Carly Deacon, program manager for the Manitoba Wildlife Federation, has been interested in helping women discover the outdoors for a long time.
She organized and delivered the first ladies duck hunt in Canada, an event held in 2007 at the Delta Marsh here in Manitoba.
Deacon especially enjoys teaching other women how to hunt.
“I just love seeing the girls’ faces when they hit their first clay target, get their first duck or cook their first game meal. They just get so excited and I kind of feed off of that,” Deacon says.
“I find the ladies so eager and so easy to teach.”
The fastest-growing segment of new hunters in North America is female participants.
“I just think that in the old days hunting was seen as something for men and boys, but I think there were probably lots of women and girls who wanted to try it, but they just didn’t have the opportunity. That’s all changed now,” Deacon says, when asked why that is the case.
One of her favourite responsibilities is running the federation’s award-winning Becoming an Outdoors-woman (BOW) program.
“BOW is just amazing. The girls have their pick of over 30 workshops ranging from how to filet a fish, outdoor cooking, field dressing big game, archery and shooting every type of gun imaginable,” she says.
Becoming an Outdoors-woman is held the last weekend in May at the Circle Square Ranch near Austin, Man.
It is a three-day event Deacon says is focused on encouraging women of any age to get outside their comfort zone.
“The ladies find the whole thing so empowering,” Deacon says.
“Trying new things that they might find kind of scary, overcoming those fears — it is a huge experience that they absolutely love. The women are so supportive and non-competitive that they create an environment that brings out the best in them.”
Many of the BOW graduates want to try their new-found skills in the field.
“The ladies wanted a chance to try hunting in a mentored environment, so we created Beyond BOW, which provides waterfowl and deer hunting mentored hunts for BOW graduates,” Deacon says. “We just held a Ladies Waterfowl Hunt at the Delta Marsh last weekend and it was magical. Fifteen ladies hunted and not only did they bag a bunch of geese and ducks, they learned how to do every part themselves, including finding the hunting spots, setting up the decoys, calling the birds, shooting and ultimately cleaning and cooking the fowl.
“The independence they achieve, being able to say they did it totally on their own, bagging their own wild game dinner, it is hard to put into words how powerful an experience that is for them.”
One of the most encouraging developments in recent times in the ladies outdoor scene is the emergence of a new group of female mentors that call themselves Team Lady Fowlers.
Deacon is a member of this eight-person team of female hunters who are on a mission to make waterfowl hunting more accessible to ladies across Manitoba.
The cool part is that the Lady Fowlers are a product of the female-focused mentoring Deacon has been building in Manitoba her entire career.
“I am so excited about Team Lady Fowlers. It is a bright vision and concept created by passionate mentors and our best lady participants who wanted to created new female leaders that could go out and create new mentored hunts on their own,” Deacon says.
“The entire team helped run our recent Continuing Education Workshop Women’s Mentored Waterfowl Hunt. I’m so incredibly proud of those women. Team Lady Fowlers is the next logical step in our hunter recruitment programming, to train new mentors, that happen to be ladies.”
It sounds like the good old days are now for getting more and more women into the outdoors.
And if that process is leading to the creation of a few more Carly Deacons in this province, well the future prospects of providing better opportunities for women to get out hunting looks bright.
Rob Olson is the Managing Director of the Manitoba Wildlife Federation.