Earlier this year I became the New York Ambassador for Artemis Sportswomen, an initiative funded by the National Wildlife Federation that supports women across the nation in hunting, fishing, and conservation. In this volunteer role I joined a team of strong, smart, capable outdoorswomen to serve as a community conservation leader, coordinate events, and assist other women looking to increase their knowledge and experience in the great outdoors. Needless to say, I learned a lot too.
Artemis Sportswomen has created an entire community of sportswomen who can get together in comfortable, low-pressure scenarios with other females. I got to help build relationships between hunters and anglers, talk about ways to support each other in the field and on the water, and directly discuss and address conservation issues impacting our public lands, waters, and wildlife.
Artemis believes that public lands are a unique American treasure and serve as the backbone of our sporting traditions. The group works to defeat short-sighted attempts to take away our access and rights to public lands, and conserve them so future generations can enjoy them, too.
Here's what it was like to play host to my first event, and the takeaways I left with.
Setting the Stage
For the first coordinated New York Artemis Sportswomen event we joined forces with the good folks at Great Lot Sportsman's Club, located in West Leyden, in the state's Tug Hill region. The club property was ideal for an event like this. There was a full clubhouse, range, hiking trail, and other ideal amenities. Great Lot Sportsman's Club is a 13-time NRA Gold Medal Club Award winner, member of Lewis County Association of Sportsmen's Clubs, Lewis County Chamber of Commerce, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, and the New York State Sheriffs' Association. The club is heavily involved with the local community, and hosts guided hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, canoeing, bird watching, and star gazing during the spring and summer months, as well as cross country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.
As each participant arrived down the gravely driveway and made their way inside the clubhouse for registration, anticipation filled the air. Women that had never in their lives even touched a firearm were preparing for a day on the shooting range. The morning air was brisk with a rising fog and sunshine sparkling off the meandering creek that ran along the property.
The day's schedule was chock-full of breakout sessions in recurve bow, pistol, rifle, and shotgun shooting, fire starting, knot tying, and a discussion of daypack essentials. From the start, the sounds of laughter and gunshots filled the air. It stayed that way through to the end.
After a morning safety session we broke out into groups and it was time to shoot. I know that shooting can be intimidating for first timers, and as I predicted, the group dealt with a myriad of emotions. Some simply wanted to try something new. Others were there to confront a fear head-on. Still others came to learn a skill that would make them (and their family) safer and more independent.
I was particularly inspired by the day's breakout star, a 14-year-old that learned to shoot for the first time that day. She came with her mom, who was also learning to shoot, and when it was her turn with the rifle, she nearly backed out. Her insecurity about the uncertain almost prevented her from doing what she'd gone there to do, but she shook off the jitters and gave it a shot— pun intended.
Once she understood the fundamentals and attempted to shoot, that fear was gone. Her form was on point and her shot placement was impeccable. Within her second round she hit 15 out of 15 targets. A big grin lit up her face, and the confidence she gained was obvious.
In the weeks leading up to hosting my first event as an Artemis Ambassador I was caught up in logistics. I wanted to recruit people to attend, get all the paperwork filled out, and make sure all the plans were finalized. These things are important, but from the moment the attendees arrived, I quickly realized that paperwork isn't the big picture. These women learned more about the outdoors and shooting in one day than they had in their entire lives. Many didn't have a community of other women to explore it with, and the Artemis Sportswomen event created that. Just by being there, we were all part of something really special.
It was about camaraderie. It was about fun. It was about connection. It was also about more than that. Seeing women challenging themselves to try something new and feeling empowered when they realized they could crush their goals is incredible, and that's what I'm left thinking about after my first. I know it won't be my last.
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