Twenty-five outrageously wild women, ages 26 to 80 something, gathered in the woods of Montana recently for Outdoors 101, with classes in cross-country skiing, snow shoeing and ice fishing as well as wildlife in the winter, care and cooking of wild game and furs from field to the fedora. Nine instructors helped us leap outside the boxes of our everyday lives into Montana's breathtaking winter woods.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks sponsors winter and summer "Becoming A Montana Outdoors-Woman" workshops in Lubrecht Forest, 31 miles northeast of Missoula.
Friday afternoon, cross-country ski instructor Mavis Lorenz, age 75, took the beginners under her wing. Lorenz does not mollycoddle or demand. Her graceful skiing examples and encouragement are simply timed to the learners' needs. Of the dozen times I fell, Lorenz retrieved me twice, taking my extended arm and righting me, an ungainly crane, effortlessly. I can only hope I’ll be as fit as she is in 20 years!
A soft snow, with huge flakes, fell as we moved stiff-legged around a large meadow. Gales of laughter broke out when one of us crashed or let out a loud "ooopppse!" All too soon, we were gliding back toward the dining hall, thoroughly inspired by Lorenz, who volunteers each year to teach BOW classes.
Saturday dawned a perfect day for snow shoeing. Darlene Edge of FWP gave a short lecture. Then, Zoe King also of FWP, led the class down the snowy road and into the woods, reminding us to watch for wildlife tracks. At intervals, King stopped to demonstrate a technique like crossing deadfall, moving backwards or crossing fences. None of us mastered the glissade technique, skiing down a hill on the back of the snowshoes, but it was fun trying.
That afternoon, while some of us made fur earmuffs and hats from pelts, the wild game cooking class, under the guidance of Chef Vince Pernicano, prepared a feast. When the doors of the dining hall swung open that evening, proud cooks carried in serving dishes heaped with goose rolls filled with prunes and apricots wrapped in bacon, venison cutlets, pheasant scaloppini, elk cabbage rolls, Cajun duck and lake trout marinara. No one had seen such an array of delectable, exotic foods served in the perfect mountain setting.
The next morning we met ice fishing instructors Jan Thon and John Cloninger for the 20 minute drive to an area lake.
"Is anyone worried about walking on this ice?" Cloninger asked, once at the lake. Cloninger whipped the ice auger upright, cutting into the surface. In a few seconds the plug of ice gave way. "It’s 16 inches thick," he reported. O.K. Let’s go, we thought in unison.
After each of us had drilled a hole, we settled onto our overturned buckets for some serious fishing, with frequent, exciting bites.
Eight women in eight-degree temperatures fishing on 16 inches of ice yielded a catch of six bait-size fish. But the adventure was marlin sized!
Before the Winter BOW workshop, had I ever imagined myself ice fishing? Never! Do I ever see myself spending the winter in an icehouse on a frozen lake? Never!
Would I join a group of friends to go ice fishing some weekend? In a heartbeat! My fishing bucket is in the garage, ready to go!
Editors Note:Elizabeth Rassiga of Nevada participated in her first B.O.W. workshop this year. The upcoming summer BOW workshop is set for August 9-11. Also, a spring Bowhunter Education Class is set for June 21-23 at the Boone and Crockett Ranch in Dupuyer. For details on upcoming workshops, contact Liz Lodman, FWP BOW coordinator, at 406-444-2615 or email@example.com.