Tonight I am packing my dark-green duffle bag and my backpack with all of my favorite toys: duck and goose calls, turkey box calls, slate calls, turkey wing bone calls, turtle shell calls, crow and peacock calls, owl calls and all my late-season ice fishing gear. I will stuff the large green duffle bag with my favorite base layers and chamois shirts, my old Carhartt coveralls and my “camp pillow”—a chamois shirt stuffed with fleece vests and jackets.
Tomorrow morning at dawn I will turn out of the driveway in my old Tundra truck and head east to the little town of Fairlee for a weekend at the Hulbert Outdoor Center on Lake Morey, with around 80 women who have taken the challenge to expand their outdoor skills amidst the beautiful Connecticut River Valley background.
I will be “in my element,” as some say, teaching outdoor skills to those who desire a sincere connection to nature. Through the Vermont Outdoor Woman’s group, which sponsors “Doe Camp” twice a year, I am honored to be asked for a 16th year to be an instructor for the most ambitious and fun group of women in the Northeast. Forget the gender thing; these women are here to learn and to take their independence in the outdoors to a new level.
Courses include Traditional Ax Skills, Core Navigation, Winter Camping (yes, there will be some hardy souls who will sleep in a tent all weekend), Archery, Wild Fibers with the amazing Sarah Corrigan of Roots School, and, of course, little old me. I will be teaching Spring Turkey Hunting, Ice Fishing for Panfish (yes, as of this writing the ice was still safe up in the Kingdom) and Critter Calling.
We will dine on donated moose and venison steaks, maybe some rabbit stew or possum pie and wash it all down with some flavorful adult craft beverages. The bonfire will propel its embers into the starry heavens above and laughter will reign long into the night. Picture a group of women and a few male instructors singing along to guitar music under the stars, celebrating the end of winter and an awakening energy for gaining new skills and practicing them under the guidance of expert and patient instructors.
This truly is one of my favorite weekends all year—not just because of the obvious male to female ratio but because everyone is so interested in learning. I am driven by my passion to share what I have learned in the outdoors and all the while helping people to link our emotional and spiritual selves to the Earth and its inhabitants. I believe that if we all spent more time learning lessons from the outdoors, animals and our natural place in the Universe we would be a much more peaceful and tolerant society.
We would take the time to walk in the woods and discover the winter snowline receding to create trickles of water that lead us to our lakes. We would notice the pileated woodpecker and wonder how he can be as persistent as he bores into a dead tree. We would take pleasure in the song of the geese as they fly back north with their mates. We would, if we just took the time, learn that we belong to all of this, and the closer we look, we see our own reflections as a part of something greater than all the information that flashes in front of us every day.
For more information on VT Outdoors Woman and their upcoming events go to their website.
Bradley Carleton is executive director of Sacred Hunter, a nonprofit that seeks to educate the public on the spiritual connection of man to nature and raises funds for Traditions Outdoor Mentoring, which mentors at-risk young men in outdoor pursuits.