Outdoor Women Unlimited
In the eight years since she founded Outdoor Women Unlimited (OWU), Rebecca Wood has watched her organization grow from a single outdoor skills class, held in central Alabama in 2005, to a group 5,000 women strong and stretching over 38 states. OWU teaches women many outdoors skills— archery, camp cooking and kayaking to name but a few—but the shooting sports have become, in many ways, the center of the group’s activities. Wood, 58, is a mother of two adult children, a high school biology teacher and an avid shooter and hunter herself. Last season, she took her biggest deer ever, a 200-inch nontypical whitetail in Indiana, on an OWU-sponsored muzzleloader hunt.
How did you come to found OWU?
It really started back in 1998, when I went to a Women in the Outdoors event, hosted by the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF). I fell in love with the whole concept—women learning outdoors skills, being active in the out-of-doors, gaining confidence as they learned. A gentleman I knew (helped me) set up a one-day event for women. Soon after that, I became the coordinator for the Elmore County Central Alabama Women in the Outdoors Program.
And that led to you forming OWU?
The more I worked with women, the more I realized their interest in the outdoors was really strong. But we didn’t want (a program) limited to one focus—to a particular game animal or one type of outdoor activity. We wanted it to be unlimited— whatever the women wanted to try and experience.
How did the shooting sports develop within OWU?
We offer a lot of options for women to try out at our annual Classic membership event, but we noticed that the firearms offerings filled up a lot faster. Then, a couple years ago, we began offering NRA certification courses, with a local firearms training business, and those courses are full. We also offer OWU-sponsored hunts, and our members are asking us for more.
Have you seen positive changes in the firearms industry concerning women shooters and hunters?
There are more women than ever in competitive shooting, and they’re such great role models. There’s been a tremendous effort by the firearms industry to market to women. They began that path with adding the color pink to some of their firearms. And, we’ve talked to many of the gunmakers, and they really want to know «what do women want?» But…
But you have to do more than make a firearm to fit a woman. Or more than make it pink. Education’s the key. A woman needs to understand how a gun safely works. Once they get that education, they’re hooked. At that point, and we’ve seen this happen year after year, they bring their daughters and their sons to the shooting events, too.