Ladies looking to dip their feet in the wild world of hunting and shooting can get started with these outdoors skills workshops through the National Wild Turkey Federation.
It's not just a good ol' boys club in the great outdoors anymore.
While exact numbers are difficult to nail down, the National Shooting Sports Foundation reports the number of females participating in hunting continues to climb and women now make up more than a fifth of the total hunting population across the country.
Particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of women investing in firearms has skyrocketed as well. The 2021 National Firearms Survey found 42% of firearms owners in the United States are female, and nearly half of the new gun owners since 2019 are women.
The same goes for angling and just about every outdoor activity where women once weren't welcomed.
But as more women show interest in traditionally male-dominated sports, the need for mentorship and education increases too. That's where Women in the Outdoors steps in.
NWTF Women in the Outdoors Program
Founded in 1973, the National Wild Turkey Federation supported women-specific outdoor education programs through other organizations for years. But as both demand and female participation grew, the NWTF launched their own Women in the Outdoors program in 1998.
The program was successful from the outset, bringing in 3,000 women in its first year and more than 10,000 women by year two. Registration for their outdoor events has consistently filled up fast and drawn women from all walks of life.
Open to women ages 14 and up, the WITO program is "dedicated to helping women develop confidence and competence in the outdoors skills through a variety of hands-on workshops and experiences."
The program prides itself in providing classes taught by true experts in their respective fields and offering women a welcoming, low-key, and non-threatening environment to learn. While one-on-one lessons from men can be intimidating, hands-on teaching surrounded by likeminded women who are also outdoor newbies makes for a much more comfortable and enjoyable experience.
Hundreds of WITO events are hosted each year by local NWTF chapters throughout the country. Class offerings may vary by region but typically run the gamut from archery to shooting sports to introductory hunting workshops. Other outdoor skill classes include fly fishing, canoeing, kayaking, sporting dog first aid, crafting, and outdoor cooking -- truly something for every woman and every interest.
WITO also facilitates mentored deer, turkey, and pheasant hunts for women through select chapters. For ladies who have no father, friend, or family member to show them the hunting the ropes, this opportunity is priceless.
The program also offers women an opportunity to connect with other ladies who are just getting started in the outdoors and gain a greater appreciation of the outdoor world.
NWTF spokeswoman, TV personality, and hunting legend Brenda Valentine has worked with the WITO program throughout the years and sings its praises.
"Our program is about encouraging women to try new outdoor activities in a safe environment that makes them feel at ease. This event is also an opportunity for women of all walks of life - singles, moms, daughters, young and old -- to spend a day outdoors, away from home, having fun and making new friends," said Valentine. "The Women in the Outdoors program allows the NWTF to reach an entirely new audience, one that has the potential to benefit conservation efforts. It's an opportunity for women to find great satisfaction and enjoyment in the outdoors."
With a woman at the helm as CEO - experienced wildlife conservation pro Becky Humphries - and several other ladies in leadership positions, NWTF is working to make the outdoor space more female-friendly and help grow hunting.
WITO, along with JAKES for youth and Wheelin' Sportsmen for those with disabilities, is part of NWTF's Hunting Heritage initiative. Through these and other efforts, NWTF is committed to introducing or reintroducing 1.5 million people to hunting.
Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt.
While WITO events are affordable, they also serve as fundraisers for the nonprofit. Proceeds benefit NWTF's overall wildlife management mission and their current 10-year initiative.
First, they're focusing on conserving and enhancing 4 million acres of critical wildlife habitat throughout the country in areas that will have the most positive impact. The second piece of this puzzle is recruiting those 1.5 million hunters who will preserve our hunting heritage and cover 80 percent of wildlife conservation costs through excise taxes on guns, ammo, and other gear. Finally, NWTF is committed to breaking down barriers to hunting by opening access to 500,000 additional acres of hunting land.
To find a Women in the Outdoors event near you, sign up to get involved with the program, or support the National Wild Turkey Federation mission, visit nwtf.org.