Talkin' Outdoors



Four years ago, the Southeastern Outdoor Writer’s Association held its annual conference in Eufaula, Alabama. As I drove into town, I stopped at Subway for a sandwich before heading to headquarters for conference registration.

While ordering my meal, I noticed a lady dressed in camo who had walked in. I nodded, spoke to her and asked if she was here for SEOPA conference. She said she was, I introduced myself and invited her to sit with me for lunch.

Little did I know at this chance meeting I was visiting with a national celebrity well known in the field of archery competition. Her name is Joella Bates and since that meeting, I have followed her fascinating career.

I learned that since taking up archery in 1989, Joella has taken 80 species of wild game with her bow. She is the first female bow hunter to take a Cape Buffalo and she has also added to her bow hunting resume a wild turkey Grand Slam. Most significant is the fact that she was the first bow hunter, male or female, to take the Africa “Big Five” in a single 30-day safari.

Joella is best known today as the originator and CEO of Jo-Camps (, an organization that teaches youngsters around the nation to shoot a bow.

Some quotes from parents and participants in Jo-Camps include “pure awesome;” “she has a special way of teaching archery;” “she has years of experience and a heart for others;" and “she has a passion for teaching and helping others.”

Last week, Joella who makes her home in Tennessee, visited south Louisiana holding one of her Jo-Camps in Houma. The next day, she was in Hattiesburg, Mississippi for a camp and on Thursday, March 14, she was in Jonesboro helping Jackson Parish kids perfect their archery skills.