Co-hosted by the NWTF Maryland State Chapter and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the recently held Women in the Outdoors event was the first of its kind in the state.
“We’ve always had events that engaged new women hunters, be it mentored hunts or other educational opportunities,” said Russ Leith, NWTF Maryland State Chapter board member and NWTF Monocacy Valley Chapter president. “However, we’ve never had an event with new or novice women hunters on this scale. It was great to see such a large amount of interest.”
Over 50 women showed up to learn about wild game cooking and processing, shotgun patterning, fishing, archery and, of course, turkey hunting.
“I was happy to help organize the event, but the real rock stars were the talented female instructors who we able to engage with the aspiring hunters on a deeper level and who better understood the challenges women face with getting into the outdoors,” Leith said. “It was great to see everyone so engrossed in the outdoors lifestyle; I suspect I will be hearing about many first-time harvests this fall season.”
What made the event particularly relevant to R3 efforts (recruit, retain, reactivate new hunters) was that the MDNR helped vet each of the participants, ensuring those who were new to hunting or those who had never hunted before were given priority to attend the event.
One of the participants, Melisa Boyle Acuti, had her first hunt last fall at the First Shot adult-mentored hunt event hosted by the NWTF, MDNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The novice hunter was excited to engage in more outdoor activities to build her repertoire as a hunter.
“It was such an amazing program,” she said. “I primarily wanted to go to learn more about archery and shooting. There was also a wild game cooking and butchering demo, and I was like, ‘This is what I came here to learn.’ That is why I want to get more involved in hunting to harvest my own food.”
Funds provided by the NWTF were supplied from the NWTF Maryland State Chapter’s Super Fund, a funding model where NWTF volunteers raise money at banquets and other types of fundraisers and then allocate a significant portion of those funds back into meaningful conservation and outreach projects in their respective states, such as the this new WITO event.
“We had a lot of great partners that made this event possible this year,” Leith said. “From the DNR helping us garner participation to all the folks who dedicated time, equipment and services for the participants to enjoy, we are incredibly grateful for everyone who came together to make this event such a success. We look forward to doing it again next year.”