BOW is a buzzword among certain circles of Arizona women. Mutter the acronym in the right company, and you'll ignite a wildfire of storytelling punctuated by giggles, red-faced gasps and more references to nature than a National Geographic special.
The acronym stands for Becoming an Outdoors-Woman, and it's a sleep-away retreat conducted three times per year by the Arizona Wildlife Federation to teach women from all walks of life how to function and frolic in the great outdoors.
The next session is slated for Feb. 6-8 near Mesa. Registration is now open for women who wish to attend.
At BOW, experienced woodswomen bunk alongside froufrou gals who've never been camping, much less gone to the bathroom in the woods. By day, they attend hands-on workshops devoted to topics like fly fishing, hunting, predator calling, dutch-oven cooking, outdoor photography, birding and tracking. At night, they sip wine, sample game and bond around the campfire.
More than 80 BOW workshops are conducted in North America annually, and more than 20,000 women participate each year. In Arizona, courses are taught by professionals and volunteers from outdoor agencies and clubs around the state.
In other seasons, the programs are held at a bring-your-bedroll camp near Prescott, but February's BOW is billed as a "deluxe" version. It offers cushier digs at Saguaro Lake Ranch, a rustic bed-and-breakfast resort just outside of Mesa. Courses are tailored to the Sonoran desert setting, and there's a smaller crowd - participants are limited to 40, versus about 100 in the spring and summer sessions.
A $375 fee includes meals, lodging, instruction, class materials and a trail ride on horseback. Participants may select their courses, and roommate requests can be made. Registration is limited to women age 18 and older and is required in advance through Arizona Wildlife Federation.