For those who love the outdoors and would like to try their hand at recreational sports such as fly fishing, turkey hunting, or outdoor photography, you might be tempted to check out the Manitoba Wildlife Federation’s ‘Becoming an Outdoors Woman’ (BOW) weekend retreat that takes place each spring.  

The Manitoba Wildlife Federation (MWF) launched the first BOW weekend in Canada 28 years ago – the 25th Anniversary celebration was in the spring of 2019. Due to covid the past 2 years, the BOW weekend had to be postponed and now there is a lengthy list of women who are eager to get back to BOW! 

Carly Deacon is the Managing Director for the MWF and coordinates the annual retreat. 

Deacon says this year’s BOW is scheduled for the weekend of June 10th, but already the list of participants, a maximum of 80, has all but been filled. Those who were on the list of attendees in 2020 get first right of refusal, and then the opportunity opens up to the list of more than 100 women on the waiting list. 

When asked how the weekend retreat grew to be such a success, Deacon says the event has been gaining momentum over the 25 years, so much so that when registration opens the system crashes with the overwhelming amount of online activity! 

“The event is geared towards giving women the opportunity to learn a ton of different outdoor skills in an environment that is pretty spectacular,” explains Deacon. “So, it’s light, it’s non-competitive, you’re learning from incredible instructors, and you’re in the same boat with like-minded women trying to learn.” 

“So, it’s giving women the opportunity to learn a new skill or a new talent that’s not intimidating,” she adds. 

BOW offers between 40-45 workshops that span the interests of boating/kayaking skills, recreational hunting and field dressing, survival skills, geocaching, archery and angling, and more! New to this year’s itinerary is porcupine quilling. The weekend attracts all ages (over the age of 18) from grandmothers to teenagers, with all levels of skills, from across the entire province, all with a passion for the outdoors.  

“It’s a really, really cool dynamic of women that makes the weekend so special, and it’s an experience that I think stays with women for a long time,” shares Deacon. “I often hear from women of how they met new friends and are now pursuing their new skills together. That’s what’s pretty cool about BOW; you find that first time experience in an outdoor skill and then you meet new friends who are also trying and now you do those outdoor skills with those new friends going forward.” 

It’s interesting to note that the majority of instructors are women. Deacon says that number is growing. The volunteer group to run the BOW weekend is around 50 people. A natural succession plan develops as more women join the weekend event, with varying skills and interests. Many are thrilled to share their passions, and this blossoms into additional workshops and tutorials.  

That’s what happened with this year’s smoking fish and porcupine quilling workshops; women were inspired to share their skills with other women. 

"That’s the goal,” adds Deacon. “You connect them with the course and then add more resources throughout their journey, and then they’ll think, ‘Hey! I’m super confident in this subject and I’d like to instruct!’” 

That’s the perfect model and it seems to be working,” she adds.