Programs for women draw new customers

Outdoor sports programs designed to attract the participation of women are being organized. One such program is Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW). BOW resulted from a workshop which discussed angling and hunting activities for women. It was noted that women lacked many skills needed for outdoor sports. BOW provides workshops for women interested in both shooting and non-shooting activities. The topics of the workshops may include shooting, hunting, fishing, camping, orienteering, outdoor cooking and map and compass reading.

Last month I talked about several programs dealers can use to bring new customers into their shop and new shooters to the industry. This month let’s look at programs designed to bring women into the outdoor sports. Since statistics show clearly that women are the fastest growing segment of the outdoor marketplace, if you’re overlooking sales to women, you’re ignoring what could amount to a large segment of business.

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The Outdoors Woman

A lot of organizations are jumping on the women’s bandwagon. Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) was the first, and so far is the leader, of all the programs designed to bring women to the sporting constituency.

The BOW program grew out of a workshop called “Breaking Down the Barriers to Participation of Women in Angling and Hunting,” held in 1990 at the College of Natural Resources at the University of Wisconsin. Workshop members listed barriers to women in the field. Many of those barriers were related to women’s lack of skills.

Early the next year, members of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation met with officials from the College of Natural Resources and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Out of that meeting came the idea for the first Becoming an Outdoors Woman clinic.

Since then the program has grown explosively. Most states, and several Canadian provinces, now have BOW programs administered through their state wildlife agencies. Perhaps part of the attraction of the program stems from its broad base. The topics taught at the workshops are wide-ranging, appealing to shooters and non-shooters alike. Instructors strive to keep the atmosphere at the workshops relaxed and light-hearted, so women have a good time while they’re learning.

Each workshop takes place over a weekend. Classes may include the basics of shooting, hunting,fishing, camping, orienteering outdoor cooking ecology, and map and compass reading. The one constant, however, is that the topics are selected to “fit” the needs and interests of women in each state or province.

This is, frankly, not a program you want to try to run by yourself. It’s a huge undertaking, with a lot of logistics. Where you can become involved, though, is as a volunteer instructor or as the sponsor of one small portion of the program. You’ll be introducing yourself to a group of very enthusiastic potential customers.

For more information about upcoming BOW programs in your area contact your state wildlife agency, or your state BOW coordinator.

The Hunting Woman

Another women’s program that’s coming on fast is Women in the Outdoors. Similar in approach to BOW, Women in the Outdoors is a program of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF).

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According to NWTF, the program is designed to “help pass on the traditions of hunting, teach the principles of habitat management, plus instill a sense of hunting ethics, safety, and responsibility. The Women in the Outdoors program provides outdoors learning activities for women ages 14 and over that are hands-on and exciting.

“The NWTF’s goals are to teach the importance of responsible wildlife management, natural resource management, increased participation in outdoor related opportunities, and help preserve the hunting tradition.”

Big goals, but they’re coming from an organization with the resources to back them up. Again, this is probably not a program you want to organize alone. But if the NWTF chapter in your area is going to do one, you can volunteer as an instructor and reach a whole group of potential customers.

Opening The Door

A Day at the Range is a new program from the Women’s Shooting Sports Foundation. WSSF created A Day at the Range to bring more women to the shooting sports and to help individual facilities attract new members. If you have a formal range in your shop, this program is designed just for you. Any shop with a shotgun, rifle or handgun range can host one of these programs.

A Day at the Range is a one-day clinic that introduces women to your shop. Whether you keep them as customers after that is up to you, but WSSF will give you a lot of support as you learn to meet the needs of women shooters.

The one caveat WSSF places on this program is that a certified instructor must be available for each event. However, WSSF has certified instructors around the country, and staff members will help you find someone in your area.

The Entire Outdoors

Whether or not you regularly carry books in your shop, there’s a new one out you might want to take a look at. It’s The Complete Outdoors Encyclopedia, 4th Edition by Vin T. Sparano, and it’s well worth the cover price of $39.95.

The encyclopedia is just that: it covers everything anyone who goes into the woods will need to know. Entries begin with hunting and shooting, and run the gamut of fishing, camping, survival, boating, archery, hunting dogs and, finally, first aid. These aren’t superficial treatments, either. Extensive use of line illustrations and photos makes this a detailed and careful treatment of myriad topics.

If it seems a bit pretentious for one person to tackle a book of this magnitude, consider who the author is. Vin Sparano is editor emeritus and senior field editor for Outdoor Life magazine. If any one man is competent to cover this many subjects in one volume, he is.

If you recommend only one book to your customers this winter, let it be this one.

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