Workshop inspiring sportswomen

SILVER CITY – The growing number of women and youth getting involved in hunting is changing the face of a sport historically dominated by men.

Recognizing this trend, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Lake Superior Sportsman’s Club have teamed up to offer more shooting sports opportunities for women and youth.

Among their joint efforts, the fifth-annual Ladies Day archery and firearm shooting event will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. Aug. 9 at the club’s indoor range, which is located along the south side of M-64, 1.5 miles east of Silver City in Ontonagon County.

“This free workshop is intended to provide ladies instruction on the safe and enjoyable use of handguns, rifles and archery equipment,” said club President Walt Toepfer. “Safety talks, instructions on use and a lot of shooting time will be provided. Participants do not need to be club members to take advantage of this fun-filled event.”

Tonya Panveno, 57, of Silver City was among those who attended Ladies Day last year. She said she enjoyed it very much.

“It was fun to be able to handle different firearms and it made me feel more comfortable around them,” Panveno said. “I actually liked the archery part so much I bought a couple of compound bows and set up a range in my backyard.”

Jody Maloney, 37, of Ludington, Michigan, is another past participant of the club’s workshop who said she loved the shooting lessons and brought more friends with her the following year.

“We talked for days after about all of the things we learned – not just how to shoot, but what we liked to shoot, what we didn’t and what kinds of critters we might hunt with our newfound skills,” Maloney said. “My friends showed off their bull’s eyes proudly, but I think they were even a bit more proud of their bowstring bruises – seriously!”

The National Shooting Sports Foundation said a recent survey of fishing, hunting and wildlife-associated recreation showed the percentage of hunters in the United States who are male fell from 91 percent to 89 percent in 2011.

However, while the overall percentage of males in the U.S. who hunt fell from 19.8 percent in 1980 to 10.7 percent in 2011, the decline in percentage of females who hunt dipped only 0.4 percent from 1.6 percent in 1985 to 1.2 percent in 2011.

In Michigan, the percentage of women who hunt, like that of youth hunters, has risen.

“The proportion of female deer hunters in Michigan was about 6 percent during 1960-1980,” said Brian Frawley, DNR survey coordinator. “Since 1980, participation has generally increased and during the last three years over 10 percent of deer hunters were females.”

Frawley said similarly, the proportion of female small game hunters in Michigan was generally less than 4 percent prior to 2010. However, participation rates have exceeded 5 percent in recent years.

For the 2014 deer hunting seasons, 12 percent of license buyers were younger than 17 years old and about 4 percent were younger than 12 years old.

Like the DNR which continues efforts to meet changing hunter demographics by promoting hunting to female and youth hunters the club has a similar vision.

“The Lake Superior Sportsman’s Club realizes that to obtain our long-range goals of membership growth, facilities expansion, community involvement, et cetera, we need to offer programs geared to women and youth,” Toepfer said. “Also, more women are becoming interested in these kinds of activities, but don’t know how to begin or where to go. We want them to have a place where they can learn about firearms, archery and related safety and have an enjoyable shooting experience.”

Maloney said the Ladies Day workshop offers a “very welcoming, supportive environment.”

“Every minute, I felt like I belonged there,” Maloney said. “The trainers were experienced and educated and the protocols provided for a very safe environment, thus I felt very comfortable asking all of my questions and shooting in the range.”

Peggy Radovich, 61, of Ontonagon has attended the Ladies Day workshop before and has registered to return this year.

“I had a wonderful opportunity to examine and shoot different pistols for both accuracy and comfort level,” Radovich said. “I did purchase a pistol since that first event.”

Some additional details for Ladies Day participants to consider:

The club will provide guns, ammunition and archery equipment. If participants wish, they may bring their own.

Participants should bring their own eye and ear protection, if they have it. The club will have limited supplies.

Those under 14 must be accompanied by an adult.

There are a limited number of openings. Pre-registration is required.

Refreshments will be provided.

The DNR and the club entered into a partnership roughly eight years ago to promote participation in shooting sports.

“Over the years, we have offered numerous entry-level, how-to programs from our very successful Trappers Workshop to Ladies Day, introductory handgun, trap, rifle and archery programs,” said Bob Wild, a park interpreter at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and the club’s program coordinator through its partnership with the DNR.

The sportsman’s club is situated on about 15 acres of state-managed property, which the DNR began leasing to the club in 1970. A former state-run prison camp was built on the site in the late 1950s and operated for roughly a decade.

“We have been working with the club to seek funding to expand and update the shooting facilities,” Wild said. “It is a pretty rough facility right now and we do think that is one of our challenges to getting new participants.”

In all, there are about 140 acres of wooded state-managed land at the location.

Toepfer has been a member of the club since the mid-1980s, becoming more actively involved since 2004.

“One of my earliest observations was that we have a club of older males – a ‘good ol’ boy’s club’ as I called it – and once we’re gone there won’t be a Lake Superior Sportsman’s Club unless we start doing things different,” Toepfer said.

The club began putting together plans focused on the future.

“Some of the obvious things we needed to do were get women and youth involved, increase our presence in the local community and improve our facilities,” Toepfer said. “Another thing we want to do is optimize the use of all the available land at this location.”

The group also sought to work more closely with the DNR. Wild volunteered to coordinate programs mutually beneficial to the DNR and the club. Toepfer said the arrangement has worked out well and led to additional positive dialogue.

“The Lake Superior Sportsman’s Club and the DNR have many similar goals,” Toepfer said. “It just makes sense to work together.”

To pre-register for the Ladies Day event or get more information on other upcoming club workshops, contact Bob Wild at 906-885-5206.

EDITOR’S?NOTE:?This story was provided by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.