An Interview with Artemis Co-Founder and Sportswomen’s Advocacy Trainer, Alexis Bonogofsky
By Artemis and Alexis Bonogofsky
Artemis sits down with Alexis Bonogofsky, co-founder and Sportswomen’s Advocacy Trainer, to talk sportswomen, hunting, advocacy, dedication, and inspiration.
Artemis: What brought you to Artemis?
Alexis: In the past, I’ve never felt that sportsmen’s groups were for me. They seemed to be for people who were into big horns, lots of gear, and bragging about what they killed. I didn’t see many conversations about the issues that I think about with hunting; speaking out for the conservation of public lands and wildlife, ethical hunting, butchering, getting more women involved, and having hard conversations about how hunters and anglers can contribute more to the lands and waters that are essential to what we do. Nothing I saw spoke to my experience and beliefs so I kept to myself.
When the opportunity arose to help co-found a group dedicated to building a community of women hunters & anglers who are out to change the world and inspire new generations of the sporting community, I jumped at it. This is the language I understand.
Artemis: Why do you spend much of your professional life teaching people about civil discourse and activism?
Alexis: I think people know that participating in our democracy is important but knowing that and knowing how to be a part of it are two different things. It is a complex, complicated and polarized space. We are never really taught how to be an advocate for something, we are only taught it’s important to vote. Voting is important but even more important is the day-to-day work of being a citizen and participating in government decisions. I talk to people all over the country who tell me they are intimidated and frustrated and don’t know where to start. What I want more than anything is people who feel powerful and who feel like what they do matters.
I’ve been lucky enough to have amazing mentors and teachers in my life who have guided me along the way; helping me figure out what works with advocacy and what doesn’t work. There was a time my voice shook as I spoke at a public hearings. I was scared about what my community would think of me if I spoke out. But I also had people behind me supporting me and encouraging me to keep going. If I can help one person the way others have helped me than I feel like it is a life worth living.
Artemis: Why do you believe that Artemis is a unique vehicle for teaching advocacy?
Alexis: Artemis is a unique vehicle for teaching so much. Last fall I held a wild game butchering training on my farm near Billings. The people that came to that training then came to a wild game feed the following February where we talked about a Bureau of Land Management planning process in the Missouri Breaks region of Montana. Now, many of those people are coming to the advocacy training in Billings on May 19. The neat thing about Artemis is that we cover the entire range of what it means to be a sportswoman, from the skills it takes to hunt and fish to the skills it takes to protect the resource.
It is a model of giving back to people instead of taking from people. The question isn’t, what can we get people to do for us? The question we ask is what can we do for people to help them reach their goals as a sportswoman?
Artemis: What do you see as the main challenges facing the conservation movement? Are they unique to women?
Alexis: There are a lot of challenges. People are losing connections to the outdoors and therefore have less interest in protecting them. There are powerful people and corporations that want to take our public lands from us.
But every challenge is also an opportunity to do something different, to try something new, to be better. Can we create a conservation movement that inspires, defines and supports us? Can we create a community where people are learning, growing and teaching each other? Can we create space for new voices and different experiences?
I believe we can. I have no time for cynics and naysayers. Only time to move forward and do the work that needs to be done. We all have to take personal responsibility for the state of conservation and start from the only place we can, which is where we are.
Artemis: Where’s your favorite place to hunt?
Alexis: This question is super easy. My favorite place to hunt is southeast Montana. Ross Toole said it best, eastern Montana is the place “where the sky comes down the same distance all around and those who live in it love it – most of the time.” In one day, I can see pronghorn antelope, elk, mule deer, white tail deer, turkey, pheasant and grouse. It doesn’t get better than that.
Artemis: Who’s your favorite woman conservationist of all time?
Alexis: I would have to say my mom. If she hadn’t hunted and fished while I was growing up I might not have realized it was something that women do too. My mom made sure that my sister and I knew that what we decided to do with our lives and our free time had nothing to do with our gender. And if her and my dad hadn’t made sure I spent a majority of my childhood outside on boats, on horseback, on trails in the mountains and the prairies, I’m not sure I’d be doing what I’m doing today.
Artemis: What do you see as the main goals when teaching aspiring sportswoman advocates and what do you hope participants will walk away with?
Alexis: The main goal is to help people become more effective advocates for the places and lands and wildlife they care about. There is no need to spin your wheels and wonder what to do or wonder if what you are doing makes a difference. The women that founded Artemis have your back.
As part of Artemis’ commitment to training advocates and inspiring up and coming sportswoman conservationists, Alexis will be leading a series of sportswomen’s advocacy training across the West throughout the summer of 2018. Keep an eye out for the training in you state.