My First Official Women in the Outdoors Event

You remember back in the day when your neighbors would invite you over for a little gathering just to bore you with a slide show of their most recent vacation? Well, I’m about to do the same thing to you, except with photos, and I’m sure you won’t be bored!  Of course, you will thank me for sorting though several hundred in order to narrow it down to just a choice few that would help illustrate the weekend’s events.  I’m sure you’re going to enjoy them!

My First Official Women in the Outdoors Event

The National Wild Turkey Federation sponsors Women in the Outdoors events through smaller local chapters. This past weekend the LA Bossy Hens chapter of the NWTF held an WITO event, and the young woman in the photo below is the reason I ended up there.

My First Official Women in the Outdoors EventHer name is Jessica H., and I found her while working for a casting firm looking for female gator hunters back in July.  (A Facebook friend of a friend referred her to me, so see?  There is something to be said about that social networking stuff. ) She hunts alligators with her husband and young son near the Mansura area. While Jessica hunts gators, her mother owns a business called “Big Mama’s Gators” and buys the animals during the annual season in September.   Even though Jessica and her family weren’t chosen as finalists for the TV show, she was kind enough to invite me to the first ever LA Bossy Hens Women in the Outdoors weekend event.

My First Official Women in the Outdoors Event

The event was held Friday through Sunday morning at the Cecil J. Picard Educational Center located in a beautiful wooded area near Bunkie, LA.

My First Official Women in the Outdoors Event

After I checked in, I drove around back to find Cabin No. 4, I experienced an overwhelming feeling that I had been there before.

As I entered one of the four bunk rooms and turned slowly in a circle, the memories came flooding in all at once.  I walked back to the front door, wondering if it could be so.  Pushing open the door, I gazed out over a huge field of freshly-cut grass and was certain of it, then.  During a hot, dry summer 45 years ago, I had marched long hours on that field as part of the junior high marching band.  That was the most miserably hot and sweaty week of my life (before and since), and I swore I would never go to “Camp Hessmer” again.

Well, Fate must have been laughing at me 45 years ago when I swore I’d never go back there and again as I stood there experiencing a real case of deja vu last Friday afternoon.  I could be wrong, but I’m almost certain I was in the exact same cabin as before, except this time I wouldn’t be marching around the field.

Women in the Outdoors Workshops

Want to see what I would be doing instead?

My First Official Women in the Outdoors Event
Alligator Hide

First off, I joined a large group of ladies to watch the skinning of a seven-foot, two-inch-long alligator.  Ronnie Guy, a nuisance gator hunter from Lecompte, skinned this alligator while explaining how the unfortunate animal had bitten a resident’s dog, warranting its demise.  He also shared with us information about the hides, their uses, what his job involves, as well as answering our copious questions.

My First Official Women in the Outdoors Event
Queen’s Limo

Friday afternoon, we bought our chances to be the Queen of the event and get carted around in this fabulous ride.  After supper, the drawing took place to see just who would win the honor of being chauffeured around all weekend plus a table full of pink prizes.

My First Official Women in the Outdoors Event
Queen Joni

My new friend Joni won, and didn’t she make a fantastic queen?  I sucked up to her really fast, because this place was huge, and a ride might come in handy! (Remember, I was determined NOT to march anywhere around this place again!)

My First Official Women in the Outdoors Event
Carving a Thimble

Wood carving turned out to be a very popular class.  A local craftsman brought in all kinds of wood and sharp tools and taught the ladies how to carve a thimble and/or a wooden spoon.  These ladies enjoyed his class so much that they continued at his table at every spare moment they had.

Between classes, there were games set up around the room which we could play and in turn receive raffle tickets for chances to win a couple of guns.  I really had my eye on the Remington 1100 .20 gauge, which was a straight raffle ticket purchase, so I went large and bought three chances!

But dog-gone-it!  Somebody was on a winning streak.  Guess who?

My First Official Women in the Outdoors Event
Queen Joni and her new shotgun

Of course, there was a huge table of silent auction items, and another line of raffle items equally as long.  In addition, there were also lots of surprises throughout the weekend including things like diamond necklaces and spa days being awarded.  But let’s get back to the classes and demos.

My First Official Women in the Outdoors Event
Pear Wine

A very cool lady named Esther brought her wine-making supplies and schooled us on the basics. She taught us how to sanitize old wine bottles for re-use, how to fill them from the storage jug with a siphon hose, and finally  . . .

My First Official Women in the Outdoors Event
Wine corker

how to cork a bottle using her new handy-dandy corker.  I wasn’t sure what wine making had to do with women in the outdoors, unless picking the fruit counts, but that didn’t keep us from enjoying a taste of her pear, muscadine, blackberry, and red grape wines.

My First Official Women in the Outdoors Event
Stenciling Tiles

The outdoor classes included archery, dutch-oven cooking, tee-pee building, kayaking, bird watching, tree-stand safety, turkey hunting basics, duck calling 101, shot gun 101, and advanced shot gun.  We could only sign up for five classes, but there were way more that interested me.   Additionally, some of the women learned hands-on crafts like tote-making and tile stenciling, pictured above, which I really enjoyed.

Women in the Outdoors Activities

Throughout the weekend, activities like a photo scavenger hunts and competitions like the most cabin spirit, best spirit stick, and best cabin mascot awards encouraged friendships and camaraderie among cabin mates.

My First Official Women in the Outdoors Event
Jazzy Hens: Not so Naked and Afraid

Cabin 3, pictured above, swept the board by winning all of the competitions, hands down!  But watch out next year, because those of us who were naive this year about how all this goes down will be ready to compete next year!

My First Official Women in the Outdoors Event
Gerard Dupuy

Cajun fiddler, Gerard Dupuy, serenaded us while the raffle and silent auction winners were announced Saturday night.  After he told me that he had been on the TV show Cajun Pawn Stars, I recognized him!  What a character!

This past weekend was nothing like marching band camp so many years ago, mainly because I didn’t have to walk anywhere there was no cabin chaperon threatening to call my parents to come get me for sneaking out of the cabin late at night.  Even though being there at first seemed like something out of the Twilight Zone, making me wonder if there was some deeper meaning to my being here after all these years, one thing I know for certain is that I met some outstanding women and had a rewarding time.

Meeting Gator Hunter Jessica face to face was a highlight for me, as well as connecting with Mrs. B., one of the event organizers, who invited me to opening weekend of turkey season this spring.  In addition, I met dozens of outdoor women who are mothers, grandmothers, full-time career women or keepers at home, and each one impressed me in her own way.  And I connected with a few women who I hope will come fishing with me soon.

If you’re an outdoor woman and live anywhere in this great state of ours, stay tuned this time next year for the announcement of the second annual LA  Bossy Hens Women in the Outdoors event and a challenge to meet me there.  I guarantee that you will walk away with new skills, new friends, and a new appreciation for the outdoors.

Your Woman in the Outdoors,


My First Official Women in the Outdoors Event

Stay tuned for Part 2 having to do with the photo above.

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  1. Wow! This past weekend changed my life. I went there alone not knowing what to expect or if I would even fit in. All these ladies not only took me under their wings, but opened up a whole new world of outdoor experiences. Besides archery, wine making, alligator skinning, eating yummy cracklins and food that was cooked for us, I learned that women who love the outdoors have a magnificent spirit in them that nothing can kill. The unity, kindness, and support of all the people I met this weekend will stay with me forever. I look forward to attending the next WITO event. Until then, I will continue to grow to be the hunter I want to be and continue learning from others who share in the love of the sport. Thanks to all who had a part in putting this event together and making it something to remember!! Rhonda Jamison

    1. This is a wonderful, heartfelt comment, Rhonda, and I echo everything you said about these ladies. And wow! I thought I was the only one who went by myself! I guess we should’ve joined forces, but you joined up with a great group anyway! We’ll join forces next year and we’ll definitely win the toilet paper plunger game again! (I failed to mention those crazy games in my blog post, LOL!) Great meeting you and hope to see you next year! BW

      1. If the plunger game involves passing off a roll of T-paper relay style…I hope someone video taped it for you. If it’s the same game I saw on video, I laughed till I cried! AND Had I not already had bladder repair surgery…I would have needed the T-paper too!

        1. Uh, yes, it WOULD BE the same game, and I’m not sure if anyone video taped it, but it was hilarious! My team won, though! We got to keep the toilet paper, LOL!

      2. Thanks. Yes we’ll have to team up next year! As for the toilet paper plunger game: PIECE OF CAKE!. We just need to think of it as a target. Had a blast and looking forward to seeing you and all our WITO family again. Rhonda Jamison

      3. I love the blog. It was great to meet all the ladies and be a part of a new experience for some of you. I must say Rhonda was smoking in the Archery class and won the best overall award!!! Also it was great to meet you BW. I have followed you on facebook and must say you are an inspiration to me. Looking forward to seeing you all again. Hope it is sooner than next year. I’m thinking a “Nucleus” reunion party in the near future.

        1. Well, when The Nucleus gets together, I want you to teach me archery! It conflicted with my shotgun classes this go round! Sooner than next year would be great. We could do a “mini” one down here at Camp Dularge. It sleeps 8, so put your heads together!!! It was great meeting you and learning about what you do with hunter safety!!!

  2. I love your blog ! I know where to look now for awesome articles about our great state. It was our pleasure to have you as a participant in the Bossy Hens WITO event. I pray that next year, thanks to amazing ladies like you, our cabins will all be filled and the classes over-flowing. The outreach program introduces ladies to a variety of activities they might not see anywhere else. It was my pleasure to meet you and know you left the event a little more outdoor savvy and happy! Looking forward to seeing you soon.

    1. Cathy, thanks so much for your kind words about the blog. You are a big part of the reason I reached my goal this weekend, which I intend to write as a follow-up to this story. You were a big encouragement to me, and I just want to say thanks again for listening! You gals put on a fantastic event, and I hate to say this because I want the numbers to increase for y’all, but I loved it just the way it was with this small nucleus of ladies. Hey I know, from here on out, we will be known as “The Nucleus”! I look forward to seeing you, too, Cathy! BW

  3. Glad you had a good time. Did you take anything from this weekend that you will incorporate into your Bayou Woman’s Weekends?

  4. Had a wonderful time! It was so great to meet you and hope we get to go fishing sometime. It’s so hard to pick one story from the weekend – scavenger hunt? Clay shooting? Kayaking was definitely one of my favorites, and I’m told I did a good walrus imitation!

    1. Hey Muddy Mary! Yes, I can confirm the winning walrus imitation! Only thing missing were the sound affects!!!
      Seriously, though, you threw yourself over that kayak like a pro!!! I’ll email you about fishing. The trout should be getting into our lake soon, and I will need to go scout. How much notice do you need? Great getting to know you and your clay shooting expertise inspired me that I could do it, too! BW

      1. LOL! I’m glad there is no video of that!
        I don’t need alot of notice – just message or email me!
        I hardly qualify as a clay shooting expert, but I’m glad to be an inspiration, rather than a bad example. I’d be happy to bust birds with you anytime!

  5. What a wonderful post, BW. It surely sounds like a great time was had by all.

    Women rule!

    P.S. I’m glad you didn’t have to march in formation again, too. That must have been a bit of a shock to find yourself back at Camp Hessmer in the same cabin!

  6. I just came back for a second read and saw what I missed the first time – that arm sling in the last photo! Life’s not always easy, huh?

    It sounds like you had a wonderful time. I don’t have any women’s outdoor adventures to tell you about, but I do have a funny story from my china collecting days. I heard as a rumor and then confirmed that out in Ohio there were people using seconds from some of the china factories for skeet shooting. Apparently a couple of the molds produced plates that were just the right size and weight to mimic the clays.


  7. It’s time for the drawing for the candle from Amy’s Country Candles. There are 5 of you ladies who left a qualifying comment. Your names are on little pieces of paper, which I put into a big bowl. Now, I will get my special son to draw one out. Stand by, and I’ll be right back with a winner. And the winner is Rhonda Coco Jamison! Congratulations, Rhonda. I will email you and we will go from there with the details of how to receive your free candle! Thanks for all the comments, ladies. Now, it’s time for Part 2 of that weekend. Let me get busy on that right now!

    1. Hey Wendy, I think I’d like to be the first one around here to have a swamp man candle. So, that scent will be fine. Thanks so much. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you and all the ladies from WITO event. It’s nice to see how we all keep posting pics and having a good laugh at the whole weekend. Good memories seem to continue to be made over and over again. What wholesome friendships have come from all of this!! Thank You for all you do and proud to have gotten to know someone that loves Louisiana so much!!

  8. As I read this with tears streaming down my face I am so proud of you Wendy!! You accomplished your goal and conquered your fear. You suffered your fears quietly and I am thankful for the great group of women who cheered you on!! This story makes my heart so happy! The NWTF outreach program Women in the Outdoors program is my passion because of stories like yours Wendy. I know what it has done for me and through what I’ve learned from these events, it has allowed me to do for others. And I am blessed to be a part of it. So happy, happy, happy for you. Keep Shooting Capt. Wendy!!!

    1. It’s like you said at the close of the weekend, these events can be life changers, and this was definitely true for me. If you know of anyone at NWTF who might want to re-print this story or link to it as a testimonial to the great things they offer, then please let them know I’m just an email away from granting permission for them to use this story. I plan to keep on shooting, thanks to your great event and encouragement!!!

    1. You’re probably referring to the “Becoming an Outdoor Woman” weekends offered by LDWF. Now, I’ve heard some wild stories about some of those events. This WITO Bossy Hens event was their first one, and as a result was a smaller group of women, which was perfect for me! I might be overwhelmed by 120 outdoor women at once, all vying for the best classes! I tried getting into one of those several years ago but found out that their April event in La. is so popular that the women would drive their registrations to the office first day of registration, and it booked up almost overnight. I never stood a chance by the time I found out and was ready to mail in my form and check, so after two years, I gave up. There are some women who have attended that event every year since the first one some 22 years ago! I know they’ve formed lasting relationships, as a result. Great hearing from you, Kim!