Editor's Note: This piece is the first in a series about outdoor skills, education and engagement.It's hard to describe the location of Colorado's Jim Olterman/Lone …
By Sheila Miller
Editor's Note: This piece is the first in a series about outdoor skills, education and engagement.
It's hard to describe the location of Colorado's Jim Olterman/Lone Cone State Wildlife Area as close to anything; the nearest town, Norwood, is unknown even to many native Coloradans. The 5,033 acres of the wildlife area are tucked away in the southwest corner of Colorado, bordered by the San Juan National Forest to the east and mostly stopping short of Disappointment Creek in the south.
Covered in alpine meadows and pine forest and run through by Morrison Creek, the area is protected habitat for deer, elk, mountain lions, bobcats, grouse, bats, beavers, river otters, owls and more. It was here, at a cabin on property that was once summer foraging ground for homesteaders, that 24 women gathered for the Division of Wildlife's 11th Cast and Blast workshop.
The women were there to learn the basics of archery, fly-fishing, wildlife management, camping and hunting.
Their primary teachers for weekend were district wildlife managers Kelly Crane, Kevin Duckett and Tony Bonacquista, each of whom are usually responsible for the management of approximately 1,500 square miles. It's hard to describe exactly what their job includes, as it changes from day to day and often, as Duckett describes, "You wake up with a plan, and it changes by midmorning."
In addition to managing wildlife both in and out of towns and enforcing laws governing hunting and fishing, "Whenever we hear about someone in the woods with a gun, we get pretty curious," Duckett explained.
The three wildlife managers took three days out of their schedules to share their knowledge with the women in attendance in a supportive environment with the goal of increasing access and engagement.
The event, organized by Crane, specifically seeks women without extensive fishing and hunting experience and teaches them skills they might not have access to in other ways.
The main instructional blocks of the weekend covered archery, fly-fishing and shotgun shooting.
The first session familiarized the participants with how to shoot a compound bow and included a brief introduction to the laws and ethics of hunting.
Of the four types of bows - longbow, recurve, crossbow and compound - it is the crossbow that is commonly used for hunting. It's distinguishing feature is a cam at the bottom of the bowstring that, once engaged by fully drawing the bow, reduces the force required to keep the bow drawn by around 80%.
After learning to load and draw the bow, the participants were given instruction in instinctive shooting, "like throwing a football or a rock," as Bonacquista described it. One isn't aiming using sights, but instead using our native intelligence for learning by doing.
Bonacquista and Duckett demonstrated how properly to load, draw and fire a bow, encouraging the participants to lean in - as a common beginner mistake is to try to hold the bow away from the face. "It's just a natural tendency when we're afraid," Duckett explained. "We try to get out of the way."
Within a couple hours, the participants were comfortable enough with their bows not only to hit the foam targets much more consistently, but also to enjoy heckling one another during a friendly competition.
The session proved that the barriers to shooting a bow capably and with pleasure are lower than one might think. The financial obstacles are as well: a beginner can get a compound bow, a few aluminum arrows and a couple bales of hay to shoot at for around $200.
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