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Vision leads upcoming Palmetto Outdoor Women’s Retreat

By Ford Walpole

We have all heard the Lao Tzu proverb: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This very philosophy may be applied to the South Carolina Wildlife Federation’s (SCWF) Palmetto Outdoor Women’s Retreat (POWR) — except for the fact that this event is exclusively for women and is less about consuming fish for survival and more about fueling and sustaining a passion for all outdoor adventures including (but certainly not limited to) angling.

I actually recall a hunting club breaking up years ago due to what was then a contentious disagreement about women being permitting to hunt. Back then, some old-timers considered outdoor sports a pastime suitable only for men. Fortunately, such an archaic view is virtually extinct among today’s sporting enthusiasts, who welcome women to join hunting and fishing endeavors. Even so, many aspiring outdoorswomen who have not grown up in the field still need help acquiring the basics and developing the necessary skills to ensure a lifetime of success in outdoor activities. POWR is designed to accomplish just that.

POWR, or some form of the event, has been held in the Palmetto State for nearly three decades and held under the direction of SCWF for almost the past 20 years. The weekends typically have been set at Hickory Knob State Park, but cabin renovations made it necessary to movie this year’s venue.

BeBe Dalton Harrison, director of education for SCWF, discusses the May 3-5 weekend: “We are thrilled to offer this year’s POWR at the Clemson Outdoor Lab on the beautiful shores of Lake Hartwell in Pendleton near Clemson. This event is designed for women to experience nature and outdoor recreation with like-minded ladies in a non-competitive environment. Archery, nature walks, kayaking, fishing, outdoor cooking and photography are just a few of the 20 or more classes from which to choose. Participants will have the opportunity to select up to eight classes and be introduced to many outdoor activities.”

Emery Tumbleston and Bebe Dalton Harrison assist with an introduction to hunting blass. IMAGE COURTESY OF KIM AMBROSE

This year’s retreat will be enriched by the presence of several supporters. As Harrison says: “We are pleased to have the support of several outfitters and organizations, including the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Cabela’s/Bass Pro Shops (Greenville Store), Clemson University Shooting Range, Angling Women, Clemson University Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism Management, SASS (Surviving Assault Standing Strong), Chattooga River Fly Shop and Three Sisters Essentials. These partnerships enable us to provide a wide variety of activities conducted by a diverse group of expert instructors. A special thank you is also due to the numerous individual volunteers who so willingly donate their time to share their knowledge and expertise.”

The entire POWR weekend costs $450, which covers catered meals, a cabin stay, registration and a t-shirt. BeBe points out that not only is the price comparable to most half-day fishing charters, POWR also includes “eight separate courses taught by experts in their fields, plus food and lodging!”

Under Harrison’s direction, POWR has inspired additional events leading to the POWR Series. POWR Up is “an overnight retreat for women to experience longer classes in nature and outdoor recreation with like-minded ladies in a non-competitive environment.” POWR Up developed from of the popularity of POWR. Women may select three longer classes at the shorter POWR Up sessions and devote more time to each event than is available through POWR.

In addition, the popularity of the POWR events has also led to the creation of POWR+, “one-day workshops held throughout the state. POWR+ events are open to all women whether you have attended the retreat or have yet to do so.” These workshops include a six-hour focus on a single outdoor topic. Recent and upcoming POWR+ activities include shooting sports in Eastover, fly fishing on the Chauga River, inshore fishing with artificials on James Island, boating and trailering at various public landings, shelling and beach ecology at Botany Bay Plantation WMA and a hike at Forty Acre Rock Heritage Preserve.

As Lowcountry native and lifelong outdoorswoman BeBe Dalton Harrison is quick to point out, she has worn (and continues to wear) many hats. Years ago, she was the coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) “Becoming an Outdoors Woman” program. She later founded Angling Women, an organization that allows her to give fishing clinics and tours. With Angling Women in Action, BeBe hosts annual networking meetings of outdoorswomen and sponsors at the ICAST Fishing Show. In addition, Harrison is the southeast representative for the Aquatic Resources Education Association. Finally, she serves on the board of the Harry Hampton Memorial Wildlife Fund and the outreach and communications advisory panel of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC).

Harrison’s extensive career in outdoor education affords her a unique perspective and insight. The South Carolina Wildlife Federation adopts an approach of R3, which includes Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation. This focus specifically led to the Power Series. “Early in my career, when I began working on education programs,” BeBe says. “We realized a lot of people would start fishing, but they would not continue or stick to it — they would drop off once the newness wore off and without multiple opportunities to become an avid angler, they would lapse. It takes a while to build a confidence level. If you are given multiple opportunities designed for success, that is going to trigger you to come back and gain more experience, leading to a more avid outdoors woman.

“For fishing, the lesson is the hook, but we need to provide opportunities to keep them on the line and to keep setting them up for success until they set the hook and become avid anglers. To become part of the fishing community and to develop a passion, these women need repetition to continue in the sport and the confidence to plan out their own trips.”

For instance, Harrison has noted that some women will enroll in a fish clinic in May and then sign up for the same event the following year without having gone fishing in between. “But we want them to use the knowledge they gain and put it into practice. The more experiences you provide them and the more times you offer opportunities to do something fish-related, the better chances you have of developing an avid angler.” To this end, through its secure Facebook page, Angling Women arranges independent meet-up days, which typically occur on the third Thursday of every month. Some participants are experienced while others have none, but they all support one another.

Cultivating the lifelong outdoorswoman is a primary goal of POWR. “It can be hard to be the only woman at a hunting lodge,” Harrison explains. “We have a lot of women in S.C. who want to connect with other like-minded women to participate in outdoors activities — whether it is birdwatching or turkey hunting or sporting clays — if you are engaged in any one of these activities, you have the opportunity to meet people, learn other outdoor activities and share these opportunities.”

For example, Harrison hosted two women at a recent POWR event. Towards the conclusion, she heard them exclaim, “We could totally do that!” Such a reaction is exactly her goal. “That was so cool to hear!” BeBe declares. “I want these women to be able to plan their own adventure and carry it out all on their own. We are trying to make well-informed, conservation-minded outdoorswomen!”

Testimonials from POWR participants abound. Stefany Beals, participant and instructor, says: “POWR keeps me connected to like-minded women in an atmosphere that brings me back to my beloved Girl Scout days. POWR gives me a way to TASTE the outdoors without having to possess the skills or tools needed for all the activities I experience.”

“While at these programs, I have learned camping, outdoor cooking, fishing, boating, plant identification, bird watching and so much more,” Beth Rivers says. “My grandchildren benefited because from the time they turned five, I started taking them tent camping in the mountains and was able to teach them everything I learned to do. By the time they finished high school, they had their own tents, camping gear, fishing gear and they all love boating.

“My first outdoors women trip was in 1999 and I have only missed [trips] because of a family death, a grandchild being born or a recent knee replacement. For as long as I’m able to attend, I will. I’ll never learn it all. I am proud to be part of this family of outdoors women as a participant and as an instructor. Some of the friends I’ve made have gone camping, ziplining, [enjoyed] water activities and more between POWR events — and we are all over 65 years old. I’m confident in the woods and on the water and enjoy the many friends I’ve made on our outdoors women journey,” says Rivers.

“I enjoy camping and getting outdoors, so at POWR, I love having fun and learning new skills and becoming more confident while in the presence of other badass women. I’m pretty introverted, so it’s nice meeting others with similar interests!” Kayla Moody chimes in.

“I love the women-only feature, as it eliminates the feeling of having to compete and “score” higher, which we all seem to do day-to-day as it is. This retreat was empowering … everyone was encouraging everyone else,” Gigi Spiers says. “I can recall cheering and clapping at the range. The organizers made sure that everyone was comfortable. No question went unanswered; everyone was helpful. I want to go back again badly! We ROCK, ladies — and this event proves it time and time again to us!”

To find out more about the S.C. Wildlife Federation’s Palmetto Outdoor Women’s Retreat and to register for the event, go to

In addition, to learn more about upcoming fish clinics and tours, check out Angling Women on social media, or contact BeBe Dalton Harrison at or (803) 269-2470.

Ford Walpole lives and writes on John’s Island and is the author of many articles on the outdoors. He teaches English at James Island Charter High School and the College of Charleston and may be reached at


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