Osterkamp leads fishing at girls' outdoor camp

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A Cedar Valley Walleye Club volunteer helps a camper as Outdoor Journey for Girls learn to fish at Hickory Hills conservation park near Waterloo. (Photo submitted)

By Molly Moser

Iowa Department of Natural Resources biologist Karen Osterkamp, who works out of the Guttenberg aquarium office, recently returned from helping with a northeast Iowa camp called Outdoor Journey for Girls. Organized by Iowa Women in Natural Resources with support from the Iowa DNR and Pheasants Forever, the camp is in its 26th year. 

Girls ages 12-15 spent three days and two nights near Waterloo at Hickory Hills, a county conservation park.  On day one, the camp’s 30 attendees learned water safety while canoeing, survival skills and orienteering. They spent the night in cabins on-site and enjoyed meals donated by local groups, including sampling a variety of wild game. On the second day, the girls took a certified hunter education program, learning safe gun handling, gun ethics and laws. They shoot 20 gauge shotguns and 22 caliber rifles, and learn archery skills.  

Osterkamp joins the group on day three, when participants learn about fishing equipment, casting, identifying and cleaning fish. “We talk about types of fishing tackle, how to tie fishing knots, and setting up an easy rig with a hook and bobber,” said Osterkamp. She and her Guttenberg DNR counterpart, Kevin Hanson, bring a tank of fish for the girls to identify. Members of the Cedar Valley Walleye Club donated fishing bait and fresh fish for cleaning, which were used in a lunchtime fish fry. Many area clubs and organizations volunteer their time to help with the camp, and also contribute by sponsoring scholarships for girls to attend. 

“The Cedar Valley Walleye Club sponsored eight girls to go, so if they aren’t able to pay their registration fee for the three-day camp, there is help from a lot of these organizations. It’s a great partnership,” Osterkamp told The Press. 

Organizer Jennifer Lancaster, a founding member of the Iowa Women in Natural Resources group, coordinates both a northeast Iowa and a central Iowa session of Outdoor Journey for Girls. Osterkamp has been involved for the past 24 of the camp’s 26 years. “Jennifer and I are both from Edgewood and we can generally help take girls from the area to camp,” said Osterkamp. Registration is still open with some scholarships remaining for the Aug. 1-3 session, which will be held in Madrid and is expected to host a slightly larger group. 

“I think what is cool is when we start seeing girls that attended as 12-year-olds coming back as chaperones and teachers,” said Osterkamp. “It’s really neat to follow some of those and see what they pursued. We hope they will create awareness for natural resources and conservation in whatever they do in life, and become stewards for natural resources.” 

Women can get involved in a similar camp for adults, called Becoming an Outdoorswoman (BOW). Women choose from more than 20 different classes which may include basic fishing, muzzleloading, fly fishing, birdwatching, archery, nature photography, beginning shooting, basic motor boat skills, orienteering and map reading, GPS, kayaking, canoeing, camping, Dutch oven cooking, dog handling, backpacking and much more. BOW participants are also treated to a variety of evening entertainment, speakers and more. Each year, Iowa’s workshop receives outstanding reviews by participants and interest in the program continues to grow. For more information about BOW, visit http://www.iowadnr.gov/Things-to-Do/Camps-Workshops/Becoming-an-Outdoors...

For more information on Outdoor Journey for Girls, contact Jennifer Lancaster at 319-231-4471. “It’s a great opportunity for girls to get experience and learn in a safe environment,” said Osterkamp.

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