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Great opportunities for all women to experience Michigan outdoors



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August 01, 2007
In the not so distant past, experiencing the outdoors was predominately considered an all male type of activity. The opportunities for boys and men to learn more about the outdoors came from spending time at deer camp, going on fishing trips, or camping together. The skills acquired during these times were typically passed down from generation to generation. Women, on the other hand, have had very limited opportunities for outdoor sports activities (hunting, shooting, fishing, hiking, etc.) set up exclusively for women. The "Becoming an Outdoors-Woman" Program (BOW), however, is designed to change all this. The recently formed International BOW Organization is growing immensely as it provides women with numerous opportunities to experience the great outdoors in a relaxed, informative, comfortable, non-threatening, safe setting. The BOW program in the state of Michigan is managed through the MDNR, offering women of all ages many single and multi-day events at various locations around the state.

An International Program

The BOW program was started in 1991, by Dr. Christine Thomas, on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Since that time, the program has grown into an international organization with chapters in over 44 states, nine provinces in Canada, and one in the country of New Zealand.

According to the International BOW website, www.uwsp.edu/cnr/bow, there are over 20,000 women who attend BOW events annually. Peggy Farrell is the director of the national organization that supports the state-run programs.

"I am in an advisory capacity to the folks in the state programs," says Peggy. "We offer a professional development program through our Annual Coordinator Conference where state coordinators can come to network, learn how to run events, and become more familiar with the overall BOW program."

The International BOW Program does offer some additional opportunities, but space is limited and they fill up quickly.

"We have our Annual Destination Adventure Trip that has gone to locations such as Alaska, Wyoming, South Dakota, Costa Rica, and even the Bahamas where participants engage in a specific outdoor experience," Peggy continues.

Information for these trips, including registration, state website links, and other organizational details are available on the international site. According to Peggy, many women develop more self-confidence and the skills necessary to enjoy the outdoors through the BOW Program. "What is very exciting to see is the transformation of women who walk away saying, 'Wow, I can do this!'"

Michigan's BOW Program

Lynn Marla is the cornerstone and foundation of the BOW Program here in Michigan. She has worked for the DNR for over 30 years, 17 of them in the Law Enforcement Division. In 1994, as BOW began to grow throughout the U.S., Michigan held its first workshop. In 1999, Lynn became the State Coordinator. She credits her dad with introducing her to the outdoors.

"My Dad used to take me rabbit hunting as a young girl and I could hardly keep up, but I always went." She also hunted pheasant as a youth. "In high school, I used to go deer hunting on Drummond Island because my Dad had relatives there. I'm lucky because not a lot of women have the same background as I had growing up," Lynn adds.

What, How, and Where

A full BOW weekend event covers three primary outdoor sporting areas: shooting-hunting, fishing, and other activities sometimes referred to as "Eco-Sports." As many as 60 to 100 participants will meet on a Friday afternoon through Sunday noon at a location that allows them to learn and experience all three areas. Each woman is provided with all the necessary materials and equipment. Their time is spent equally among the three chosen topics through classes and hands-on instruction. All the meals are provided as well as comfortable lodging on the level of a nice hotel. Participants generally enjoy a relaxed atmosphere each evening with some type of planned activity such as a campfire, walk, nature crafts, etc. There may even be some type of entertainment provided!

"We keep them pretty busy," Lynn chuckles as she explains.

In the shooting-hunting classes, ladies are given instruction on proper gun handling and safety, and the opportunity to shoot at targets with the guns provided. Fishing techniques, types of rods and reels, as well as fish species are all discussed to provide the women with the knowledge necessary to be prepared to head out on the water. The final area of classes is the "other category." This broad topic area can include discussion and experience in kayaking, canoeing, hiking, camping, outdoor cooking, mountain biking, etc. The purpose of this weekend is to provide women of all ages a basic understanding of the many outdoor sporting activities, along with the skills and equipment necessary to enjoy them here in Michigan. These events are a great value considering all that is packed into each program at a low cost.




BOW participants have opportunities to explore shooting sports during a three-day event. MDNR photo by David Kenyon

Beyond BOW

The BOW Program also has events entitled "Beyond BOW" that are a little more advanced and challenging. "In the Beyond BOW workshops, we can focus on just one particular activity such as sporting clays, fly fishing, mountain biking, camping, backpacking, or pheasant hunting," Lynn explains. These range from half-day to two-day outings that require a little more knowledge and skill on the subject.

Lynn adds, "We have a lot more flexibility with these workshops." This summer, for example, has been full with BOW and Beyond BOW events throughout the state that are typical of the type of activities the program has to offer: "Beyond BOW Salmon Fishing" was a two-day workshop held in August in the Garden Peninsula of the U.P., "Woman's Beginning Shotgun Instruction" was a one-day event held in Lansing, "Beyond BOW Women's Hunter Safety" course was held in Mason, "Women's Beginning Fly Fishing" workshop provided the basics of fly fishing on the beautiful Au Sable River, "Summer Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Program" was held in July at the Kettunen Center in Tustin. This was one of the full weekend events that covered all three of the target areas of interest.

Scheduled Events

Upcoming events include several

pheasant hunts. The first is scheduled in Deford on the 22nd of September (National Hunting and Fishing Day). A second hunt, also in September, will be held in the U.P. near Rapid River on the 29th. In addition, there are plans underway for a third pheasant hunt to be held on March 8, 2008 near Brown City, co-sponsored by Lapeer County Pheasants Forever.

All the pheasant hunts mentioned above are full day events that include instruction, target practice, and an actual hunt in groups of four. They will be using pointing dogs and will have the opportunity to bag up to four birds as well. The Deford hunt is to be held at Bruce Farms, Inc. and is being sponsored by the DNR and the Flint Chapter of the Safari Club International.

Lynn provides many options for the women. "Many women bring their own guns along, but I like to bring some as well for them to try something they may not own. I would rather have ladies try a variety of guns before they go out and spend a lot of money for something that doesn't fit well." Ladies interested in signing up for this event should apply as soon as possible because participation is limited to sixteen. A brochure is available on the DNR's website with details,

as well as an entry form for those who would like to take advantage of this exciting opportunity at a minimum entry fee. Additional details on this event, the BOW Program, and upcoming events can be found on the DNR's website. Go to www.michigan.gov/dnr and click on Education & Outreach in the sidebar. From there you will find the link "Becoming an Outdoors-Woman". Lynn is also available to provide more information and can be contacted by phone at 517-241-2225 or e-mail at marlal@michigan.gov.

The Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Program is a great way for women to explore, enjoy, and experience Michigan's many outdoor activities. Women from 18 to 80 now have the opportunity to be part of an all women's event that will provide them with the knowledge and skill-set needed to fully experience the outdoors and possibly discover a new area of interest to pursue. In addition, the Michigan BOW Program offers unique venues that are fun and informative; your life and appreciation of the outdoors may never be the same.

Dave Beyer has been hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping throughout the state of Michigan for over 30 years. Dave can be contacted at dbeyer@BD-Strategies.com

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