When I accompanied my best friend through her Hunter Education class in 1988, I was so impressed with the instructors and their presentation and passion for the subjects, that I wanted to know more. When one of them encouraged us as students to consider getting involved in the program later on, 'later on' to me, was the minute class was over. I immediately asked, 'How do I become an instructor?' At age 19 I certified as the first woman Utah Hunter Education Instructors Assistant (since you can't officially be an instructor until you're age 21). Twenty years later, my daughter became the second in the state to do so.
I attended class after class, and brought more friends and family through. I didn't do much instructing, but was given some opportunities to read through material in class. I helped with attendance sheets and paperwork and took part in the field days. As the years went on, I got bored with what seemed like I was taking hunter education over and over again because most of my time there was spent listening to the course, but still felt very strong about the program. Life got busy, and a mom with 3 kids has very little time for herself and extracurricular activities, so Hunter Education had to take a back seat to my agenda. When my daughter expressed an interest in becoming an instructor, I thought it might be time to get back into it. I had let my certification laps 3 years prior.
We both dug in and took the course to become, and become again an instructor. This time, my heart was set on doing it on our own, and gearing our classes towards women. Though I have always had an extreme respect for the men I taught with, I wanted to take a different approach. I feel strongly that there are ladies and young women out there who are intimidated by, not only firearms, but also by most male instructors. There are ladies out there who are intimidated in general by things they don't understand. I wanted to be a venue for something that I feel so passionate about. I wanted to share what I know with everyone who will listen.
We offer a wide array of programs, some of them, I'm sure, at some point may be profitable. Some are volunteer, but for now, we are building a foundation for getting the information out there. We are using every dime we make to invest back into equipment, building rent, facilities, and continuing education to make our programs better. We took money from one class to purchase pads for self defense, and guns for Hunter Ed. We spend money from our own pocket to pay for land that we can develop and use for these programs, and we pay for equipment and fuel out of our own pocket as well because it is our only current resource and we are blessed that we can. After a week of developing our own private gun range and arranging in class locations, Go For It Outdoors was finally able to sponsor our very first 'Ladies Only Hunter Education Class'. With some of the in class instruction completed, we moved to the range and our tented outdoor classroom for more instruction, field day exercises and the shooting test.
The program that we had taught in prior years was more in depth than a new version the state offered which was a much shorter course. Covering so much material in such a short amount of time seemed almost impossible, but I was determined to make it work. More than half of the class scoring 100% on their written tests proved to me that we had covered what we needed to and they understood it!
The real success came later. As we lined up on the firing line and assigned half of the class to shoot, and the other half to stand behind as coaches, two of the 5 ready to shoot stood there with tears running down their faces. They were scared to shoot the guns. They were scared of what they didn't know and understand. One was intimidated by the pump action .22 that her grandfather had given her to take the course. She didn't know how to work it. She didn't understand the vintage guns' safety and she was worried. As we worked together with their moms to calm them and show them how to use 'their own' guns, the tears still flowed as they got ready to pull the triggers. Some of the other girls were now finished with their first 5 rounds, but we were there for a reason, and this was it! These girls were going to be comfortable shooting before they left that day, that I was sure of.
As we continued to shoot through the required number of rounds, both girls confidence began to grow. By the end of the session, the youngest blurted out 'This is fun!!', to which I replied ' Yes, Yes it is. Once you get past the fear, it is a lot of fun, and you're do great!' The other was insistent on shooting the rest of the rounds that were in her box of ammunition because now that she had the gun figured out, she also was having fun.
Two other instances in this class of 10 ladies was one who texted me the night before class to say she couldn't come, but the day of, texted again and asked if she could just come to the first portion and do the second portion another time. I encouraged her to complete the entire class, but told her I would be more than happy to help her get through the shooting portion if that was her concern. She said she would like to try. By the end of the course, she had aced the written exam and was so comfortable on the firing line that she was pitching in to help some of the others with their issues.
We had a gal there that was having trouble with the gun she had brought to do her test with. It looked to be brand new, and seemed a little stiff. It kept jamming and because she didn't realize it was a semi automatic, she kept trying to load it after every shot. She finished her test with a gun we provided but after realizing how the gun worked, she quickly finished off her extra rounds with her own gun, determined to make it work... and she did!
Seeing the confidence in these girls go from terrified, to no fear and focused determination was an amazing feat. In a few short minutes we were able to break through the wall and bring out a stronger side, one that, even though they were scared or frustrated, they pushed through until they conquered the task in front of them. Watching this happen made me smile inside and out, but being able to be a part of making it happen, well, there are no words. THAT'S the reason I continue to do this program! Being a Hunter Education Instructor is a volunteer program and more worth my time than any other program I offer because it can do so much for these younger generations.
Being one of the few women instructors in the state has given me an opportunity to tap a genre of hunters, future hunters, and even just ladies tagging along on the hunt with no intention of hunting. It has given me the opportunity to encourage, support, and teach women of all ages about the many aspects of safe gun handling, shooting, survival, archery, conservation, and ethics that they may otherwise pass because of a fear of taking the course from a male instructor. Any woman will tell you that there is a level of comfort when you can relate to one another. I can relate to their fears, I can relate to the uncertainty, and I can relate to wanting to stay in my comfort zone, but in order to grow, we must push the boundaries, and I am grateful to be able to be a part of a program that offers opportunities to do that.
Yes We Did and You Can Too!!
We are women who love the outdoors. We all have real jobs, but spend evenings and weekends whenever possible searching for the rush of the wild outdoors. From fishing, hunting, and hiking, to golfing, wakeboarding, and kayaking, if it means being outside in the fresh air, count us in! Winter, Summer, Spring or Fall, the outdoors call to us and we Go For It!!