What a weekend!
This past weekend I was on the Ontario Anglers and Hunters annual W.O.W. weekend or Women’s Outdoor Weekend. This is a weekend dedicated to letting women experience traditionally male outdoor activities in a safe, non-judgemental space and have a ton of fun.
Since I was a kid I have been against activities like hunting. As I have learned more about farming, my attitude towards hunting has changed greatly. After having participated in this past weekend, I have had many pre-conceived notions harvesting wild animals challenged and hence changed.
The weekend ran from Friday afternoon until Sunday afternoon at Kinark Outdoor Centre in Minden. Kinark is a great space to go and do something like this. the scenery is beautiful, the staff were great and the food was good. The only downside was that we all had to sleep in kids bunk beds. Being on the top bunk isn’t really my idea of fun anymore:)
I arrived later on Friday afternoon. We have dinner and then given a presentation about fishing from Get Fishing, a guide company that specializes in bringing kids out on their first fishing outing.
Saturday was the BIG day, and it was pouring. It rained pretty much all day, but that didn’t stop us. We continued on regardless. I had a chance to shoot a gun, crossbow, compound bow, go fishing, and learn how to use a GPS.
Three arrows I got into the target using the long bow. I also got a bulls-eye with the compound.
First was the archery. The instructors were two very nice women who had been bow hunting for a while. They began by coming to one of these weekends years ago. First I tried the compound bow. Being a lefty I didn’t have a lot of choice in which bow I used. It was quite an experience. The feel of pulling the string back to a certain point, then bringing it back just that little bit further was enjoyable for some reason. Positioning my body, something akin to archery yoga, sighting the arrow, and then releasing my fingers from around the string was a bit of a rush. The wonderfully quiet whoosh as the string returned to it’s natural position is like no other sound I have ever heard. It was an amazing experience. I also tried the long bow, kind of like the one that Robin Hood would have used. That one I really liked. The direct nature of a curved stick and a string was extremely visceral. I chose to stick with that one and do some target practice. On Sunday I tried the crossbow. Not my favourite, but I can see why it is used for hunting. It is powerful, fast, accurate, and much kinder to the animal.
One of the other women firing a .22
Shooting was next. Having never shot a gun before it was pretty intimidating. Up until that point I had only ever held a gun once before. The first thing the instructors explained to us was the safe handling of a firearm. they were really good about reinforcing it throughout the time we spent with them as well.We had the choice of starting at the skeet shooting or at the firing range. Not having ever fired a gun before I chose to begin at the firing range.The first gun I tried was a .20 gauge Beretta semi-automatic rifle. I discovered afterward that the higher the number the smaller the “bullet”. My stance was choreographed, my safety was flicked and “BANG” I shot my first shot. The emotions after that first fire were pretty powerful. I then went on to try a .12 gauge, and a. 20 gauge Franchi. The Franchi fit me really well. I ended up hitting 3 skeets in a row with it!
Sunday we had the chance to fire a .22 with a scope. I have to say that I found this rather easy. I had three shots, all three of which hit the stationary skeets. I put two bullets into one skeet. I far preferred the challenge of traditional skeet shooting.
Finally I went fishing. Unfortunately I didn’t catch anything except underwater trees, but I did learn a lot. I found out how to put bait on a hook so it didn’t snag weeds, I learned about trolling, and where to find fish. Dave took me out in a canoe and we had a good chat about fishing. The lake was windy so we kept drifting to the far end of the lake. Finally we came in and I cast my line off of the end of the dock. As it was mid-day I never caught anything, but some of the earlier groups had, and some others i my group caught fish. The lake was full of large mouth bass. I had a general idea of how to tell some common fish apart due to the excellent presentation given by “Serge” and Yvonne of Get Fishing Guiding. It was a lot of fun.
It had been a tiring day on Saturday. The sun finally broke through around 5pm or so, once all the activities were finished. That evening’s dinner was a delicious pig roast. The evening’s presenter was about trapping. Yes, line trapping. The two men that gave the presentation was excellent. I even put my hand in one of the new style leg hold traps. Yes, my hand is fine, it isn’t even bruised. I learned what animals could be trapped, the laws surrounding them, and what illegal trapping is. Like hunting, there is a lot I didn’t know about trapping that was worth finding out. I can’t say that I am a convert, but it was a fascinating talk that has got me thinking.
Throughout the weekend there was a raffle going on. At the last minute I broke down and bought a book of tickets. There wasn’t too much that I wanted, with the exception of a package that had 2 rods, reels, a tackle box, net, and some other odds and fishing ends. I put all my tickets in the bucket for that prize. There were quite a number in there, so I still didn’t expect to win. At the end of the weekend, just before going home the raffle took place. There were some great prizes. A trolling motor, a camping set, a nice crossbow, lots of fishing gear, all kinds of stuff had been donated. Well, I ended up winning the prize I had put my tickets in for. I was quite surprised (there were a lot of tickets in there)and pleased. Now Tim and I can go fishing together!
All the money that is made from the raffle goes back into the WOW program to keep it affordable. The price is kept low by also having only one paid Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters employee. All of the instructors, cleaners, and presenters were volunteers. Finally i also met a lot of really great women. Each woman had an inspiring story to share. We were all at different points in our hunting journey. Carrie was an experienced bow hunter, while Christine, Delia, and myself were here as curious newbies. Some, like Sylvia, were sent by their husbands, and others came with friends. Many new friendships were made over the weekend no doubt.
So will I begin hunting? Well, I think so. Fishing will be the beginning. I have a long way to go before I will be hunting though. Hunting courses, firearms licenses, and of course, lots of gear. One step at a time right? I couldn’t help but be amazed and inspired at how passionate all the people involved were. Every single instructor, and more experienced hunter had such an amazing knowledge of the natural world around them. Not once did I hear anything about trophy hunting or going out “for the hell of it”. No, the dedication they had to the environment and the creatures in it was astounding. The whole weekend has given me a lot to consider, and a new found respect for hunters.