Showcasing the DNR: Move over men, women want to hunt too!

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Showcasing the DNR

Women drag a harvested deer up an embankment.

Move over men, women want to hunt too!

Unique partnership provides hunting opportunities for women

Wildlife technician, Beyond BOW Washtenaw Deer Hunt coordinator
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

For many Michigan deer hunters, it’s easy to identify that friend or family member who introduced them to the tradition of heading out to the woods every fall in pursuit of the most popular game animal in the state.

That person probably taught them what to look for while scouting for a spot, what to do when it comes time to pull the trigger and what to do after harvest.

But what if you have an interest in deer hunting, and don’t have that person to teach you? Or what if you’ve tried to deer hunt already, but simply want a little more direction?

Two women wearing camouflage clothing sit in a hunting blind.

For eight women in the Lower Peninsula, this was the case.

Growing up in Chicago as a woman of color, Kelly Tang had never been exposed to outdoor sports like hunting and fishing, let alone known anybody who hunts or fishes.

“I found it hard and intimidating to enter the world of hunting because it has always been historically reserved for men,” Tang said.

Access and opportunity

With an interest in providing hunting opportunities for the nontraditional hunting community, Allison Krueger of the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission reached out to the Michigan Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program, administered by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

This formed a unique partnership that would allow for six women in 2022 and eight women in 2023 to learn about deer hunting and take their new skills afield to potentially harvest a deer on Washtenaw County parks property.

“We are thrilled to continue to partner with the DNR and BOW to provide meaningful outdoor recreation experiences that also support our work in stewarding natural areas across Washtenaw County,” Krueger explained. “This program is a creative solution to begin to address the heavy deer browse (eating vegetation) in our protected natural areas.”

Michigan’s BOW program provides opportunities to women to learn about, and participate in, various outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, backpacking, shooting sports and many others in a noncompetitive, supportive setting.

Women listen to a workshop presentation.

The program mainly operates out of the Upper Peninsula, but smaller Beyond BOW events occur around the state. In early October, the 2023 Beyond BOW women’s deer hunting event took place at Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation property near Manchester.

Planning for the event began early in the summer, as mentors and DNR and Washtenaw County staffers met to discuss the goals, logistics and content of the weekend outing.

The group collectively decided to provide a four-day event that would introduce the basics of deer hunting, cover equipment usage and demonstration, and include mentored hunts to harvest a deer.

Eight women served as mentors, including a DNR park ranger and a DNR conservation officer. Three DNR Wildlife Division staffers and two Washtenaw County parks employees collaborated to provide the best possible experience for the participants.

With a plan in place, the group gathered equipment, prepared content, set up hunting locations and worked through logistics. With help or involvement from six additional businesses and organizations, the group was ready to provide “Deer Hunting 101” for the women.


The weekend began with participants arriving on Thursday at Sharon Mills Park for an afternoon of education on deer hunting and its use as a conservation tool. Krueger, who is the county parks commission’s stewardship manager, discussed habitat and species management on the county’s Natural Areas Preservation Program lands, which are important areas that have special ecological, recreational or educational benefits and have a need for hunts like this one.

Women practicing shooting at a shooting range.

DNR wildlife biologist Denny Tison followed with a presentation on deer biology, behavior and scouting. To conclude the afternoon, DNR Conservation Officer Brandon Hartleben explained deer hunting rules and regulations.

On Friday, participants started at the DNR Sharonville Shooting Range, where they were taught how to safely operate and shoot a crossbow.

Most of the participants had never shot a crossbow, so familiarizing them with the equipment prior to taking afield was imperative. Within a couple of hours, each woman felt confident to use their bow for tree stand and hunting blind practice.

Friday afternoon, each participant practiced and was able to shoot at a 3D target from both a tree stand and a ground blind. To prepare them, mentors demonstrated proper tree stand and blind safety, explaining the importance and proper use of safety harnesses, equipment integrity and awareness.

With all participants demonstrating the ability to make shots, it was time to pair them up with their mentors and send them afield the following morning.

Heading out

Things got off to a hot start, with two participants arrowing deer Saturday morning.

Tricia Czachowski, who grew up in a hunting family but wanted to expand her knowledge of archery hunting, was one of those successful hunters.

“After excellent classroom instruction and hands-on archery training, I was able to harvest a doe with a crossbow, something I never had experience with before,” Czachowski said. “I am incredibly grateful for the strong, supportive women involved in this program, especially my mentor, Kelly Deering.”

Deering is no stranger to the outdoors. As a longtime instructor for various BOW events, including her Introduction to Deer Hunting, Mock Archery Hunt class she started a decade ago, Deering has positively impacted countless women in their desires to “become an outdoors woman.”

Women work to bring a harvested deer up an embankment.

Deering jumped right on the opportunity to co-lead this event.

“I have been archery hunting for over 30 years, and when I started there were limited resources and I did not know any other women hunters,” Deering explained. “These challenges are what made me passionate about helping other women get into hunting.

“There are many women interested in hunting, but don’t know where to begin, and it is so important that we share our enthusiasm and knowledge to empower them to step outside of their comfort zone to become lifelong outdoors women.”

That inspiration permeated through the group as another hunter harvested a deer Saturday evening and the others saw deer or had close encounters.

As deer hunters know, patience is a key to being successful in the woods, so those who had yet to harvest a deer headed back to camp to prepare for their Sunday hunt.

Deanna Geelhoed was one of those patient hunters. She had a simple expectation going into the weekend, to learn about hunting. She knew hunting was a good management tool for ecosystem health and that it could provide healthy meals, but she didn’t know where to start.

“I didn’t know anyone to learn from, let alone another woman,” Geelhoed said.

But, after learning about deer and deer hunting in the classroom, practicing with new equipment and two long sits in a tree stand Saturday, she would have the opportunity to harvest a mature doe Sunday morning with her mentor.

“Harvesting the deer was an emotional, physical and rewarding experience,” Geelhoed said. “The harvest was only part of it though, as I also created a network of support from other women hunters through this program.

“Because of the BOW program, I now have the lifelong skills and network to spend many more hours in the woods.”

Women listen during an outdoor demonstration about deer.

That was a major goal for the mentors, to inspire these women to take on the rewarding challenge that deer hunting provides and give them the tools and confidence to take to the woods each season.

Erin Sattazahn, Geelhoed’s mentor, is highly invested in the outdoor community. She wanted to share her knowledge and experiences with other like-minded women.

“I hope that my time with these women will encourage them to continue to create their own experiences in the outdoors,” Sattazahn said. “I was honored to be a mentor for this event.”

Between all the topics learned and the emotions the weekend brought these new hunters, they learned everything from where to start to how to get their deer home.

They now know what equipment they will need, what deer sign to look for when scouting for a hunting spot, safety precautions for using a tree stand or ground blind, where and when to take a shot, and how to trail and field-dress a deer after the harvest.

But, according to Tang, who was able to get the final harvest of the weekend Sunday evening, this was only part of the importance of the program.

“Out of all the people in my life, it has always been other women who were the most supportive of my goals,” she said. “This event showed me no different, as I was shown a great level of support from women who had never even met me before.”

By the end of the weekend, the new hunters harvested four antlerless and one antlered deer. With the tools and support these women gained, they all plan to continue deer hunting in the future.

Special thanks to the following businesses and organizations for their help with the event: the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission for lands, tree stand/blind setup and daily lunches; the DNR Parks and Recreation Division (Hayes State Park) for campsites; the Hal & Jean Glassen Foundation and the National Wild Turkey Federation for a Learn to Hunt trailer full of supplies and gear; the National Wild Turkey Federation for loaned ground blinds; Michigan United Conservation Clubs for loaned crossbows; Schupbach’s Sporting Goods for donated bolts and broadheads and discounted gear for giveaways; and the Waterfowl USA Southwest Lake Erie Chapter for a donated crossbow package for giveaway.

Learn more about Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Michigan at

Check out previous Showcasing the DNR stories in our archive at To subscribe to upcoming Showcasing articles, sign up for free email delivery at

Note to editors: Contact: John Pepin, Showcasing the DNR series editor, 906-226-1352. Accompanying photos and a text-only version of this story are available below for download. Caption information follows. Photo credit: Leslie Wilson.

Text-only version of this story.

Adam demo: Adam Shook, Becoming an Outdoors-Woman coordinator of the Washtenaw County hunting event, presents an outdoor demonstration for participants.

Andi-Leslie: Workshop participants Andi Weiss and Leslie Wilson are shown in a deer blind.

Hill recovery 2 and Hill recovery 3: Women work together to drag a harvested deer up a steep embankment.

Range: Participant Lisa Johnston practicing shooting at a range prior to the weekend hunt in Washtenaw County.

Range2Workshop participant Lisa Parker practices shooting a crossbow while Conservation Officer Andrea Dani looks on.

Workshop: DNR wildlife biologist Denny Tison leads a presentation during the weekend's activities.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state's natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to