Outdoor Woman

Surrounded by positive instructors and encouraging classmates, students at the DNR’s Becoming an Outdoors Woman weekends learn everything they need to enjoy Michigan’s public lands.

The toughest part about spending the night in a hand-built snow hut, Megan Keiser realizes at dawn in the Upper Peninsula, is getting up. Her lodging may be built of snow, but it’s a lot warmer in here than out there. As sunlight streams in through the opening, Megan stretches in her sleeping bag. Last night’s temperatures dropped below zero, but the couple of hours she spent building her hut out of a mound of packed snow were so well-spent that the Marquette resident is finding it hard to leave.  

“It took a few minutes to muster the courage to unzip my sleeping bag and shove my feet into chilly boots,” she says.

Megan arrived at the Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) weekend with a healthy enthusiasm for the outdoors. But even she didn’t expect that after a night outside she’d be feeling so confident. And that’s the whole idea behind the challenge of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ annual program at Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay (25 miles northwest of Marquette). 

The program began in the 1990s because a professor wanted to make women comfortable learning to hunt and fish by getting training from other women in a noncompetitive atmosphere. Classes still follow that model. 

A seasoned fly-fishing guide teaches participants how to tie flies. For Amy Mischler, it’s the first step to learning how to fly fish. “It’s always been on my bucket list.” During breaks, she practices casting.

Dropping a line through a hole in the frozen lake becomes reality for Greta Bossenbroek. Greta has fished before, but this was different. “The instructors made it a ton of fun, and I learned a lot,” she says.  

Catherine Sanborn echoes those sentiments. In her 11th year, she has made the trip to Big Bay 21 times to try fishing, dog sledding and handgun safety. She also learned that “the people here become life-long friends.”

More Winter Activities
Sunshine and snow make a beautiful classroom during outings with Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources. 

DIY snowshoes 
Learn to make snowshoes during weekend classes. Fees include materials. (At various state parks, including Hartwick Pines; Ludington.      

Guided snowshoe walks
Put your new snowshoes to use on a 90-minute trek. No shoes? No problem. Some parks lend them. Hikes (weather permitting) in January, February and March. (At various state parks, including Hartwick Pines; Hoffmaster; Ludington; Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.

Ice fishing, Carl T. Johnson Hunt and Fish Center at Mitchell State Park, Cadillac 
Learn the basics of ice fishing, plus where to drop a line to catch walleye, pike and panfish. The one-day class includes ice safety, fishing rules and regulations, and hands-on participation.     

Owl Prowl, Maybury State Park, Northville 
Walk through the woods while hooting for owls during a naturalist-led 20-minute hike. Afterward, enjoy s’mores by a fire.    

When class is done, don’t miss out on the opportunity to enjoy all that a Pure Michigan winter has to offer by engaging in activities like skiing, snowmobiling and bonding with you best girlfriends.