For those who love the outdoors and would like to try their hand at recreational sports like fly fishing, turkey hunting, or outdoor photography, you might be tempted to check out the Becoming Weekend Retreat. an Outdoors Woman” (BOW) from the Manitoba Wildlife Federation. which takes place every spring.
The Manitoba Wildlife Federation (MWF) launched the first BOW weekend in Canada 28 years ago – the 25th anniversary celebration was held in the spring of 2019. Due to covid for the past 2 years, the weekend -end BOW had to be postponed and now there is a long list of women who can’t wait to return to BOW!
Carly Deacon is the Executive Director of MWF and coordinates the annual retreat.
Deacon says this year’s BOW is scheduled for the weekend of June 10, but already the roster of attendees, a maximum of 80, is nearly full. Those who were on the list of participants in 2020 get the first right of refusal, then the opportunity opens up to the list of more than 100 women on the waiting list.
When asked how the weekend retreat became such a success, Deacon said the event has grown in size over the past 25 years, so much so that when registration opens , the system crashes with the overwhelming amount of online activity!
“The event aims to give women the opportunity to learn a ton of different outdoor skills in a pretty spectacular environment,” Deacon explains. “So it’s lighthearted, it’s non-competitive, you learn with amazing instructors, and you’re in the same boat with like-minded women trying to learn.”
“So it gives women the opportunity to learn a new skill or talent that isn’t intimidating,” she adds.
BOW offers between 40 and 45 workshops that cover interests in boating/kayak techniques, recreational hunting and field dressing, survival techniques, geocaching, archery and angling, and more! New to this year’s itinerary is porcupine quilling. The weekend attracts all ages (over 18), from grandmas to teenagers, with all skill levels, from across the province, all passionate about the outdoors.
“It’s a really, really cool female dynamic that makes the weekend so special, and it’s an experience that I think sticks with women for a long time,” Deacon shares. “I often hear women talk about how they’ve made new friends and are now developing their new skills together. That’s the pretty cool thing about BOW; you find that first experience in an outdoor skill, then you meet new friends who are also trying and now you are doing these outdoor skills with these new friends in the future.
Interestingly, the majority of instructors are women. Deacon says that number is growing. The group of volunteers to organize the BOW weekend is about 50 people. A natural succession plan develops as more women join the weekend event, with varying skills and interests. Many are excited to share their passions, and that translates into additional workshops and tutorials.
This is what happened this year with the fish smoking and porcupine quilling workshops; women were inspired to share their skills with other women.
“That’s the goal,” adds Deacon. “You connect them to the course, then add more resources along their journey, and then they’ll think, ‘Hey! I’m super confident in this subject and would love to teach!”
It’s the perfect model and it seems to work,” she adds.