NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Leann Bunn knew where to look when she wanted to start a program in Oklahoma to introduce women to conservation and our hunting heritage.
“I grew up in an outdoors-oriented family,” said Bunn, a naturalist for the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department at Tenkiller State Park. “I was looking for a program to introduce ladies to the outdoors, and the National Wild Turkey Federation was a great option because it puts money into conservation.”
So Bunn started an NWTF chapter at Tenkiller and founded an annual NWTF Women in the Outdoors event, which has grown to more than 200 participants.
Thanks to her incredible success introducing women to conservation and the outdoors lifestyle, she received the Annie Oakley Award Feb. 15 at the NWTF National Convention and Sport Show at Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.
The national award is the top honor given by the NWTF to a Women in the Outdoors volunteer.
Bunn nurtured an event that began at the state park in 2000 with eight participants, developing it into one of the nation’s largest Women in the Outdoors events. Many of the event’s activities are now held nearby at the 400-acre Methodist Boys Ranch.
“I am totally amazed at Leann’s organizational and leadership skills,” said NWTF regional director Don Chitwood. “She works to help all people learn to love the outdoors and the skills to make it more enjoyable - but women especially, because they can influence their children.”
The event has become a fixture on the schedule for many Oklahoma women. The two-day event, which includes a variety of hands-on classes and auctions, raised almost $11,000 for conservation and outreach efforts in 2012.
“The ladies really care about this event and it shows,” Bunn said. “One of the things that strikes me is that so many ladies return each year. That touches me more than anything.
“Through word of mouth to family and friends we get so many participants. And we have so many volunteers who do the work to make it possible.”
Bunn never went hunting with the males in her family while growing up. In fact, she just recently took up hunting, harvesting two does with a crossbow this season. Bunn said, ”The first woman in the outdoors for me was my mother and her influence on me has brought about my passion for conservation and getting women involved in the great outdoors.” That is why I do a woman’s event because of the influence that women have on their kids. In this day of modern households where there are so many single mothers, the need for getting the mom’s involved is so important. We live in a society where kids don’t go outside much at all and even fewer get involved in fishing, hunting, or hiking. We need to make these things a priority or we are going to lose many of our outdoor traditions.
Bunn is looking forward to her first wild turkey hunt in a few months. Then it will be her turn for a thrilling first experience.