Tammi Foster grew up in New Jersey, where, like most youngsters her age, she spent a chunk of time outdoors.
“I did archery as a kid, and I fished as a teenager,” she recalled.
When Foster was in high school, her family moved to the San Francisco area. She attended college in Los Angeles. Became a nurse. Moved to Oakland. Began her career. Got married. Started a family. There was little time for, or really little interest in, outdoor pursuits. Then in 2000, she and her family moved to Warsaw, Kentucky, a Gallatin County hamlet on the Ohio River about halfway between Carrollton and Lawrenceburg, Indiana.
Life on the Ohio has an outdoor flavor. At the invitation of a friend, Foster attended a Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) conference.
She’s been a regular attendee ever since, most recently at the January BOW meeting at Kenlake State Resort Park, where she participated in the eagle tour that opened the conference, then joined a birding workshop the following morning and planned to learn about wild mushrooms that afternoon.
The Becoming an Outdoors Woman program has introduced Foster to kayaking, archery, wall climbing, zip lining and learning about edible plants and how to attract birds to her back yard. Although not a hunter, she also has enjoyed the shotgun and rifle classes. And she’s become a camper.
There have been challenges, which she has welcomed.
“It is a wonderful program. Just great fun,” said Foster, a 50-year-old married mother of two. Her daughter, Jessica, is a senior at Northern Kentucky University and son Sam is a sophomore at Centre College. Foster is a pleasant, friendly woman, fit and focused, with inquisitive, lively eyes and salt-and-pepper, shoulder-length hair. She’s not someone you’d guess at first glance would be an enthusiastic Ohio River kayaker. But she is.
“One thing I like about the BOW weekends is how empowered they make you feel,” she explained while building a platform bird feeder, which was part of the birding workshop. “It allows you to move out of your comfort zone. And it also allows you to be a mentor.”
The Becoming an Outdoors Woman program began in Wisconsin more than 20 years ago. It was quickly adopted by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, which, in conjunction with the League of Kentucky Sportsmen, Department of Parks, Kentucky Commission on Women, Cooperative Extension Service and the University of Kentucky, annually hosts two, three-day BOW workshops. A one-day session has been added this year and will be held next month at the Salato Wildlife Education Center, which is located on the agency headquarters property near Frankfort.
Thirty-eight other states, including Indiana, also offer Becoming an Outdoors Woman programs.
The events are designed for women who simply wish to learn more about a variety of outdoor pursuits. Participants can choose from a range of workshops, all of which are structured to provide basic, entry-level classroom and hands-on instruction. Workshops range from archery and fly tying to tree identification and kayaking to game tracking and firearm safety. Attendees generally range in age from late teens and early 20s to women in their 70s or older.
All are welcome.
“We try to have something for just about everyone,” said spokesman Norm Minch.
The fall Kentucky BOW program, which is the larger of the two annual events, usually attracts around 130 participants. This year, it is scheduled for Sept. 16-18 at the Lake Cumberland 4-H Leadership Center near Nancy.
Foster plans to be there.
“I already have it on my calendar,” she said. “[BOW] has become part of my life. I would absolutely encourage other women to look into it.”
For more information about the Becoming an Outdoors Woman program, including the one-day session slated for next month at the Salato Center or the September gathering, go to fw.ky.gov or call the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources at 1-800-858-1549.
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