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The WITO Way

NWTF Outreach Program a Success

August 27, 2010
By Laura Bell
The morning of May 15th 2010 was going to be a shocker to any gobblers roaming the woods in northeast Ohio. It was the second to last day of the Ohio spring turkey season and little did these gobblers know that Women In The Outdoors was hosting a women’s only, guided turkey hunt in the area. This hunt would be the first of its kind in Ohio. Three women and their guides took to the woods that morning and the gobblers didn’t disappoint as they sounded off in the morning light…Read on to see how the hunt ends.

Women In The Outdoors (WITO) is an outreach program of the National Wild Turkey Federation. WITO was put into place to help teach outdoor skills to women and show them how hunters aid in the fight for conservation. The Grand River Chapter has been hosting a WITO event at the Crooked Creek Conservation Club in Hartsgrove, OH since 1999. Co-leaders of this event are Terri Herbert and Leesa Lafferre-Thomas. Terri and Leesa have organized this event since 2008 after their previous group leader, Lila Kosten, was unable to participate due to health reasons.

Terri has been active in WITO for eight years after a friend asked her to attend an event with her. Since then she’s attended and helped organize several other area events for women. Terri and Leesa are working hard to build up the event at Crooked Creek and increase interest and that's how the idea of hosting the turkey hunt came about. Shawn Dickey, NWTF coordinator of NE Ohio suggested the idea, and it was decided that if they could gather enough guides and land then they would give it a try.

Since a WITO event in Ohio had never held such a hunt, the thought was that this would draw more women to the event. Along with the half a day Turkey Hunt, this event offered the following other activities - Antler Jewelry, Archery 1-2-3, Arrive Home Alive, Basket Weaving, Bee Keeping 101, Beginning Fly Fishing, Fly Fishing, Gearing Up and Beginning Fly Casting, Handgun, Herb Gardening, Power Tool Safety, Shotguns for Beginners, Skeet Shooting for Advanced, Slate Painting, Stepping Stones, Wildlife in your Landscape, Wine Making, and Yoga and the Mind-Body connection.

Any of those spark your interest? Experienced instructors teach all of the courses and with their expertise you’ll leave the course with the know how to outfit yourself for a lifelong enjoyable hobby. All of the instructors are volunteers from local businesses, clubs or organizations.

Now that you know what this event offers it’s time that you know how to join in on the fun. Anyone 14 years of age and older can participate. Pre-registration is required and costs a small fee. Your paid registration includes: your choice of four of the above mentioned courses (unless you choose the turkey hunt, that counts as two morning courses), use of equipment, program material and instruction. A one-year subscription to Women in the Outdoors magazine, breakfast, lunch, and beverages.

To give you a better feel for what goes on I asked Terri to explain the schedule. “The day consists of registration with a continental breakfast of muffins, fruit and coffee/tea. The women then take two classes in the morning of 1 1/2 hours each. There is 15 minutes between classes to get from site to site. Lunch consisted of chicken breast, barbecue beef sandwiches, macaroni salad, beverages and cake for dessert. Then there are two classes in the afternoon. All through the day we sell tickets for Chinese auction items - gift certificates from local businesses and other items and have the silent auction going on. At the end we do the drawings for the auctions and everyone leaves with a door prize of some type.”

While the Grand River Chapter is responsible for putting on this event, it all takes place at the Crooked Creek Conservation Club located at 4323 State Route 534, in Hartsgrove, OH. This club hosts their own array of events throughout the year that includes, rifle, pistol and archery shoots, dog trials, fishing, and more. For additional information look them up online at:

Many dedicated members put forth their time and energy to make this event a success and special thanks go to this year’s committee - Terri Herbert and Leesa Lafferre-Thomas, Cheryl Sekura, Ruth Powell, Shawn Dickey, Herb Locy, Dave Buck, and Al Thomas. Without these individuals fewer women would be involved in the outdoors today.

Now let’s find out how that turkey hunt went for two of the participants, Donna Hutmacher and Kelly Monroe. Donna, an avid turkey hunter for 10 years and recalls getting goose bumps whenever a turkey gobbled. She achieved a Grand Slam this year and has hunted turkey in South Dakota, Texas, Florida and Ohio, and on one trip she downed two birds within 60 seconds of each other.

“I had a great time on the hunt. I had never been to Morgan’s Swamp before and it was interesting to walk into a strange area and find a place to set up and locate a gobbler. I heard several, but saw none. I walked in water nearly to my knees and I was grateful that I wore my rubber boots. I saw owls flying low in the trees and saw a lot of turkey sign. I enjoy being out in the woods and I don't believe there’s any place closer to God than the woods when it’s waking up in the morning. My overall experience was good and I volunteered to guide next year. WITO is an awesome program. It empowers women to take interest and participate in outdoor activities.  I am no longer afraid of guns; I respect them but I’m not afraid of them. I can bait my own hook and fillet the fish I catch and I learned it all at WITO events over the years.”

Kelly, a deer hunter for five years, heard about the hunt being offered and thought it was the perfect opportunity to learn how to turkey hunt. “My guide was amazing. He brought many different calls and taught me how to use them. By the end of the hunt, we both were calling. He was very familiar with the area and set us up in very nice locations. He taught me a lot of tips and all about turkeys. In our first location we were able to hear a turkey spitting and drumming. Unfortunately he was behind a fallen tree and wouldn’t come into sight. It was really neat to hear him. After about five hours we decided to call it a day and went back to our vehicles. We drove down the road to find the other hunters and sure enough a very nice looking gobbler crossed in front of my guide’s truck. We pulled over and my guide was determined to go after him. We got our gear back on and headed into the woods. He set me up in front of a tree and he started calling. It was really amazing to hear the gobbler responding to his calls. He was able to call the gobbler in to about 60 yards. I had my gun ready but there were too many branches and bushes in my way of getting a clear shot. Although I didn’t get a bird that day, I will definitely be turkey hunting from now on. This WITO event was very well put together and planned. After the turkey hunt, I took two classes, which were very informative and educational.”

Mark your calendars for next year’s event, which is May 7th, 2011 and be sure to let your friends know too. The committee is already busy preparing for it so that this event will be bigger and better, and yes there will be another turkey hunt. For more information on this event please contact Leesa Lafferre-Thomas at or Terri Herbert at

Article Photos

A group photo of all the women that attended the 2010 WITO Event at Crooked Creek Conservation Club. (submitted photo)

Fact Box

“...I enjoy being out in the woods and I don't believe there’s any place closer to God than the woods when it’s waking up in the morning. WITO is an awesome program. It empowers women to take interest and participate in outdoor activities.  I am no longer afraid of guns; I respect them but I’m not afraid of them.” Donna Hutmacher



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