Women in the Outdoors held its second annual winter event at Chapman State Park over the weekend, drawing participants from across the state as well as parts of Ohio.
The event was, as many referred to it as, a cure for cabin fever.
Classes in winter bird identification, archery, geocaching, trapping, turkey hunting 101, and snowshoeing were offered throughout the day, giving the participants a chance to develop an interest in something they might not have even thought of trying.
Jessica Chipps, who traveled from Youngstown, Ohio, has been going to Women in the Outdoors events since 2007. “I started out going to one event a year and now I attend several,” she said. “This is my first event in Pennsylvania and I’m excited to do the winter things like snowshoeing, trapping and geocaching. I haven’t done any of those before.”
Nicky Leigey, an archery instructor for Women in the Outdoors, came from Clearfield to assist with the event and was hopeful that the event would spark a greater interest for women all over.
“I hope that they find and gain some knowledge, are more comfortable, and can do things in the outdoors. This event is really about women finding independence in the outdoors,” she said.
Jory and Kristen Giger are the husband-wife duo that, in conjunction with Leslie Smith of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), helped to establish the local winter event. Jory, the president of the Kinzua Longbeards chapter of the NWTF, talked about the importance of safety during the event.
“Safety is paramount here,” he said. “We don’t want to risk any accidents which is why we had to cancel the ice fishing due to unsafe ice conditions. The ladies look out and see a couple guys out there (on the ice), but it’s our job to explain to them why we won’t let them out there.”
With ice thickness barely reaching three inches, conditions fell below the recommended four inches required for safe ice fishing.
Kristen Giger, a biologist for the NWTF, and Smith, the PA outreach coordinator, discussed the challenges they faced this year. “The base challenge is always whether or not Mother Nature is going to cooperate,” she said.
“To get participants to want to come out here and freeze,” added Smith. “We want to educate women to enjoy the outdoors; to inspire them. There are so many single women who we want to teach to enjoy the outdoors so they can share it with their children.”
Despite the cancellation of the ice fishing, participants were able to enjoy the other events offered including Don Watts’ presentation on winter bird watching. “Binoculars, a field guide, good clothing, and a good vehicle,” Watts told those in his class, “those are the basic things you’ll need for winter bird watching.”
Jory Giger said it is his hope that the winter event eventually reaches the popularity of the summer event, which attracts between 150 to 200 people. “It’s only the second year,” he said. “Each year we keep getting better and better. Chapman State Park has been a great partner and host. They’ve been very accomodating and always have good facilities for us to use.”