Courses create outdoorswomen

MARQUETTE – The Michigan Department of Natural Resources offers “Becoming an Outdoors Woman” courses all over the country, and it’s no different here in the Upper Peninsula.

“The Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) program started in Stevens Point, Wisconsin as a way to break down barriers and learn outdoor skills in a non-threatening environment,” says U.P. BOW Coordinator Sharon Pitz.

Women choose four of a wide variety of classes and must take a fishing and firearms class in addition to other BOW courses.

BOW in Michigan started first in 1998 at the Clear Lake Education Center near Shingleton with just 68 women.

“In 1999, we moved to Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay, as we needed more room,” Pitz says. “We have been at Bay Cliff ever since. This summer is our 18th year of providing outdoor fun for women. We have had over 3,000 women walk through our doors between 1998 and the present, attending either summer, winter or Beyond BOW programs.”

This year 99 women are expected to attend the program on June 3-5.

“We have women that come from all parts of the country – this year Minnesota, Illinois, North Dakota, Indiana and Florida are represented as well as the state of Michigan,” Pitz said. “In the past, we have had women from as far away as England attend.

We have over 40 instructors that volunteer their time over the weekend teaching classes in their field of expertise. Many of those instructors have been with us since we started.

“The women get to pick four classes during the weekend to partake in, and each class runs about through three hours. We try to incorporate lots of hands-on learning, Pitz said.

“The current fee for the weekend is $185, which includes two nights lodging, meals and all equipment for the classes unless stated otherwise. We also offer limited scholarships for those that may have a financial difficulty to attend.

“We raise money for those scholarships through a silent auction. We ask the participants to bring a new or slightly-used item to auction off. We have been able to give full and partial scholarships to over 40 women so far since we started this.”

Specific items are needed for some of the 27 classes offered this year.

Contact Pitz at the DNR Customer Service Center about the upcoming winter program or early next year for the 2017 summer session by calling 906-228-6561 or emailing her at pitz.gov.