Today I learned a lot about ferns and mosses and identifying never-before cultivated woodlands.
Facts and issues around waterfowl hunting was next on the agenda. A Department of Environment staffer, self-identified as a committed and passionate duck caller, was engaging in his presentation. Aside from duck and goose calling, he was eloquent about the need for women to be active in waterfowl hunting. I love to eat duck, and goose. If I am eager to consume them, should I be able and/or willing to kill them?
Trapping was up next. I wanted to maintain an open mind here and the presenter was a straight up, affable redneck with a fondness for bad language. I found that a bit endearing. He had the pelts of coyotes, bobcats, foxes, skunks, minks, raccoons, and a few I’m forgetting and the variety of traps and snares which are legal to use in this ‘harvesting.’ I gained some good information regarding trapping and wildlife conservation and trapping apparatus. There were some good laughs here as well.
The morning rounded off with a session on woodsperson skills – chain saw safety and use and proper tree cutting/felling techniques. The applied mathematics involved in this along with the precision of the cutting and felling intrigued me. Chainsaws, however, frighten me, at least in terms of my use of them, as much as firearms do.
After a great barbeque lunch with plenty of salads and too many dessert options, the afternoon began with bow hunting. This was exciting learning for me. We learned to use the compound bow and the crossbow. Both require patience, good breathing and practice but are relatively easy to master. I was surprised to hit the bullseye and was astounding by the speed and force behind the crossbow.
From shooting arrows (though the arrow of a crossbow is referred to as a bullet) to shooting bullets. In the next workshop I learned about rifle safety and, for the first time in my life, picked up a rifle. Not only did I touch the thing, fully loaded, I shot it. And, I hit the stationary target dead centre and managed to hit a clay disc flying through the air. I enjoyed this too much, perhaps. Certainly more than I ever anticipated.
Compass and map reading was a great refresher and learning how to read direction without a compass was also interesting. We also learned about geocaching and this was the first time I had ever used a GPS system. I have been interested in geocaching for awhile now, but being a low-tech kind of girl I have resisted the purchase of a GPS. I think I’ll remain GPSless, particularly as I am trying to have less, rather than more. I was struck by the woman who said she has her GPS for canoeing, and her small hand-held model for, um, something, and now will be getting one for her vehicle. I am triply glad to be without.
The day ended with a fly fishing workshop. While this is more zen than sport, is lovely to look at, and is a difficult thing to master, it just wasn’t for me. Put me out in nature, quiet, for hours. I am happy. Add the constant swaying, back and forth, of my forearm and wrist to create an airborne pattern of fishing line, and I am bored. I can understand the attraction of a river current flowing around my thighs, and the stealth with which this activity must be undertaken. I can appreciate the precision of fly tying, the satisfaction of small, elegant knots. They just are not satisfactions I am seeking.
This was a really great day. Tracy and Linda, the organizers and conveners, were amazing, in all respects. Thanks to them, to all the interesting and impassioned presenters, and to the other women who made this a memorable autumn experience for me.