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Women in the wild
BY BETTY DIETZ (OUTDOORS WRITER [email protected])Published: February 20, 2011

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BETTY DIETZ/SPECIAL PHOTO Cabela's outfitter Emily LaFaver of Hamburg, right, explains the importance of women choosing hunting boots specifically designed for the shape of their feet to Lisa Geigerhain of Pine Grove.
HAMBURG - For many women, the most difficult aspect of getting involved in outdoors activities is taking the first step.

That can be true for women who as girls were fortunate enough to grow up in a hunting-and-fishing household, and, very often, for those who have never been exposed to outdoors activities. For the latter, the intimidation factor too often outweighs their curiosity, which is where the National Wild Turkey Federation's Women in the Outdoors program comes into play.

In Pennsylvania, WITO events are sponsored jointly by the state chapter of the NWTF and the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Last year, longtime Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs public relations director Jeff Souders took over as WITO program coordinator in Pennsylvania.

No matter if one has a lifetime of experience and the taxidermy mounts to prove it, or for those who keep to themselves that watching outdoors programming on television is a guilty pleasure, there is something to be learned by attending a WITO event. Courses are designed for the skill level of the participants, and instructors show a patience that is not always evident when learned from one's spouse.

This year, three WITO events are scheduled for the area: Saturday, March 12, at Cabela's in Hamburg; Saturday, April 9, at the Montour Preserve, Washingtonville; and Saturday, June 11, at Ontelaunee Rod and Gun Club, New Tripoli. Recently, Souders visited Cabela's to finalize the schedule of classes at the upcoming event at the store.

"Last year, the partnership between the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation allowed us to completely revise and improve the Women in the Outdoors program by getting the word out and reach more people," Souders said. "These events provide an opportunity for women of all ages in all walks of life - from singles to moms and daughters - to spend time with those with similar interests learning new skills, improving skills and make new friends."

Since its inception in 1998, the NWTF WITO program has conducted organized events specifically designed to meet the needs of women with single-day and weekend events. All of the instruction is done by qualified instructors, and often there is one-on-one supervision during the hands-on portion of the classes.

In addition to the formal instruction, often much is learned from other attendees who have experience in the various events by exchanging information during lunch break and free time. Many times, lasting friendships are made that lead to joining others in outdoors activities throughout the year and renewing those friendships at other WITO events.

Courses offered vary at each WITO event and participants select a specified number by order of preference when doing the required pre-registration. Every attempt is made to honor those requests, and the classes provide in-depth instruction, rather than superficial information.

Registration includes any required instructional material, a one-year membership in the NWTF and one-year subscription to "Turkey Country" magazine, lunch at most locations and various incentives for early registration. A popular feature at many events are raffles, door prizes and special offers that often include participating in outdoors events that can include shooting events, fishing, hunting, camping or boating.

"With the NWTF being the leading conservation organization in North America, I'm excited to help fulfill our mission through the Women in the Outdoors program," Souders said. "It has been extremely successful in Pennsylvania, and everyone associated with the program is looking forward to helping even more women across the state enjoy and discover outdoors activities."
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