Helping women to the outdoors

KANSAS CITY,. – Ellen Benitz remembers the days when she felt somewhat out of place in the outdoors.

She grew up as a self-professed tomboy, and she quickly developed a love for hunting and fishing.

“I felt odd, because I didn’t know many other women who were into the outdoors,” said Benitz, who lives in St. Joseph, Mo.

“I remember wanting to get more women involved.”

Perhaps it’s fitting that Benitz today makes her living as the regional coordinator for the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Women in the Outdoors program,.

The outreach program started in 1998, when 18 pilot programs across the nation taught 1,000 women across the country how to get started in everything from shooting to archery to fishing to outdoors cooking.

The program allows women to try the activity they were learning.

Today, there are 450 programs scheduled nationwide for 2007.

And membership in the organization has grown to 45,000 – a total that excites Benitz.

“We’re trying to break down barriers,” she said. “We want to create confidence in women.

“Female participation in the outdoors is growing quickly, and that’s exciting.”