Since 1994, the Kentucky Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) program has helped adult women learn outdoor skills in a nonintimidating environment.
Over the years, participants have tried their hand at a variety of new skills, including archery, shooting, outdoor survival, photography, hunting, climbing, fishing, ziplines, and more. The annual three-day BOW programs are so well received that participants often sign up year after year.
One reason for this program’s popularity is the instructors. People who teach at BOW do so because they want to pass their love of the outdoors onto others. They are mentors.
BOW, however, can only accept approximately 100 or so participants in its annual September workshop before it runs out of space. Because the strength of this program is its instructors, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources is taking a Johnny Appleseed approach to creating involvement in the outdoors. Department employees are placing a greater emphasis on creating more mentors than just individual instruction.
Katie Haymes, for example, runs the Explore Bowhunting program. The number of instructors trained since the program’s inception in 2011 is now approaching 200. “Part of my role is to find instructors and train them so that they can take those skills back to their communities and pass them on to others,” she says. “The instructors are doing this because they want to benefit the kids.”
Conservation educator Jamie Cook is working to recruit more mentors for hunting programs. “We have a lot of mentor hunts for youth that we would like to expand to include adults,” he says. “We’d like to see the whole family out there hunting.”
Cook envisions the department as a clearinghouse that can match mentors with families who wish to try hunting.
As for the fishing side, aquatic educator Marc Johnson and his volunteers usually assist with more than 250 fishing events each year. “We provide support to groups with varying levels of need,” he explains. “We’ve found that once an event becomes established, people get things rolling on their own.”
Mentoring is not just for adults, however.
Every year, some 4,700 kids in the fourth through sixth grade take a weeklong visit to one of the three summer conservation camps operated by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. John Coffey, director of Camp Earl Wallace located on the shores of Lake Cumberland, says camps foster independence and social abilities through development of outdoor skills such as fishing, boating, archery, swimming, survival skills, and more.
“Some of these kids come from families with no involvement in the outdoors,” Coffey says. “That’s why we tell kids to teach their parents what they’ve learned in camp. That way, maybe these parents will start taking the whole family fishing.”
Find out more about the September BOW weekend, summer camps, and mentoring opportunities online at www.fw.ky.gov, by calling the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife at (800) 858-1549, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.