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Want to become an ‘Outdoor Woman?‘

Mike Terrell - November 2nd, 2009
Want to Become an ‘Outdoor Woman’?
...the DNR has a program for your wild side

By Mike Terrell 11/2/09

If one of your goals is to get outdoors more often this winter, and you’re a woman, you are in luck.
Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW), a program offered by Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has once again scheduled a number of winter events that will offer everything from learning how to build igloos to cast-iron cooking over campfires. Of course, practical applications like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and winter survival skills will also be covered.
“We’re in the process of scheduling classes for this winter, and we’ll be adding more over the next couple of months,” said program coordinator Sue Tabor. “For the past seven or eight winters our programs have been filling up, and we’re trying to schedule a few more each winter.”
Since its inception more than 15 years ago, the BOW program has averaged around 600 participants annually. Michigan, which runs classes all year long, has had one of the longest-running programs in the nation. Each year, close to 20,000 women participate in some form of the program nationwide.
The Wolverine State was one of the early success models when the program was introduced.
“Our program became a model for the rest of the nation,” Tabor said. “We were one of the first, and our success has inspired many states to try a similar model. The winter program is kind of unique, because not that many states can offer a similar setting that you find in a northern Michigan winter.
“The Canadian provinces have latched onto the success of our winter program,” she added with a laugh.

WINTER PROGRAMS
BOW offers both day-long and weekend programs throughout the year, and many fill quickly once they go online.
“That’s indicative of the interest in our winter programs. If women are interested in any of the offerings, they should sign up quickly. It’s a great opportunity for women to learn new activities and skills, brush up on existing skills or just enjoy the company of like-minded women who appreciate the beauty of winter,” Tabor said.
“We see new women coming out every year to sign up for these programs, and a lot of splinter groups will spring up from the friendships formed at these outings.”
That’s what attracted lower Michigan resident Linda Evans to the program.
“A close friend talked me into trying a winter outing a few years ago, and I’ve attended seven of the programs since that time, all over the state,” said Evans. “I’ve since brought friends, and have met some really inspirational women at the various outings. Some have been from other states. We stay in touch and regularly plan outings and camping trips of our own.”
Some of the things she has tried over the years include dog sledding, kayaking, operating a chainsaw, snowmobiling, ski-joring with dogs, archery, shooting handguns and shotguns, ice fishing, and building an igloo.
“It’s given me a lot of confidence in trying new things, and a willingness to push myself outdoors. We even slept in the igloo while ice fishing,” she said.

BUILDING CONFIDENCE
Faith Edwards, from the U.P., signed up for the program to build strength after an accident and to feel more confident in an outdoor environment.
“I took an outdoor survival course, and one of the things they covered was self-defense. It was a great course and I accomplished what I wanted,” she said. “I’m in my 50s, and it gave me a lot more confidence, not just in being outdoors, but in everyday life. I would definitely recommend the BOW program to other women. This winter I’m going to learn how to build an igloo, and I’m looking forward to staying overnight in it.”
Following is a quick look at classes scheduled for this winter. Check back on the website link listed below for the latest schedule and to register for the activities. They will be adding more classes between now and January, according to Tabor.
There are two BOW weekend retreats and a third Beyond BOW weekend scheduled so far, according to Tabor.
• The U.P. weekend event at Bay Cliff Health Camp near Big Bay is slated for Jan. 26-28. Classes, according to DNR coordinator Sharon Pitz, will include ice fishing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, dog sledding, snowmobile safety, winter survival and reading winter woods, fish identification, fly tying, outdoor cooking, GPS, and photography. The cost is $175 per person, which includes lodging and food.
• The northern lower Michigan class will take place at the DNR’s MacMullan Conference Center at North Higgins Lake State Park, March 5-7. It will include many of the same activities as the UP weekend with potential additional classes on archery, basket weaving, nest box building and cast iron cooking being added, according to Tabor. Final classes and their cost had not been determined at press time, but are expected to be in the $200-$250 range and will include lodging and food.
• The Beyond BOW event is also a northern lower Michigan weekend event, Feb. 19-21, that will take place at Nettie Bay Lodge near Hawks on the east side of the state. Classes will include snowshoeing and cross-country ski outings. The cost had not been set yet at press time.

For info on these activities and to check for new offerings in the BOW program, you can log onto www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,1607,7-153-10369_15424---,00.html. It isn’t easy to find on the DNR website, and this will take you right to the BOW page.

 
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