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Tales: Outdoors for the ladies

May 16, 2002|By AL KALIN

Every year the California State Department of Fish and Game conducts various classes throughout the state designed for women, over age 18, who want to improve their outdoor skills. The next four-day class will begin June 7 and will be held at the beautiful Rancho Alegre near Santa Barbara. This year the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point College of Natural Resources will co-sponsor the training session.

With an unbelievably low cost of only $185, which includes food and lodging, the program focuses on the outdoor skills usually associated with hunting and fishing but many other useful outdoor pursuits are taught to the students.

The first afternoon of the workshop begins with an introduction to firearms and firearms safety and covers the basic types of firearms, firearm safety, how to select and purchase firearms, which firearms are used for different types of hunting and outdoor ethics.

The students then learn to navigate the woods using a map and compass and how to read topographical maps.


The basics of archery are taught next and the women learn shooting form, equipment selection, safety, etiquette and ethics. All this takes place at an archery range where the students can actually shoot the bows, which are provided for the class.

Beginning fly fishing is next and participants learn about fish habitats, casting, tying knots and how to select flies and equipment. They then switch gears and move on to basic fishing, where the women learn about rods, reels, lines, hooks, bait, how to tie knots, casting techniques and how to land a fish from both fresh and saltwater environments.

With the art of fishing under their belt, the gals move on to survival skills and learn how to enjoy the great outdoor experience from the mountains to the desert, rain or shine. This hands on session, using a variety of tents, cook stoves, packing basics, fire-starting and first aid teaches survival skills that can save lives.

Hiking and backpacking follows as participants learn to prepare for the unexpected, whether hiking for a hour or a full day. The women learn about proper hiking attire and how to prepare a pack and get there and back with confidence. Following a short hike the participants call it a day and are treated to a wild game feed followed by a game of wildlife bingo before turning in for the night.

The next morning, after an early breakfast, the girls become familiar with the different types of shotguns, ammunition, proper gun fit and gun cleaning. Time is spent on the range where the women shoot at clay birds.

Next buses transport the class to a nearby ranch where they learn about big game and how to get closer for hunting or viewing. The habits and habitats of elk, deer, bear, pronghorn and wild pig are learned, as well as safety precautions, how to select a viewing site, a gun, ammunition and other equipment to go afield. Hunting regulations, ethics, etiquette and the care and preservation of big game are covered.

An outdoor cooking class teaches the women how to prepare healthy and masterful meals in the great outdoors. Participants learn about outdoor fires, wood types, charcoal temperature, how to build a Dutch oven fire, successful food storage for extended trips and a variety of traditional camp cooking secrets. The gals then prepare and cook their own lunch.

After lunch the girls learn about California's diverse and unique habitat of plants and animals while learning to identify the presence of wildlife, acquire wildlife viewing skills and the basics of plant identification. They then take a spin on nearby Lake Cachuma on a large pontoon boat to view wildlife before calling it a day.

The next morning more particulars are taught about the art of bow hunting, animal habitats, stalking, camouflage and safety. The girls get to walk through a simulated hunt and shoot at lifelike big game targets.

They then move to on-water fly fishing at nearby Santa Ynez River and practice casting techniques, fly selection, reading the water, how to clean a fish, safety and ethics, followed by a similar course about river and lake fishing.

The gals then learn beginning rifle shooting and the basics of safely handling a rifle, shooting techniques and gun cleaning. Time is spent on the range shooting .22 caliber rifles as well as larger caliber rifles.

This is the last of the courses taught and participants then have an opportunity to retake many of the previous classes to further familiarize themselves in particular areas they find interesting.

By now you're probably beginning to think like I did, and your inner self is telling you, "Hey, I don't even know how to do some of this stuff." I thought of asking Patti if she would like to sign up but then thought better of it. This is a powerful bunch of information to turn my wife loose with and I'm not comfortable with it. If she reads this column she can make up her own mind … I'm sure not telling her about it.

>> Outdoor Tales columnist Al Kalin may be reached by e-mail at

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