The snow was falling hard by 9 a.m. Saturday morning. But that didn’t deter Janice Easton from heading out to Pine Grove Pond near Evergreen.
The Bigfork resident joined seven other local women for an ice fishing workshop hosted by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) program.
In the first hour, Easton said she’d already had one catch – and was eager to discuss the other adventures she’d had through BOW.
“I’ve been up a river, down a river, kayaking, I’ve been shooting, I’ve been cooking outside...but they always have something going on, it’s wonderful.”
Becoming an Outdoors-Woman has been hosting these excursions for a quarter-century. It was founded in 1991 by Christine Thomas, a Dean and Professor of Resource Management at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Her research showed that women preferred to learn outdoors skills from other women in a non-competitive setting.
BOW aims to provide these opportunities, and has been active in Montana for 25 years. One of the instructors at Pine Grove Pond Saturday, Jan Thon, has been involved for two decades.
“It’s women teaching women mostly,” she told the Daily Inter Lake. “We have our token males, but only if they’re patient, and we just want [the participants] to have a good experience.”
The two “token male” instructors on the pond, Jim Vashro and John Cloninger, are glad to support that mission.
“We’ve expanded to a lot more activities, and it’s just been tremendously successful,” Vashro said. “We have a lot of women that have come repeatedly to workshops, but every year we’re happy to see a lot of new folks that are also trying it and we keep expanding, looking for opportunities.”
Vashro said ice fishing is a good fit for the program. “Winters are long, it’s a good cure for cabin fever...Some of the best catch rates are during the winter, and the fish are in great condition for eating, so it’s just a great activity.”
Saturday morning’s event, held after a Friday night introductory class, bore him out: his ten-minute discussion with the Inter Lake was interrupted five times when participants pulled trout from holes augered into the ice.
“Congratulations!” Vashro remarked as one fish came up, to shouts of excitement. “You can do this, see?”
This camaraderie is a big draw for Easton, who estimates she’s been coming to BOW events for 6 to 8 years. “These people are all so nice, they just come together instantly,” she said. “You’re on common ground, I guess.”
Reporter Patrick Reilly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 758-4407.
For More Information
To learn more about the program, visit fwp.mt.gov, click on the “Education” tab, and select “Becoming an Outdoors-Woman.” This page includes upcoming events and contact information for Sara Smith, the Montana BOW coordinator, who can provide more information about supporting the program.
For those interested in trying out fishing, John Cloninger and Jan Thon have rods and reels available to borrow. They would also like to help single mothers and their kids get involved in fishing, and are willing to provide equipment. Email John at email@example.com.