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Bringing women back to nature

Charlton Heston and Susan McFerrin Foster don’t have many things in common, except for the fundamental belief in the Second Amendment – the right to bear arms.

Both Foster and Heston are members of the National Rifle Association.

While Heston’s work is on the national front, Foster takes her ideals to the local front.

That is one reason she became involved with a program sponsored by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources called Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW).

Foster first became involved with the program in 1991 when she attended with Conservation Officer Jinks Altiere and his wife, Wanda.

She said she went along and simply became a helper for him in the program.

She is amazed at how far the program has progressed since she first attended.

&uot;When I first started out, there were only 16 programs to choose from, but today there are over 40 for women to choose to take part in,&uot; Foster said.

&uot;It provides women with the opportunity to try something before they make a huge investment in it.

It gives them the chance to see if they want to pursue it.&uot;

BOW is a three-day workshop designed for women who are 18 years or older to learn new outdoor skills. These are not just skills associated with hunting and fishing, but other usable outdoor activities.

&uot;The program offers information, encouragement and hands-on instruction in numerous sessions dealing with outdoor skills,&uot; Foster said.

She said participants can select from activities as camping, camp cooking, map and compass reading, shooting sports, fishing, hunting, canoeing, nature crafts, archery, rock climbing and much more.

&uot;When we started out we had 16 programs but now we have over 40 programs,&uot; she said.

Foster got involved with both BOW and the NRA because she firmly believes in the idea that women should not see guns as something they can’t use.

In fact, Foster will quickly tell you she not only owns a few but she is quite capable of using one in self-defense.

&uot;It is one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done,&uot; she said.

&uot;It is good to help so many women who don’t want to feel helpless in a dangerous world. I feel like it is a ministry.&uot;

She said if she didn’t believe it to be her calling, she wouldn’t be involved.

Foster got involved in the program in 1995 and hasn’t put a handgun down since then.

&uot;I first went there with James and Wanda Altiere and basically helped out,&uot; she said. &uot;There were probably only nine women at the first one I went to.

Then when they began looking for instructors to teaching hunter safety, which is required now to get a hunting license, I was a perfect fit considering my educational background.&uot;

When she is not teaching firearm classes or hunter safety, or working at her family store, McFerrin’s Jewelry, she can be found at her &uot;full-time&uot; job teaching at Fort Dale Academy.

&uot;I didn’t start shooting until 1991,&uot; she said. &uot;I went out one day and shot a gun and I thought this was the most wonderful thing. I had been a junior miss and was judging pageants in May of 91.

I grew so much that summer.&uot;

She said she would visit the now defunct Hunter’s Hideout everyday asking questions and that she was one of the first people to take the hunter education course.

&uot;I was one of the first but I also knew you had to have it to get a hunting license,&uot; she said. &uot;I also did it because I was gung ho for it.

I was so excited about guns and hunting.&uot;

That excitement has kept her a permanent fixture at BOW each year.

Foster is the only women who has not missed a single BOW event.

&uot;I go because I feel it is that important,&uot; she said. &uot;All the instructors feel like they are there to help someone.&uot;

Foster said nothing is needed when you attend BOW that is all provided with the fee.

That fee is $175 and includes all meals, housing, materials and a t-shirt.

Residents of Greenville and the surrounding areas will have a chance to meet Foster and let her tell them more about BOW at the annual Butler County Friends of the NRA Banquet Sept. 2 at Cambrian Ridge.

The cost of the banquet is $20 and the doors open at 6 p.m.

&uot;The money raised is strictly for educational purposes,&uot; Foster said in a previous interview with the Advocate.

At the banquet guests will be invited to participate in drawings for door prizes and both a live and a silent auction, and Foster promises there will be some interesting items for the ladies to bid on.

Tickets may be purchased at H & H Guns, Butler Farmers Co-op, The Smokehouse, Poole & Poole and McFerrin’s Jewelry.

For more information on the banquet or on how to sign up for BOW, call Foster at 382-2566.

Those interested can also find out more about BOW by calling 1-800-262-3151 or visiting www.dcnr.state.al.us.

Managing Editor Jay Thomas contributed to this report.