“You get to learn how to notice the plants around you, how to shoot a rifle, how not to ground your boat in the river, how to pack properly for a multi-day hike, and you get to have fun and relax while you’re doing it,” says Nansi Cunningham.

Cunningham is speaking about the annual Yukon Outdoor Woman Program that takes place this year over the weekend of May 25-27.

The program is run by the Yukon Fish and Game Association and aims to connect women to the natural world and each other and to provide them with the confidence to get outside and get involved in activities like camping, hiking, fishing and hunting.

Cunningham explains that the first incarnation of the program began in the early 1990s under the title of Women in the Wilderness. It has expanded and evolved significantly since then.

“Every year we solicit suggestions from our participants and we work to implement what they have told us,” explains Cunningham. “In essence the women taking part in the program are helping us to continually recreate the program—it’s never the same twice.”

This year’s offerings include a wide range of half-day and full-day workshops facilitated by a talented set of volunteer instructors.

The slate of programs includes: a botany walk; outdoor photography; northern bushcraft (includes fire management, knots, signalling, shelter construction and knifecraft); environmental education (includes animal identification, habitats, medicinal plants and observational skills); happy trail hiking; sourdough gourmet; ATV and motor boat travel and safety; firearms safety and marksmanship with rifles; field dressing and meat care; archery and bow hunting; and fly fishing.

The program is immersive in nature and participants are treated to luxury wall tent accommodations at the Vista Outdoor Learning Centre.

“We have participants bring their own gear with them which provides a learning experience in itself,” says Cunningham.

“They find out very quickly if they have the right gear or the wrong gear. One year it snowed and a few women found out that jeans and tank tops are not the best options for bush clothing.”

One of the program’s best parts, Cunningham adds, is the food.

“We have a fabulous chef who prepares simply amazing meals for the entire program in our outdoor kitchen,” she explains. “And the best part is there are no dishes to be done—we have someone who takes care of that too!”

The evenings are filled with laughter and stories around the fire.

“Sometimes we do some archery practice, sometimes we take a walk to a nearby raven’s nest, sometimes we do an ‘outdoor gear for women fashion show’, and sometimes we practise our moose calls,” explains Cunningham.

She recalls one year of the program when participants decided to practise their moose calls during an evening walk. Unbeknownst to them, several of the workshop instructors had snuck into the woods nearby and started moose calling back.

What followed was a hurried discussion of how to best avoid having a moose charge into their midst, followed by a lot of laughter when the false moose were discovered.

“The weekend provides a fabulous opportunity to unplug and really connect back to the natural world,” explains Cunningham.

“We want the experience to be as rejuvenating as possible. If you want to take a nap for an afternoon, we welcome that; if you want to learn a new set of skills from a knowledgeable instructor, that’s here for you too.”

Every year she meets women who say “I’m going to go to that program one year,” Cunningham says.

“Well this is the year,” she says. “It times perfectly to be just before everyone scatters to the wind for the summer. Why not start the summer with a set of new skills that you can make use of to better enjoy the rest of the season?”

To learn more about the Yukon Outdoor Woman Program, or to register, contact the Yukon Fish and Game Association at 667-4237.

Amber Church is a painter, writer and sports enthusiast. You can reach her at sports@whatsupyukon.com.