Doe Camp Nation Offers Outdoor Skills, Training To Women

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Through hands-on education, Doe Camp Nation endeavors to encourage women of all ages and abilities
to experience shooting sports and outdoor activities.

When on the lookout for great outdoor opportunities for women, you may come across some events that are more than they seem at first glance. Doe Camp Nation is one of those offering much more than the name implies. 

We spoke with Doe Camp Nation’s 

Meridy Capella and Amanda Mavourneen, who serve as VP and treasurer, respectively, to find out more and why women should attend.

Reviving The Brand

Doe Camp Nation began over 20 years ago. Capella and Mavourneen attended several of the events and loved them. However, as with many things, it ultimately ended up going defunct during the pandemic. But knowing how successful it had been, Capella, Mavourneen and some of their friends decided they wanted to revitalize it.

“We decided to pull together a group of us who had been participants and had fallen in love with the camp, and we received some guidance from the original program team to help pull things back together,” Capella explained.

Mavourneen shared, “As alums of the program, we couldn’t let it die. We all have busy personal lives and day jobs, but we’re volunteering to make this thing happen again because it was so impactful on our lives and we can’t let it go.”

The value of the program and desire for it to continue is also evident through the financial support coming in. Varying organizations, such as VOGA (Vermont Outdoor Guide Association) and local telecom provider Waitsfield Telecom have provided seed money, and the majority of the funding is coming from a grant from the Davis Foundation.

What Is Doe Camp Nation?

The program is structured around women’s outdoor education and encompasses almost every facet of anything to do in the outdoors. A lot of people associate it with hunting because of the name, but it’s just a portion of the whole event.

Training is offered in a wide range of disciplines: rifle, pistol, shotgun, archery, foraging, land navigation, kayaking, canoeing, log rolling, chainsaw, orienteering, how to cook in the woods, how to start a fire, sheltering in the woods, dog sledding, Nordic skating, ice fishing and regular fishing. (“Basically, anything ‘outdoors’ you can think of,” Capella added.)

At this point, the goal of the Doe Camp Nation team is to bring back all of the above offerings. Capella noted it’s all contingent on partnering with the best instructors.

“The focus is always on having the most qualified instructors and making sure we offer a safe, well-rounded program,” she emphasized.

Women have an opportunity to take whatever class they like, so the format generally is Friday through Sunday. Participants choose one class in the afternoon on Friday, two classes on Saturday and one Sunday morning class. The participation fee includes four classes along with meals and housing.

Why Do Women Attend?

“I think people come to Doe Camp for many different reasons,” observed Mavourneen. “For me, I grew up in the city and my family didn’t do this kind of thing. As an adult in my 40s, I moved to Vermont. I felt like there were things I was not taking advantage of. Now, I own a compound bow, a couple of handguns and a rifle.”

At Doe Camp Nation classes, attendees will learn a variety of skills.

“We offer things tangential to hunting — like how to set up a treestand, how to dress a deer, wilderness medicine and building a shelter if they’re out somewhere and get lost,” Mavourneen shared. “These things are all important to the experience of hunting, but it’s not specifically for hunting. It’s just about getting comfortable outside and learning some skills that will help attendees. And maybe they’ll find a passion they really want to learn more about.” 

“I came into it a little bit differently than Amanda did,” noted Capella. “I came into it in my 30s with young kids, and for me, it was a bucket-list item. It gave me an opportunity to go be with other women. After I did it the first time, I knew I would continue to do it forever.”

“I did not think I would end up on the board though,” she said with a laugh.

Each class is about three hours long, so participants have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the experience and they might just discover they love it.

“I’ve never heard anybody say they hate it,” said Capella.

Capella explained another benefit of attending is the “trying without buying” aspect.

“You don’t have to commit to purchasing the gun or purchasing the kayak or purchasing the compound bow. You can try it and see if it’s something you’re interested in. And you can do it in a safe situation with a skilled instructor who has all the equipment,” she said.

Greatest Challenge(s)

Mavourneen lent insight into the most difficult part of reviving Doe Camp Nation.

“I think it was having to start with no money,” she said. “Luckily, we have a friend and former instructor, Cheryl Sullivan, who wrote grants for us, and we got some seed money.”

She continued, “However, I had a nice surprise when I opened the mail last month and there was a $500 check in there from Franklin County Whitetails Unlimited. So yeah, it’s great the people are really supporting what we’re doing.”

Getting boots on the ground to run events has also been a challenge.

“A close second is not having enough hands on deck to help us,” Mavourneen said.

They have recently attended a couple of gun/hunting shows and were excited to reconnect with outdoor instructors who had previously taught at the camp. 

“They were so glad to hear we were starting up again and were asking how they could get involved once more,” Mavourneen said.

Getting Involved

Doe Camp Nation is ready to hit the ground running on September 13–15, 2024 at Jackson’s Lodge in Canaan, Vt.

Women can go online to pre-register now at doecamp.org. The fee to reserve a space is $100. Spots are expected to fill quickly.

Mavourneen and Capella are also working on finalizing their instructor cadre so participants can start seeing what will be offered. If a participant had a favorite instructor at previous camps they can look forward to learning with that instructor again. 

Capella advised, “Women can visit our website and even if they’re not interested or able to come to this particular event, they can get on our contact list so they’re looped in for the future. We also have a Facebook page where we try to stay active and current so it gives them an opportunity to check out what we’re up to and where we’re headed. We also have a good community on Facebook where people are sharing other activities, so if you’re just interested in local events, it’s a great way for people to share.”

Future Goals

Capella and Mavourneen agree on their goal for the event: “We just want to have an awesome fall program. We want it well attended, well instructed and safe. We especially want everyone to feel like they’ll walk away with everything they signed up for and building a stronger community.”

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