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45-year-old outdoor newbie encourages women 'it's easier than you think'
Artemis Ambassador Cara Cunningham wants to help others find satisfaction outdoors
(This is the first of two profiles of Oklahoma’s new Artemis Ambassadors courtesy of Artemis Sportswomen, a program of the National Wildlife Federation. Watch for the next profile in weeks to come)
For a 45-year-old recently reintroduced to the outdoors, Cara Cunningham sure can drop a colorful metaphor like an old-timer that hangs around the gun shop or the boat ramp.
The past couple of years she faced a steep learning curve as she ventured afield for the first time in a long time. She constantly fought with a part of herself that has a solid aversion to looking stupid and a habit of always wanting to feel in control.
She is learning to ignore that part of herself. That’s how the metaphor hit her at an unexpected moment. It was when ol’ Five Shot, as she is known to some, field dressed her first buck—after she shot at it four times and hit it once, at 60 yards, with iron sights. That nine-point buck was about as rut-focused as they come.
“This is awful,” she muttered to herself. Then she said, “I know you can’t use this, but it has to do with the ... a-hole.”
She doesn’t know me very well yet.
Part of the instruction for field dressing the deer was if you cut out that part first the rest of the gutting and cleaning process goes much easier.
“It was just like somebody clicked the light on for me because I have messed with so many things in my life, that if I would just cut out the a--hole first, just get rid of it, just, ‘hey, you don’t belong here’ everything else is so much easier. Right?” she laughed. “Just cut out the a-hole first man, then everything else goes better!”
Cunningham is not afraid to laugh at herself, loudly, and clearly, and she shares her experiences with an easy smile. With her example, she hit upon a facet of the outdoors that keeps bringing people to the wilderness. That is, pure and sometimes simple experiences or tasks that translate to everyday city life, experiences that bring clarity and, often, peace.
She definitely does not worry about looking dumb outdoors anymore and as one of the state’s newest Artemis ambassadors, she wants to help build a community of outdoorswomen who share tips and experiences in a fun mistakes-are-part-of-learning environment. The goal is to help women and help the outdoors and conservation by bringing the two together.
The repeated themes in our talk about encouraging women to enjoy the outdoors were, “it’s not as hard as you think,” and “just take it one step at a time.” She has also discovered the wealth of opportunities on Oklahoma’s public lands and is absolutely hooked on all this state has to offer.
The National Wildlife Federation Artemis program, named for the Greek goddess of wild animals and the hunt, is working to increase the profile and influence of what it calls “non-traditional conservation voices.” More women, that is.
“We embody Artemis’ wild spirit and protective nature to boldly carry the conservation torch for the modern sportswoman by engaging in every facet of the sporting conservation life,” states the NWF.
Ambassadors in each state share their outdoor tips, and passions, organize events and share stories through the Artemis Oklahoma Sportswomen Facebook page, a private group page for women only.
Cunningham, a project manager and mother of a college student, said her lack of experience and rekindled fire for the outdoors is part of what should make her a good ambassador. It’s not about being an expert sportswoman, but she is a project manager and has worked as a wedding planner so she knows how to get people together.
Watch the Facebook group for her upcoming women’s fishing event that will take place around August 20, and on public waters that anyone can access.
The eldest of four daughters in a Broken Arrow family, Cunningham said hunting and fishing was a part of growing up but not something her family found much time to do. After that, she was career-oriented and had a family of her own.
She understands the difficulty in finding your way outdoors when you don’t have someone to show you, to take you, regularly.
“It was something I knew I wanted to do, I just didn’t have the time to do it,” she said. “I stayed away for a long time just because I didn’t have the ability to give the effort that I needed to be able to learn.”
Nowadays she and her husband, Glenn Kerr, are out nearly every weekend and she is realizing it really isn’t all as hard as she thought. She wants to help others past those perceived hurdles.
She said she is blessed to live with someone who already knew the ropes and could guide her, but she added that she firmly believes women can do a lot on their own, too—if they just first set aside those things that make them hesitate.
“I would like women my age to know that it’s not too late to get started,” she said. “Just get out and try and you’ll find out it’s not as hard as you might think.”
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