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LIBERATING THE GREAT OUTDOORS; PUBLISHER SAYS WOMEN NEED THE FRESH AIR, TOO

SHE GREW UP tagging along behind her father, a Maine guide.
For years as a mother and businesswoman, Patricia F. Hubbard, 47, remained an active hiker and paddler.

Now she has become the publisher and editor of Outdoor Woman, a 10-times-a-year newsletter designed to fill a need in a world where women remain at a disadvantage -- outdoor sports.

"There are lots of stories about world-class athletes," said Ms. Hubbard, of downstate Nyack, "but very little to encourage or help the average woman who wants to hike or canoe or fish or hunt.

"If you're a famous rock climber like Lynn Hill, people come to you to test equipment built for a woman's physique. But if you are an average woman, there's no central source of information, and you have to search high and low to find outdoor clothing and gear made for women."

Mary Haynes of the Town of Tonawanda agrees.

"Any sporting equipment needs to be a little different for women -- even the handles of a fishing pole or a reel. Our hands are smaller," says Mrs. Haynes, a lifelong angler who would like to fish weekend bass tourneys as her husband does.

"And when it comes to tournaments, we can't fish with our mates. The guys in the Western New York Bassmasters all respect me as a fisherman -- but they do have this rule barring women from competition."

Mrs. Haynes has considered organizing a local chapter of Lady Bass, an all-woman group that mirrors Bassmasters.

"I can understand men want their space, but I'd sure like to be able to compete in weekend tourneys," she said. "In fact, if the opportunity was open to us, most of us would love to compete."

Ms. Hubbard also knows, as Mrs. Haynes puts it: "It's almost like you're automatically pegged at a novice level. I'm not a novice. In fact, I'd enjoy fishing with a pro like Bill Dance, just to watch how he works his lures. But that will never happen."

Ms. Hubbard hopes to close those gaps.

For years she has been introducing businesswomen to the intricacies of wilderness canoe travel, and she kept getting questions about how and where to learn to hunt, fish or handle a boat.

"I always suggest going to a school that was geared to women -- at least at first, until she gains confidence in her ability," Ms. Hubbard said. "For a lot of women who don't know about a sport, it's difficult to go with 10 strangers, especially if you are the only woman along."

Even accomplished outdoorswomen can feel uncomfortable, says Lucy Cullen, a casting instructor with a local fly-fishing club.

"I don't feel uncomfortable as a woman, fishing, but I always have the feeling that maybe men don't like to be intruded upon.

"Once you're accepted as an angler, it's just like being accepted into Rotary.

"But it must be easier for a married woman to fish with her husband than to fish alone," Ms. Cullen adds. "Going out alone can be intimidating. It would be nice to find a female fishing buddy."

Looking for a women's outdoor network -- and not finding one -- gave Ms. Hubbard the final impetus to quit her job with an executive search firm, find a few backers and launch Outdoor Woman.

She has been "overwhelmed by the positive response so far" -- not only from subscribers, but by those wanting to submit articles.

Women from across the country who hike, climb, paddle, cycle, fish, hunt and participate in clay target shooting are pounding word processors preparing how-to/where-to and inspirational pieces that all have the common theme of "women can do this."

The first issue carries a piece on getting started on snowshoes that's gender-specific only in that it answers a woman's questions. There also is a primer on ice fishing written by tournament bass angler Jill Barnes and a small paean to the outdoor life by 75-year-old woodswoman Milli Gay.

The newsletter carries an events calendar of special interest to women and an outdoor service directory listing 20 outfitters: Women Outdoors, Woods Women, Womantrek, the Seattle Women's Sailing Association -- even one operation called Outdoor Vacations for Women Over 40.

"I have 150 more in my desk drawer," says Ms. Hubbard. "I plan to run 20 or so sources like that each issue."

Outdoor Woman is needed, Ms. Hubbard says, in part to overcome that "macho factor" in outdoor pursuits.

"We can read maps, paddle, cast flies. But some women have to be convinced of that. They need confidence and need to know where to go to learn. So why not a newsletter for women, just like the outdoor magazines for guys?

"Women," says Ms. Hubbard, "have been brought up to believe that our entertainment has to come from husband and children. Well, that's wrong. Women can enjoy the same sorts of outdoor pursuits men can, and on the same level. I want to help them do that."

Adds Mrs. Haynes: "If you really enjoy something, you should have the opportunity to participate. For me, fishing is interesting, intriguing and a challenge. If you get together with a bunch of women who enjoy anything, you'll enjoy it more and learn new things. That's where the shame of it is: I wish there was more open to us."

Editor Hubbard, however, doubts that her two daughters, ages 20 and 24, will follow her trail.

"Neither one of them likes the outdoors -- in fact, they avoid it.

"But they encourage me, because they say they want me to be the kind of grandmother who takes her grandchildren hiking and fishing."

For information on the newsletter, write Outdoor Woman, P.O. Box 834, Nyack, N.Y. 10960.

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