Spending time outdoors is a lifelong passion of Leann's. "I just can't imagine children not growing up without experiencing the outdoors," she said.
Home Town: Spavinaw, Okla.
Title: Naturalist, Tenkiller State Park, Vian, Okla.
Notable Fact: Some of Leann's most memorable outdoor experiences include catching largemouth bass with her hands, tagging and tracking bats with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and searching for wild mushrooms and onions with her family.
NWTF: Leann, tell us how you got involved with the Women in the Outdoors (WITO) program.
Leann Bunn: I called NWTF headquarters in Edgefield, S.C., and inquired about sponsoring a Women in the Outdoors event at Tenkiller State Park. I knew the NWTF already had a womens' program, so I figured, "Why re-invent the wheel?" This year marks our ninth WITO event at Tenkiller State Park.
NWTF: What goals did you have in mind when you started working with the NWTF?
LB: My ultimate goals in partnering with the NWTF and WITO were to foster conservation and get women involved in the outdoors. Women are the mothers of our future in conservation, literally. They are the mothers of children, and children are our future.
If we don't make getting children involved in the outdoors important to both parents, there won't be as many children that get the opportunity to discover what the outdoors has to offer. If we make conservation a family issue, then there will be many more kids out there experiencing the great outdoors and caring about it. Some of the most important parts of my childhood were spent on a creek bank or walking through the woods.
NWTF: Do you have any family that you want to mention?
LB: My grandfather has passed, but he instilled in his children the importance of the land and all the things that dwell there. He taught my mother to live off the land and to grow things. Some of my fondest memories are of following my mother in the woods and listening as she pointed out all the things that she had learned from my grandfather.
We gathered wild greens, mushrooms and roots from the woods all throughout the year. If we didn't get it from the woods, we raised it— animal or plant. I grew up with a connection to the land and with a deep respect for all things wild.
My mother, Helen Rogers, is 82 years old now and unable to go to the woods anymore or grow a garden, but we never pass a creek or an area that might hold a hidden prize that Moma doesn't say, "Looks like a mushroom would grow there," or, "Look at those wild onions."
I had the best time as a kid. I just can't imagine children not growing up without experiencing the outdoors!
NWTF: What's the most memorable or unusual thing that's happened to you in the outdoors?
LB: It's tough to pick just one. I've seen swarming bees, vomiting vultures, caught largemouth bass with my hands, tagged and tracked bats with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and more. I remember catching my first fish at the age of three, gigging crawdads with my family and looking for wild mushrooms with mom and digging wild onions with my sister. I have had many outdoor experiences through the years, and they're all very memorable.
NWTF: Tell us about what you do to make WITO events fun for women.
LB: I try to make sure that everyone feels that they can do anything we have set up for them to do. We have women from all walks of life come to these events.
I feel that there are so many things at WITO events that are an important part of our heritage, like making lye soap or cooking with Dutch ovens. So, I also work at offering classes that would appeal to someone that wants to keep that cultural connection alive.
I also think that having facials in the evening or storytelling around a campfire is a fun addition to our events!
I think our events are successful because they appeal to a diverse range of women. I also think that the care I take in working with the instructors makes a really special event as well. We have the best instructors ever!
I love the volunteers that come out to work our WITO event, too. Without them, there wouldn't be an event.
NWTF: What are some of the most popular seminars that are taught at WITO events in your area?
Rappelling, Dutch oven cooking, trailer backing, fly fishing, flint knapping are the most poplar. We have a great response to most of our classes.
NWTF: What do you think is the number one misconception that women have about the outdoors before they come to a WITO event?
LB: That they can't do something because of some fear they have developed in their life. I have had ladies that are terrified of heights overcome that fear by rappelling down a cliff, and the pride they feel during that moment is written all over their face.
I've also seen ladies back a trailer and say, "I've never been able to do this, until now!"
I have seen ladies shoot a gun for the first time and love it! You just know that they bought themselves a shotgun when they went home.
I know of groups of women that now go fishing together as a girls' weekend out because of WITO events. I know of women that take their kids fishing now. I think WITO is successful at dispelling certain misconceptions, whatever they might be.
NWTF: Do you think women are as competitive as men when it comes to certain outdoor activities, or do they just relax and have fun with it?
LB: I've seen some really competitive ladies at our events, but most of the time the ladies just let go and have fun. They support each other and cheer each other on. I know that there is no stress once a lady has tried something once. They all get behind each other and have fun.
NWTF: What's the largest crowd that you've hosted for a WITO event?
LB: This last year we had 75 ladies, 26 instructors and 15 volunteers. We were the largest event in Oklahoma last year and the year before that, too.
NWTF: Do you have any tips for other WITO event coordinators on how to host a successful event?
LB: Pay attention to details, work hard to get qualified instructors and let others help you. Of course, don't forget to have fun!
NWTF: Leann, why should women join Women in the Outdoors?
LB: Because we have fun, we learn and we pass on what we care about. I would say that most women leave a WITO event feeling very positive about themselves and about their ability to do anything they set their minds to. We have had women that come to learn about fishing so that they can take their sons fishing.
We have a lot of single moms out there that want to do something constructive for their kids. Keeping them occupied with outdoor activities is a great way to do that.
NWTF: We hear you're looking to get your first turkey this year. Any thoughts on how your season is going so far and what you're anticipating?
LB:No, I'm afraid I will blow it if I think too hard about it! Seriously, I don't care if I get a bird— it would be nice, of course, but what I really want is to go out and see and hear wild turkeys doing what they do.
NWTF: Anything else you want to mention?
LB: I really want to thank the NWTF and WITO for being supportive and letting me start a WITO event here at Tenkiller State Park. It's very good for the park and it is also very good for conservation.
There have been many chapters that have helped over the years from all over the state of Oklahoma. I want to especially thank the Gavin County Longbeards, Luann Waters, Nanette Stockstill and Don Chitwood.