Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW)

Organization Sponsor: University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point


Program Description

Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) is a non-profit, educational program offering hands-on workshops to adult women. We encourage a supportive environment conducive to learning, making friends, and having fun. No experience is necessary and BOW is for women of all ages and fitness levels. More than 80 weekend-long workshops are held all across North America annually. The workshops introduce women to a variety of activities equally balanced between hunting and shooting, fishing, and non-harvest sports like canoeing and camping. Participants choose from a list of over 20 activities.

This year BOW celebrates the 20th Anniversary of offering outdoor skills workshops to women throughout North America. Numerous organizations, companies, and people have made this possible.
Weekend long, multi-course workshops are held all across North America and in New Zealand.

BOW program coordinators are also expanding to offer Beyond BOW events that include actual pheasant, turkey or deer hunts, guided fly fishing, caving excursions, sea kayaking, horse packing trips and more. The Beyond BOW concept was spurred on by requests from women who wanted to take the next step in learning following their BOW experience.

BOW also researched ways to better welcome women with disabilities to outdoor recreation. We know that women who attend BOW workshops gain self-confidence and self-esteem in addition to outdoor skills. We want to make sure women in underrepresented groups are included in this unique program.

The traditional multi-course BOW workshops are generally held at camps or resorts. Participants stay in heated cabins or lodges that may be rustic, but have basic modern amenities including hot showers. Meals are provided and cooked by the camp staff. The focus for the weekend is learning in a comfortable atmosphere.

The workshops begin around noon on Friday. Fun remains the watch word from start to finish during three days of camaraderie with like-minded women.

Program Approximate Cost: 

$2000 depends on event

Funding Sources: 

With the help of funding provided by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Wisconsin Environmental Education Board, and other organizations,

Strategies For Sustainability: 

Specialty programming like BOW and Beyond BOW have become successful due in large part to important on-going research related to women and outdoor activities conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point College of Natural Resources.

Impact Of Program: 

Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) means becoming more competent, more confident, and more aware. BOW is an outdoor skills program that offers women a chance to grow. 20,000+ women attend BOW events every year.

Evaluation Tools: 

n 1995, former BOW Director Diane Lueck published her Master's thesis on the effects of the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program on attitudes of women. Her research showed that women who attend BOW are more likely to increase participation in outdoor activities compared to women who do not attend a workshop.

Key Elements Towards Success: 

The growth of BOW means we are reaching more women and providing them with a venue to learn not just outdoor skills, but also more about themselves, says Director Peggy Farrell. Women all across the country have told us, BOW has changed my life. That's a powerful endorsement telling us the program is even bigger than learning how to set up a tent or tie a fly.

Challenges To Meet Them: 

Women's involvement in outdoor activities is enhanced by availability of inexpensive programs, equipment, companions to participate with, and activities available close to home.Participants who responded to the research survey said they are happy with the structure of weekend-long BOW workshops and the program's focus on adult women.

Length and Stage of Project: 

The program began in 1991, offered through the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. The first workshop, held at Treehaven Field Station near Tomahawk, filled to capacity with over 100 participants. This successful program, founded by Dr. Christine Thomas, has become popular in more than 40 states, several Canadian provinces and New Zealand.

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