Special thanks to Victoria Shipp for sharing her report with NRAblog:
In September 2009, I had one of the most exhilarating, interesting and memorable experiences of my life. I was one of the lucky; fifty women (ranging in age from late twenties to mid-seventies!) chosen to participate in the NRA’s Women’s Wilderness Escape, held at the NRA Whittington Center near Raton, New Mexico. This Center is set on 33,000 acres of unspoiled landscape which is home to mule deer, antelope, brown bear, rattlesnakes and I’m sure much more. Although the deer really camouflage themselves well, they seem to have no fear of humans as they wander at will.
This “Escape” was in its second year and I can only foresee that there will be many more to follow since it gives women a chance to learn about, and use firearms, hunting techniques, game calling, personal safety, just to name a few things that they may never have an opportunity to experience anywhere else. The organization, scheduling, work and time that the folks at the NRA headquarters in Fairfax, VA, put into this program is truly amazing. In addition to the instructors, there were dozens of volunteers, people who love what they do and are willing to help for two weeks. The camaraderie at the Center is wonderful; all the staff were willing, ready and able to assist, and the women got to know each other fairly quickly. More
Lisa Metheny was an instructor on the archery range at the 2009 Women's Wilderness Escape. But that task alone was not enough! Metheny was also taking photographs and interviewing participants.
Below, read Metheny's article over at NRAHuntersRights.org:
NRA Hosts Women's Wilderness Escape
For nine days this fall, a diverse group of homemakers, teachers, nurses, a district judge, commercial pilot, veterinarian, and even a doctor all shared a common desire: the longing to experience something unique, unexpected, and challenging. Something that would force them to step outside their comfort zones. Many of the women received an encouraging nudge from a supportive spouse, while others made the decision entirely on their own. But each eventually chose to venture to the Land of Enchantment for an adventure camp for women, the National Rifle Association’s Women’s Wilderness Escape (WWE).
Alaska’s Shauna Pajak summed up the way many of the women felt about their journey. “I was looking for adventure,” she said. “I am not interested in sitting at home quilting. As women, we tend to get stuck in a rut of child rearing or growing our career or providing for our family.”
From Sept. 24 to Oct. 2, 50 women who started out as strangers awoke each morning to a new adventure in New Mexico at the NRA Whittington Center. As the week progressed, one might have expected to see fatigue, frustration, and maybe even boredom setting in. Instead, a spirit was building within this special group of amazing women, a spirit of sisterhood and an appreciation for our freedom and our country. A spirit of self-confidence that comes from the contagious energy of enthusiastic women.
According to Rosemary Herr, manager of NRA’s Women’s Programs Department, “We had another wide cross-section of amazing women that participated in WWE this year. These women simply amazed me with their character.”
Candy Sugarman from North Carolina might have summed up the camaraderie best: “The ladies are awesome. The best part is that we are all cheering for each other. It is the safety of learning something without feeling that someone is criticizing you. You feel safe to make mistakes. You feel great when you do a little better and you feel fabulous when you do what you’re supposed to be doing. I can sleep later. I don’t want to miss a thing, and I would recommend this event to every woman that I know.”
The underlying theme of the event can be summed up in three little words: “You Go Girl!” Each day, one participant after another stepped up to the various shooting lines and challenged only herself, while at the same time knowing that she had the full support of the other participants and instructors. At each event, rounds of cheering seemed to drown out the sound of gunfire. Even the normally quiet sport of archery experienced repeated outbursts of laughter and applause as self-confidence grew with each and every bull’s-eye that was hit.
“I was astonished at how much I learned,” said Melissa Maestas from New Mexico. “A lot of the impressions that I had in my mind about archery and muzzleloading were totally wrong. But when I tried them I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment, like ‘Oh my God,’ I can actually do this and I want to do this.’”
For many of the women, this was their first opportunity to shoot muzzleloading firearms, high-powered rifles, pistols, archery equipment, shotguns, and fully automatic firearms. The camp was outside most of the women’s comfort zones, but that did not slow anyone down. As predicted, the participants flourished in this new environment.
Perhaps the smile on the face of London native Victoria Shipp said it all.
Continue reading Metheny's story here.
Linda Solyntjes was part of the 2009 Women's Wilderness Escape last month at the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, New Mexico. Above is a collection of her photos from start to finish.
Click the dialogue balloon on the bottom left of the photos to read her captions.
The Women's Wilderness Escape participants are certainly having their fair share of fall fun. The weather has been glorious, the meals delicious, and the friendships genuine.
But what would an NRA event be without the occasional giveaway? At dinner each night in the communal cafeteria every participant is given a carnival-style numbered ticket. At the end of dinner and before the evening activity, a number is drawn. "Each night we'll have a lady choose a pistol case from our current selection, until the last night there's only one option," Rosemary Herr, Women's Programs manager, told NRAblog.
One thing's for sure: each and every Women's Wilderness Escape participant is a winner this week at the gorgeous NRA Whittington Center in Raton, New Mexico. Stay tuned for more as-it-happens coverage.
Like every event at the NRA Whittington Center, mealtime is quite an adventure. The cafeteria-style line gets long, with 51 participants and nearly 40 volunteers and staff from the Women’s Wilderness Escape clamoring for food. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all served in this manner, with plenty of smiles and laughter from the kitchen staff.
“This isn’t Burger King,” a cheerful chef jokes whenever someone asks for an adjusted portion. Vegetarian items are available, and a salad bar sits in the middle of the rustic dining room, decorated in a hunting lodge motif.
“Y’all better eat the rest of this lasagna because it doesn’t make a very good breakfast,” the chef hollered last night, yielding ripples of laughter from the dining room. Sure enough, ladies and volunteer instructors alike dutifully lined up for seconds.
“You know, as long as I’m not the one cooking, it’s all good,” a woman told her dinner table neighbors.
Refuse To Be A Victim coordinator RuthAnn Sprague is on hand at the Women's Wilderness Escape as a member of the NRA Women's Programs staff. But she has a special assignment in addition to regular duty.
One of the evening sessions during the nine-day wilderness event at the NRA Whittington Center is a shortened version of the NRA's popular coed self-defense series Refuse To Be A Victim. A few of the 51 Women's Wilderness Escape had already experienced the course, which is the NRA's only educational course that does not include firearms instruction.
"The first thing to remember is your best chance of surviving an attack is to avoid being a victim altogether," Sprague, above right, told her classroom full of participants. "We'll cover a variety of tips tonight to help us raise our awareness in all situations. Let me know whenever you have a question!"
"I've been to the full-length course back home, and it was very informational," a participant said. "I'm making a point to attend the session out here because you can always use a refresher, no matter who you are."
Look for a Refuse To Be A Victim seminar in your area.
While many of this year's Women's Wilderness Escape participants have some experience with firearms, the majority are new to archery. The volunteer archery instructors start small. "First we start with a blank, white target," Lead archery instructor Linda Dubrol told us. "We then move to color, with a yellow bullseye surrounded by red, blue, black, and white rings."
As the smiles above illustrate, this activity is quite rewarding. "The women really enjoyed this part of the week last year, and we'rereceiving positive feedback aldready," volunteer instructor Lisa Metheny told NRAblog. "Abig part of the fun over here is that since the ladies aren't wearinghearing protection on the archery range, it's a lot more social."
Similar to the cheers on the five-stand shotgun range, encouraging shouts and clapping reward each participant who manages to score a bullseye. After wrapping up a morning of archery, the ladies head to lunch. After the noon meal, it's time for the next step: mock bow hunting with realisitic looking 3-D targets. "Yes, the arrows do stick in 'em," Metheny told NRAblog of the assorted critters. "It's a bit of a challenge to pull them out!"
Volunteer instructors carefully place the 3-D deer, turkey, bear, boar, and gopher targets in the woods in preparation for the afternoon session. We'll be back on the scene to get some photos and even video of the ladies' hunt adventure.
Women's Program Manager Rosemary Herr reports that the 2009 Women's Wilderness Escape at the NRA Whittington Center is on schedule. "We keep them busy," she said.
Sure enough, breakfast is served at 6:30 a.m. and most participants are on the range by 7:30. Add to that a bit of jet lag, and you have some sleepy campers. While schedules vary, the entire group breaks for lunch around noon and then returns to the range. After dinner, sessions are somewhat optional. "Some ladies just need to get to bed," Herr said. She and her staff understand. They've been on the ground at the Whittington Center preparing for the 9-day event since mid-September, and the long days are a challenge.
"No one showed up for Tai Chi this morning," Carol told NRAblog. We met her on the shotgun range, where she is serving as a volunteer five-stand instructor. A Tai Chi enthusiast, Carol hosts a session at 5 a.m. every morning. NRAblog asked if maybe she could do an afternoon session.
"It was 36 degrees yesterday morning, and I could see my breath," a woman added. An afternoon of Tai Chi may be just what this sleep-deprived group needs!
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