SHERIDAN — While women traveled from all over the country to participate in the Wyoming Women’s Foundation Women’s Antelope Hunt, the four-day event couldn’t have happened without its many volunteers.
Wyoming Community Foundation events coordinator Kate Smith said each year the event brings in 15 to 20 volunteers from all over the state, including committee members, members’ husbands and women who have hunted in the event in the past. With few staff members working the event, the volunteers are vital to the hunt’s success.
“We have maybe six staff members, with just the staff there’s no way we’d be able to run the event on its own,” Smith said.
“We depend on them for everything.”
Volunteers do everything from running events, like skeet shooting and fly fishing, to helping with check-ins, meat preparation, hunter welcome meetings and the auction and raffle.
The hunt — which started in 2013 and has since raised $280,000 for grantmaking, special projects and programs that improve the economic self-sufficiency for women — is the first of its kind, welcoming female hunters of all levels from all over the nation.
Ms. Wheelchair USA 2013 Ashlee Lundvall from Cody has volunteered for the past two years and Beth Worthen of Casper has volunteered the past five years.
On Saturday, they waited with first-year volunteers Faith and David Harvey and fourth-year volunteers Toni and Rusty Bell, all from Gillette.
The group was in charge of the paperwork and tagging of animals as hunters brought in their game as well as making sure the appropriate steps were taken in terms of processing and taxidermy.
Hunters had options of learning how to skin and process their kill, or if they wanted it done for them.
“I actually think we have the best job,” Worthen said. “Because we get to see them …right when they come in, and they’re so excited, and we get to be a part of that, and what could be better than that.”
Lundvall hunted in the event in 2014 and chose to volunteer every year since. While she enjoyed the hunting experience, she likes that as a volunteer she gets to be part of everyone’s hunt, not just her own.
She said hunters are often gone with their partner all day Friday and Saturday, giving them less time to meet and interact with the other ladies at the event.
“That’s why I like volunteering now,” Lundvall said. “It sounds selfish but you get to be part of all of it; you don’t just have the one part.”
But Worthen said her favorite part of volunteering comes later. Worthen keeps in touch with hunters and said she likes seeing what women do with what they’ve learned after they’ve left the event.
“They feel a lot more empowered to go do it on their own, do it with their families,” Worthen said. “But also…maybe they’ll come back another year as a hunter or as a volunteer and what they’ve done in the interim is really exciting.”
Though the event teaches women the sport of hunting – from kill to cooking – it’s these relationships that keep hunters and volunteers coming back.
Lundvall blocks off the weekend every year and has the event scheduled on her calendar indefinitely. To her, it’s more of a reunion than a hunt.
“It’s a family, that’s why we all come back every year,” Lundvall said. “…You drive down the road and you see that big white tent set up and it just gets you excited about it.”