Jacksons Gap's Pat Johnson, center, says she continues to return to OWU events because of the relationships she has made with the other members.

After being forced to wait three weeks since the original scheduled date due to storms, the 2019 Outdoor Women Unlimited Southern Classic was held at Bennett’s Archery Center in Wetumpka on Saturday. The OWU had eight different classes set up across the campus for women to attend, providing hands-on training and education.

“Outdoor Women Unlimited was created in 2001 by my mom and I with a couple of other ladies,” Whitney Hurt said. “The purpose of it is to educate women in all different facets of outdoor events and activities. Our goal is to get a woman who is a novice and take her to where she can do these things on her own.”

Hurt said The Classic, which was in its 14th year, is used as an introductory course to the outdoors for women who want to become more active. It is just one of many events the OWU holds throughout the year, including shotgun clinics, fishing tournaments, kayaking events and more.

Saturday’s event provided a variety of options to peak the interests of anyone in attendance. Members started at one station early Saturday morning and rotated through each course, attending each class for an hour.

“All of our instructors are at the master level of whatever it is they are teaching,” Hurt said. “They are certified to be able to instruct the classes so the women are learning from the best we have available to teach them.”

Some of the classes provide an educational experience without having to stay active in the heat during the summer event. One course, entitled Total Hunt, was taught by experienced hunters Johnny Wood and Bill Wilson and its purpose was to teach people how to get ready before a hunt, including what to wear, what to pack and what to expect during each season.

NRA certified instructor Chip McEwen provided a class on gun safety through slideshow presentations and short demonstrations without live ammo. While the OWU does provide courses in the fall for learning how to shoot, this course was geared to educating the women on the guns prior to having one in your hands.

The OWU also provided classes on compass orienteering, agriculture, fishing and kayaking. Throughout the day, there were also different exhibits available to the camp, including watching the creation of handmade brooms.

“I think a lot of our women have learned a lot over the years,” Hurt said. “If nothing else, they have found people with something in common so they have created bonds and friendships which is a huge part of this.”

One of those women who fell in love with the outdoors with the help of OWU is Pat Johnson. She has been a member since 2009 and attended her first Southern Classic in 2013. 

Since then, she has started to participate in national shooting competitions, including on the television show “Ammo and Attitude.” Despite the success on a larger scale, Johnson said she loves returning to OWU events because of the roots she has created in the past few years.

“It’s because of the people and the comradery,” Johnson said. “The girl who is with me today, this is all new to her so it’s nice to see her get enthused about it. And it’s always good to go back to the basics every now and then.”

Johnson, who lives off Lake Martin in Jacksons Gap, said she had one of the best moments she’s ever had in all of her years going to events at this year’s Classic. Johnson was introduced to fishing by her husband, who recently died, and she got to have a moment where she said she knew he was looking down on her.

Johnson and her friend went down on the water early in the day to take the course on fishing. After reeling in a couple of smaller fish, Johnson fought for her final catch of the day, which was an approximately 5-pound bass.

“My honey was looking down saying, ‘She did it,’” Johnson said. “I thought I may could catch something but when this one caught on, I was like, ‘This one is bigger.’ I knew it was bigger but I had no idea how big it was until I got it in.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writers at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.