Over 125 women joined together at Circle Square Ranch last weekend to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of ‘Becoming an Outdoors Woman’, a weekend retreat hosted by the Manitoba Wildlife Federation (MWF). 

I was honored to attend this year’s event and capture incredible women doing incredible things, learning from other incredible women through the photo gallery below! A photo says a thousand words, but words honestly can’t describe the fun, friendship, support and sisterhood everyone felt over the past weekend!  

‘Becoming an Outdoors Woman’ (BOW) focuses on outdoor skills and recreation in the areas of hunting, angling and trapping, held at Circle Square Ranch each year. 

The three-day retreat was jam-packed full of excitement, nervousness and empowerment with 68 participants learning new skills, says MWF Managing Director, Carly Deacon. “They pretty much came ready to try something they had never tried in their lives ever before.”  

Women participated a 3-hour tutorial in any particular skill, providing 3-4 workshops in total for each participant. The really unique aspect of BOW is that it is women mentoring women in every skill. A handful of men were also instructing throughout the weekend but for the most part it’s women teaching women.  

(And I must give a special shout out to the fellas who gave up their weekend to help set up and tear down tents, carry heavy equipment, instruct in a variety of courses, and support the program. This includes members of the MWF as well as from Manitoba Conservation!) 

“The women who participated got to choose their courses,” continues Carly Deacon. “A lot of the course deals with hunting, angling and then many other outdoor skills. “There were a lot of smiles, a lot of achievements, a lot of barriers broken down over the weekend, and a lot of friendship, camaraderie and laughter!” 

Women came from as far south as the U.S. border, as far north as Churchill and from east to west, both sides of the province. 

The MWF made sure the 30th Anniversary would be a celebration, and that it was!  

Friday night brought women to their feet kicking up their heels with the 2-step, jig and line-dancing, or just groovin’ to the tunes - all to a live concert with 7-time Manitoba Country Music Association Award Winner Quinton Blair and his two backup singers and musicians. The party continued outside with the three musicians jamming and sharing around the campfire with acoustic guitars and some furious fiddling around the camp fire! It was pretty amazing! 

Saturday was full of BOW events, from skeet shooting to archery instruction, fishing down at Jackson Lake and foraging for mushrooms at the nearest Wildlife Management Area, and much more. The day ended with a live auction of donated gift items raising over $10,000 for the BOW program, a record-setting fundraiser! 

The instruction continued Sunday morning with more workshops and courses winding down to a ‘we’ll see you next year’ from instructors and attendees. The dusty cowboy town of Circle Square Ranch turned into a mad scramble Sunday afternoon as those threatening storm clouds that loomed around camp all day finally let loose with a vengeance! 

In celebrating the 30th birthday of BOW Deacon says they tried to make it a special celebration, to pay tribute to those women who forged ahead with this new program back in 1994, breaking ground for the rest of the country as Manitoba was the first in launching the BOW program in Canada.  

“I think any program that any organization or province initiates, it started small,” shares Deacon. “It started with a group of women that had a passion and an expertise, and a devotion to share that. And that group of women started something that was so empowering and wonderful that they brought on more!" 

“And the succession is unreal,” she adds. “It’s what I always say about mentorship; when you experience someone mentoring you, when you experience somebody giving you a gift that you otherwise wouldn’t have gotten, it’s so wonderful. And it’s an empowering feeling that you want to bring it forward.” 

“I think overall, everybody went home with some valid skills in their pockets and some pretty incredible connections to go forward with,” adds Deacon. 

“How do you put this weekend into words? I can’t!” 

Please listen to more with Carly Deacon as she shares more on BOW 2024 below!  

Today BOW is being held around the world instructing women from all walks of life in becoming outdoor women. 

Photo credit Betty Sawatzky