By Nick Simonson
With upcoming events targeting women hunters and conservationists, the ladies at the helm of the North Dakota Pheasants Forever (ND PF) organization are looking to tap into a growing demographic of outdoors enthusiasts and launch a women-only chapter in the Peace Garden State to reflect the growing dynamic not only in the field but also in the state’s land ownership.
The first such event open to all female hunters and conservation-minded women in North Dakota will be the organization’s “Women, Wine & Wild Game” social hosted by ND PF Regional Representative Renee McKeehen and Women in Conservation Coordinator Cayla Bendel on Wed., Apr. 4, 6:30pm at the Co-Studio in Bismarck (200 W. Main Ave., 3rd Fl). The Women, Wine & Wild Game event will serve as a launching point for the organization’s efforts to get more women involved in the outdoors and recruit members to form the first all-female PF chapter in the state.
“As far as this kickoff event, we’ll have 60 ladies in attendance; from there we’ll sign a chapter charter and we’ll need the key, motivated women to serve as officers,” said McKeehen, “ideally, we’re going to start with this chapter in Bismarck, but this event will pull in ladies from all over,” she concluded.
McKeehen’s vision for the organization’s future is more social events to help attract new female members to the fold and expand its reach into the increasing number of women who are taking to the field each fall in various outdoor activities, including pheasant hunting. Following those introductory events, hands-on learning and hunting experiences will serve as a means of further connecting women with the outdoors and shooting, hunting and conservation efforts in North Dakota. A wingshooting program set for this summer will help the organization and the new planned chapter connect with more women interested in improving their shotgun skills for the coming autumn. The Women’s Wingshooting Clinic will be held on Thu. Jun. 7, from 5 to 8pm at Capital City Sporting Clays in Bismarck (12951 71st Ave. NE). Mentored hunts, where women teach women through the process of hunting are also in the works for the coming autumn.
“Female hunters have been on the rise, which is very important with the general decline in hunter numbers overall,” said McKeehen regarding the organization’s current female focus, “we’re trying to add to that – there’s a unique dynamic of females teaching females and females recruiting females – providing a more comfortable experience; the new chapter will help conservation by growing women’s voices to speak up for conservation,” she concluded.
McKeehen is one of four women who have taken on leadership positions in ND PF, with Bendel, Precision Agriculture Specialist Melissa Shockman and State Coordinator Rachel Bush comprising the organization’s top-level staff in the Peace Garden State. This strong female representation on the leadership team has enabled the organization to connect with the growing number of female landowners and conservationists and foster projects on lands those women have inherited ownership or control of in recent years.
“There is an increase in changing land ownership to women in ranching and farming, as they become complete controllers, or more active within their family farms,” said McKeehen, adding that in her experiences, women tend to be more receptive to conservation efforts and have more of that nurturing attitude toward natural things and foster a great sense of care for their lands.
(Featured Photo: As more women enter the field, Pheasants Forever looks for ways to connect with and engage them as voices of conservation. Simonson Photo)