Ohio WITO coordinator welcomes the uninitiated

Amy McKenzie was once a participant in the NWTF Ohio State
Women in the Outdoors Event. She came to learn. Now she’s helping to edify others like her all over the state.

Thirteen years after she first saw an Ohio Department of Natural Resources brochure at the state fair advertising a WITO program, McKenzie is now the state coordinator for NWTF Ohio WITO 3-Day Event. The program won Best WITO Event for 75-150 participants in 2015, the Membership Achievement Award in 2016 and the Partnership Award in 2017. McKenzie is a two-time nominee for the Annie Oakley Award (highest honor given to a WITO volunteer) and a 2017 Barry Cowen Award recipient (given to outstanding Ohio local chapter volunteers).

In the beginning, McKenzie just wanted to feel comfortable around guns. She didn’t grow up in a firearm family and took it upon herself to learn how to use them safely.

“The idea of going into a program where I could learn about firearms in a safe environment and be comfortable with them was my first goal,” she said. “After that first event, I got hooked. It was the comradery of the women, the variety of classes and the fact that I could try something completely out of my comfort zone … I liked that the programs spoke to all levels of skill and ability, as well as interest.”

The Ohio State Chapter will hold its 19th Annual 3-Day Women’s Event Sept. 7-9 at Pleasant Hill Outdoor Center in Perrysville this fall. Events run the gamut, from shooting sports to crafts and cooking, plus self-defense classes, a small game hunt and more. More than 100 women will attend, many learning about the outdoors, conservation and our hunting heritage for the first time.

Since 2005, McKenzie has served as an event volunteer, instructor, planning committee member and state chapter treasurer. She describes herself as a “backward” volunteer, first learning to volunteer before becoming a hunter.

“Now I have turkey hunted, gotten my concealed carry license and am looking at what we can bring to the women who come to our events,” McKenzie said. “It’s all about getting them in the door. We have to start somewhere.”

McKenzie was recently hired as a paralegal in her hometown of Columbus and much of the interview focused on her volunteer work with the NWTF. “I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished,” she said.

Ohio’s WITO program also runs additional programs throughout the state. The Grand River WITO event in May introduces as many as 110 women to the shooting sports annually at Crooked Creek Conservation Club in Hartsgrove. The South Hills WITO event, scheduled for Sept. 29-30 at K-Hill Shooting Range in Kitts Hill, has seen as many as 75 women attend and learn about firearms, hunting and other outdoor recreation.

Through the years, McKenzie has seen a woman overcome the fear of a burglary by attending one of the self-defense classes offered — “By the end of the event, she had learned to let go of her fear, but she had done it in a safe environment, and it was very empowering for her to have the opportunity,” McKenzie recalls.

McKenzie also watched a novice female attendee who had never hunted fall in love with turkey hunting at the Grand River event — “She got a bird at the hunt and has gone on to hunt antelope, deer, boar and bear,” McKenzie said. “You talk about creating a monster. You just never know the road these women are coming from.” 

Article Categories