Let’s face it: choosing to rough it in the wilderness doesn’t rank high on many women’s list of Favourite Things To Do. But the Alberta Hunter Education Instructors’ Association (AHEIA) Outdoor Women’s Program is changing that, one female at a time.
Celebrating their 22nd anniversary, the ladies-only program will run from August 5th to 9th at its Alford Lake Conservation Centre for Excellence, where a maximum of 150 participants will have the opportunity to experience, explore and gain an understanding of the natural world with a wide range of hands-on programs.
“The initial concept behind these sessions was to help women gain confidence in getting outside,” says Michael Short, host of Let’s Go Outdoors. “Of course, everyone associates being in nature as a ‘guy’s thing’, but that’s far from the reality,” he says. “More and more, women are taking up getting into the wilderness, and not just with their family, but on their own or with a group of friends. They’re taking excursions on their own, many are hunting on their own, and part of the success in regard to those always increasing numbers is due to this program,” he says.
Some of the courses offered include archery, quading, moccasin making, fly fishing, firearm basics, field dressing, outdoor cooking, chainsaw basics, how to handle a canoe, how to back up a trailer, sourcing edible plants, arrow crafting, game calling 101 and many more. Each session runs approximately three hours long and women of all ages are invited to participate at their own speed and level of interest.
All courses are taught by certified instructors at the Alford Lake Conservation Centre for Excellence site, and each day is sectioned off to include a morning/nature power walk, breakfast, announcements, a session, lunch, announcements, another session, free time, dinner and evening events/sessions.
Short says one of the standouts is the wilderness camping component, which is broken into two parts. “First the participants are taught to build their own shelter, how to navigate the forest and how to perform basic first aid. Once they have these necessities under their belts, they go out as a group and apply the basics of survival they’ve learned in the woods,” he says. “They build their shelters, their own fires and end up spending the night in the bush. It’s amazing to see how these women, who come from all walks of life, embrace the process and end up loving something that is often out of their comfort zone.”
“I volunteered as an instructor for nine years and was always impressed by the participants of the program, which have included lawyers, police offers, students, housewives, teachers and ranchers from all over the province,” says Short. “The bottom line is that it’s perfect for anyone with a love of the outdoors.”