WINSLOW — Four women gathered on Friday afternoon on the shores of Pattee Pond at Camp Caribou, squinting into the sun as they pulled canoes into the water.

“Keep drawing the water. Reach in back and pull!” said their teacher, Ron St. Saviour, as they began slowly to navigate the choppy water.

The group was just one of several Friday afternoon at Becoming an Outdoors Woman in Maine, a skills weekend that drew about 90 women from Maine and around New England to Camp Caribou for outdoor activities that included bow hunting, archery, firearms instruction, freshwater fishing, foraging and campfire cooking.

“We would like to see more women getting involved in those activities,” said Emily MacCabe, outreach coordinator for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, which co-sponsors the event. “Because we provide them the opportunity to try these activities in a safe, comfortable environment, it’s very inviting for them. For a lot of women, getting out in the outdoors gets put on the back burner. They are busy with work and their families and don’t have time.”

The program was first developed at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point in 1991. It has spread since then to several places across the country, including Maine, where the group Friends of Becoming an Outdoors Woman in Maine also co-sponsors the events for women over the age of 18.

On Friday, the first day of the three-day fall skills weekend, Christl Brown, of Old Town, arrived at the shores of the pond in a camouflage baseball cap and water shoes.

“I want to know what to do out there — or what not to do,” said Brown, 51. It was her first time canoeing, aside from a fishing trip with her husband in an inflatable canoe.

“I’m actually on a shopping trip,” she added, sitting down in one of the red canoes that St. Saviour was using for some dry land instruction. “I drive past the Old Town canoe store every day, and I want to know if I’d like to buy one.”

They practiced different types of strokes and methods of balancing the boats with their body weight before dragging them into the water.

“The most important thing is to stay relaxed,” said St. Saviour, a registered Master Maine Guide who volunteers at the skills weekend each year. “There is a possibility of getting wet, but that’s why this sport is fun, because you get to be on the water.”

After an initial struggle to maneuver past some rocks in heavy wind, Brown and her boating partner, Jamie McLeod, and a second boat with friends Natalie Marvin and Corinna Maxwell paddled to a quiet cove near where another group was navigating a zip line that ended with participants splashing into the pond.

And at the end of the cove they swapped stories of the outdoors.

“We were literally whittling sticks,” said Brown, recalling her experience at a winter skills weekend hosted by the department on Bryant Pond in April. “I learned to bring matches because it’s a lot of work to start a fire without them.”

On Friday the women learned different types of strokes — how to draw, cross draw and pry — and how to stand up in the canoe by holding one leg against the seat.

“I learned all of the proper terms and it was nice to learn an actual technique,” said Marvin, 24, of South Berwick.

“It was also a nice little vacation,” added Maxwell, who is also from South Berwick.

“It’s important for everyone to have a connection to the outdoors, especially since we live in Maine, where there’s so much to do,” MacCabe said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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