Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Becoming an Outdoor Woman Workshop

Recently I participated in a nationwide workshop called Becoming an Outdoor Woman. It's a weekend long workshop that focuses on teaching woman a variety of outdoor skills in a positive and fun environment. The BOW workshop that I attended was in Custer, South Dakota at the Outlaw Ranch and was sponsored by SD Game, Fish and Parks. When I signed up for BOW I selected four courses that I wanted to attend and get hands-on experience with. For my first BOW I chose Wild Game Cooking, Dutch Oven Cooking, Birding and ID and Map & Compass. There were so many options that it was hard to narrow it down to just four!

The weekend kicked off with an orientation. There were about 100 women who were there to participate and probably another 30 people who were instructors. It turned out that the majority of women were attending for their first time just like me, which made me feel a bit better. After our welcome we all headed to the location of the first class. I apparently has been daydreaming when an announcement was made that my first class, Wild Game Cooking, had changed locations. I went to the old spot and waited at the picnic tables with another lady, Gerri. We started talking and exchanging stories about how we had come to be there. She was great company and before long we realized that we must have missed something. Without any trouble we were able to find the rest of our class and a weekend of fun began.

Wild Game Cooking

There were about 8 other woman enrolled in this class with me. Most of them either had a bit of experience cooking wild game or none at all. I'd had a bit, mostly deer and moose, but when I read on the brochure that snow goose would be involved I knew that this was a class where I would be learning something.

Wild Game Cooking, Retrieved from BOW Facebook, 9.11
Since the classes are 3-4 hours long we had time to prepare an entire meal. We made deer steak salad, where the deer had been marinated in a mustard sauce. We also made poppers with snow goose, some of the meat had been soaked in a milk brine and some in a salt brine. It was amazing how we could really taste the difference between the two. I also had never used a brine before and so this was a totally new way to spice up meat. We also enjoyed a pate made with pheasant. It was amazing and the recipe was very simple. I think that I could make this with wild turkey too. We learned how to make a sun-dried tomato elk tenderloin which was phenomenal. The last thing that we made was a pheasant and chukar soup. We actually got to field dress the birds that were used in the soup. That was something I had never done. It was surprising easy and really not that messy. What a skill I got to learn!

At the end they provided us with all of the recipes that we had made and additionally BOW had purchased a full Wild Game Cooking cookbook for each of us. This was a very delicious and education class! I've brought the ideas home and can't wait for some new game to experiment on!

Dutch Oven Cooking

I attended Dutch Oven Cooking on Saturday morning. The class was taught by The Patrick Sister who are two of the funniest, sweetest ladies I have ever met. They told us about their start at cooking in dutch ovens which coincidentally enough was about 10 years before at a BOW workshop.  They walked us through the history of dutch oven cooking and showed us the variety of dutch ovens out there. Then we got to cooking.

Scotch Eggs Dutch Oven Style, 9.11
There was a group about 10-12 ladies and we broke into groups of 2-3 to each make a meal. As a group we made chocolate bread pudding, scotch eggs, apple turnovers, breakfast pizza rolls and a spinach quiche. For a group of women with barely any experience we did a fantastic job. Everything came out perfectly delicious.

We each walked away with the confidence and ability to cook up a great meal in a dutch oven. The Patrick Sisters also gave us each a copy of their recently published Full Circle Dutch Oven Cookbook. I can't wait to take this class again next year!

Bird ID and Birding

Saturday after lunch I went to Birding and Bird ID taught by Lynn Purdy and Maggie Engler, two very knowledgeable women. I decided to take this class because I'm not a South Dakota native and so I'm not very familiar with the birds in the Hills. I had and still do have a lot to learn but I'm more inspired than ever. 

There were maybe 10 people in this class and after a brief orientation we grabbed a pair of binoculars we headed outside. Even though the class was mid-afternoon we were still able to see a few birds. I learned to name some birds I had been seeing around Outlaw Ranch and a bird that's only found in the Hills. It was really fun to watch the birds playing in the pasture or to try to pick them out of the thickets or just to find them eating on the ground. It's amazing what you don't see!

Birding and Bird ID, Retrieved from BOW Facebook, 9.11
After spending some time outside we ventured back to the warmth and wrapped up. Lynn and Maggie provided us with posters, birding lists and books on landscaping for wildlife in our own backyard. I learned so much and walked away with a ton of resources. I'm very happy that I took this class and had the opportunity to meet Lynn and Maggie. It was very fun!

Later that evening there was a feast prepared by the SD Conservation Officers Association. This is something that they do each year at BOW to raise awareness about events they do throughout the year and to raise money. Over the past few years whenever a bighorn or mountain goat was hit the Conservation Officers tried to save the meat for occasions like this. A few years ago a moose (which are incredibly rare in the Hills) was poached and the SDCOA salvaged it and had some meat saved for the BOW dinner. When someone had taken well over their limit on walleye and perch the fish were confiscated and saved for the dinner. That night I saw the most diverse and delicious array of wild game. They served walleye, perch, wild turkey, mule deer, moose, mountain goat, and bighorn sheep. There may have been other meats but I was so excited to try mountain goat and bighorn sheep that everything else was eclipsed. I'm pretty sure that I had elk, too, but I can't be sure. To support their cause and to show my appreciation I purchased a t-shirt for myself and my husband. There was no way that he was going to believe my night without some hard evidence.

Map and Compass

On Sunday morning I attended my last class, Map and Compass. I was pretty confidant going in that I could work with a compass because for my jobs I had always been required to keep a bearing and to draw maps but what I wasn't used to was working my way around a map and taking bearings straight from it.

We started out learning to identify map symbols and how to read the contour lines. I really learned a lot. For example, I learned how to read which was a stream flows by the contour lines that run through it. After that we learned how to take a bearing from maps and how to adjust for true north. There's a lot to think about when you are trying to get somewhere with just a map and compass!

Map and Compass 9.11
When we got that down we headed outside to try out our new skills on real terrain. First, we practiced reading the bearing and matching it to our pace. That was fun and once we got that down we were set upon a real course that brought us all around Outlaw Ranch. There were five checkpoints that we had to find and with a little group help we found all five. We had to navigate around a lake, up to a rock outcropping, across a pasture, to a small meandering stream and then back to where we had started. It was awesome! Map and compass work is a really great way to encourage team work and build confidence!

After we had completed the course we were all gifted the compass that we had worked with. This was great because the compasses were small, simple and could be used to read any 1:24,000 scaled map. I can't wait to pass on some of my new skills to my friends!

After the weekend had come to a wrap I was truly sad to be heading home. The women that I had met over the course of the weekend were all so spirited and fun that it actually brought a tear to my eye to know that I would have to wait a whole year to have another experience like this. Becoming an Outdoor Woman had been a successful weekend. I had learned several new skills and my confidence in being outside and learning new things was high. Now, I am counting down until next year and I hope that some of my friends will come with me. It's something that every woman should experience!

Thank you to all the people who made this weekend possible. Thank you to every women who brought their great attitudes and made this a great experience. I hope to see you all again!

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