Hometown: Atlanta, Ga.; now resides in Mo.
NWTF Chapter: Platte Purchase Chapter— St. Joseph, Mo.
Family: Sherry is married with three children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
NWTF: Sherry, tell us about your involvement with the NWTF.
Sherry Hill: I'm a Missouri WITO District Coordinator. I'm also an event coordinator for the St. Joseph WITO event and the newest member of the NWTF Missouri State Board.
NWTF: What's your best outdoor memory?
SH: My favorite outdoors passion is trail riding on horseback. While riding in the Black Hills one day, my husband and I encountered a lone and very grumpy male buffalo. Obviously we were too close for his comfort, and the bull reared up on his back legs and assumed the attack position.
My horse promptly started what we now laughingly refer to as the "buffalo shake". If you've never seen a 1500-pound horse shake and tremble all over, it was a sight to behold. In the saddle it felt like one of those vibrating chair massagers!
I remembered that buffalo can run about 25 miles per hour for up to four hours. At that point I'm not sure who was shaking more! We managed to spin around and skedaddle rather quickly, leaving the bull behind. Then came the hours of riding miles back to camp trying to avoid seeing buffalo. We skirted many a mile around various herds and lone bulls.
Later, around the campfire that evening, we discussed options if we encountered more of the aggressive ones the next day. My decision was to dismount and climb a tree. I didn't think the dismount would be a problem - gravity would be on my side - but being able to climb a tree with a broken leg or arm was another issue, not to mention the long walk back to camp. As it turned out, we rode for several more days and kept away from the buffalo as much as possible, but I knew when there was a buffalo sighting by the chair vibrator I was riding - it had no off switch!
NWTF: That's a great story. How'd you get involved with the NWTF and Women in the Outdoors?
SH: My first exposure to the WITO program was in 2002, when I saw an ad in the newspaper for an education seminar for ladies on outdoor skills. I attended the event, made new friends, joined the committee and have been an avid supporter of WITO ever since. That event was also my first exposure to turkey hunting. We had a 5:30 a.m. mock turkey hunt, and I never imagined that I'd have so much fun. Our guide, who was calling, had me hunched at the base of a tree under a camo blanket. A gobbler walked up close and strutted by the decoy. It must have been my loud heartbeat that scared him away!
NWTF: What do you do to help make WITO events fun?
SH: I believe most women like to learn new things, be served good food, win door prizes and raffle items and go home with something to share among their family and friends. Offering a variety of classes with experienced and entertaining instructors and having an outstanding raffle table will bring them back year after year. We try to improve our class listing, planning and organization every year. We have drawings for return participants as well as those who bring new friends each year.
NWTF: What's the most popular seminar that's taught at your local event?
SH: Our most popular seminar this year was Harnessin' & Hitchin'. We had a delightful family share their expertise in teaching our ladies how to harness, hitch and drive a team of Belgian horses.
Other popular classes include handgun safety, clay target shooting, hunting for antler sheds, Dutch oven cooking, personal safety and self defense, making bluebird houses, woodburned and decorated gourd birdhouses, painting critters out of stone pavers and making duct tape tote bags.
We offered 27 different classes last year, and even with the snow and sleet, our ladies dressed for their outdoor classes, learned new skills, met new friends and had fun!
NWTF: In your opinion, what's the number one misconception that women have about the outdoors before they come to a WITO event?
SH: I love the reaction from most ladies at sports shows who haven't heard of our program. The first thing they say is, "I don't hunt!" Our response to that is, "We are not just about hunting and fishing or camping in the wild woolly forest - check out this class listing, and I'll bet you find something you'd like to do. Plus, you can even shop at our event!"
Many women do enjoy outdoor activities and would probably do them more often if they had friends to accompany them. The WITO program is a great way to find friends that enjoy the outdoors, too.
I hear comments all the time from ladies who are surprised to find that other women enjoy the same outdoor things they do. The outdoors is not a gender-specific world. A group of lady friends can go hiking, trap shooting, fishing or hunting and have an enjoyable time. They can also learn some great skills to teach their husbands and family. I don't know any women who wouldn't want to learn something that they can share with a son, daughter, or grandchildren and enjoy doing together.
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?
SH: I think competition is definitely a deterrent to women enjoying outdoor activities, unless they're competing against their husbands! Having your husband teach you to fish or back a trailer does not work! But after you learn the skills, then in my opinion, it is pure enjoyment and relaxation. Sometimes I catch all the fish, and sometimes I don't even catch one. As long as we have fish for dinner, I don't really care whose lure they liked the best!
NWTF: Do you have any tips for other WITO event coordinators on how to host a successful event?
SH: Last year was a record for us with 136 participants. It has helped me grow as a coordinator to see and learn from other events. I attended about 18 events last year and learned something from each one.
It takes a great group of active, hard-working volunteer committee members who each bring a skill or flourish to share. Finding active committee members can be difficult. The best place to start is at your event. Ask them, put it on the event evaluation form, or ask your committee members for friends and family members who might want to volunteer. We meet once a month (almost year round) and do fun things together as a group. There are many women who want to volunteer their time and help make a difference.
NWTF: Do most of your participants have some outdoor experience, or are they completely new to this?
SH: It is not unusual to find a participant who considers herself as "not outdoorsy in the least!", yet thoroughly enjoys herself and learns something she will do again. Lots of ladies go out and buy Dutch ovens or fishing rods or a handgun as a result of the event.
I attended an event and ended up in an archery class that I didn't think would interest me. Now I have a bow and it has opened many more hunting opportunities to me that I wouldn't have had in rifle season alone. It's also fun to spend an afternoon with friends at an archery shop shooting 3D.
NWTF: Sherry, why should women join Women in the Outdoors?
SH: Whether I am attending an event as a paying participant, instructor or event coordinator, I encourage ladies to get involved in the WITO program. Our outdoors and natural resources are truly the only legacy we can protect and pass on to our children. I want my great, great grandchildren to be able to trail ride, fish, swim, hike, camp and hunt in a clean and healthy environment.
We are voters and we have a voice. We need to do everything possible to protect our outdoors heritage and we can start by enjoying it ourselves and passing that education and pleasure on to our children. Many women have explored new avenues of fun with their families by sharing their knowledge and outdoor skills.
Need friends? Try Dutch oven cooking in a state park campground - a simple chocolate cake will keep you from being lonely!
NWTF: Anything else you'd like to mention?
SH: Like most women today, I have a demanding, challenging full-time career. I also teach computer classes in the evenings. I like being busy during the week because weekends are my "play outdoors" time. The great outdoors is my therapy and reward for a week's hard work. There is no better medicine for me than sitting in a boat fishing, riding through miles of trail or open country on horseback, cooking over an open fire or just sitting in the woods enjoying nature. It is healthy, inexpensive, gratifying, satisfying and delightful. I think everyone should try it!