July BOW Newsletter

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minnesota department of natural resources

Becoming an Outdoors Woman July Newsletter

July 2021

Christine Thomas

History of BOW

Have you ever participated in a Becoming an Outdoors Woman class?

If so, you have Dr. Christine Thomas to thank.

For it was Dr. Thomas, currently a professor emeritus, who created BOW. She did so in 1991, one year after she hosted a conference titled “Breaking Down Barriers.” The purpose of the gathering was to determine why women did not hunt and fish as much as men.

The event proved insightful.

In fact, by the time the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point event was over, Dr. Thomas had pin-pointed 21 unique barriers. Fourteen related to women simply not knowing how to hunt or fish. These findings were the seeds that ultimately grew into a national program dedicated to teaching outdoor skills to women in a safe, supportive and friendly environment.

Initially, Thomas believed BOW should offer a single hunting and fishing workshop. Yet after her first event she realized women wanted more opportunities.

“The women learned to shoot and fish, but that is not what they talked about,” she recalled. “Instead, they talked about how learning outdoor skills had changed their lives by increasing self-esteem and confidence.” Dr. Thomas recalled that women also talked about “how much fun they had.” Based on this early feedback and on-going feedback in the years ahead, BOW perfected the model it uses today. That model, a three-day weekend workshop that includes fishing, hunting and outdoor skill classes, remains popular and effective. Thirty-seven states and six Canadian provinces offer BOW workshops.

Today, 30 years after Dr. Thomas’s pioneering Breaking Down Barriers conference, thousands of women throughout North America are hunting, fishing and enjoying the outdoors in many other ways because they have participated in BOW.

Minnesota BOW

Minnesota’s BOW program took shape in 1994 under the direction of the Department of Natural Resources Fish and Wildlife Director Roger Holmes. A citizen committee was formed and together with Dr. Thomas the first Minnesota BOW workshop was offered in 1995 at Gunflint Lodge in northern Minnesota. Minnesota was the first state to offer multiple workshops in one year and the first state to offer winter workshops.

Much of the growth in Minnesota, from two weekend workshops the first year to multiple programs today, has come about through working with and through others in the outdoor community who motivate, inspire and educate women about the activities they want to pursue. This model is beneficial for the participants, who learn lifelong skills, and for the volunteers, mentors and mentor organizations as they enjoy sharing their passion and wisdom with others. These organizations often provide sites and equipment for many of the workshops and programs. Volunteers also make up the BOW Steering Committee that meets to organize and host the fall and winter workshop and help direct the growth of BOW.

BOW provides a supportive environment for women to develop outdoor skills but also strives to provide social connection to other women interested in similar sports. Many women bring a basic knowledge but lack confidence. Some women have passion for a sport but need a network of hunting and fishing friends. Some women simply want to learn a new outdoor sport. BOW provides programs to meet these needs.

Whether you're new to the outdoors or just want to learn new skills to enhance your camping, hiking, hunting, and fishing experiences, BOW is a great place to start. Sign up for a class listed below today!



Women in the Parks Series - Fort Snelling State Park

Below are the classes available at Fort Snelling State Park located in St. Paul that are designed for women and girls ages 14 and older with guardian. Most classes are free and registration is required. A State Park day or yearly pass is required to enter State Parks and can be purchased at the park. Register by emailing Carolyn.Rock@state.mn.us or calling 612-279-3562. Classes are limited to 20 women.

Fish Identification, Friday July 9, 9 – 11 a.m., Register by June 30, Free.

To study fish populations in lakes and rivers, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources use seine nets and fish traps. Join the naturalists to check traps and gather fish using seine nets. This program will help you learn how to identify the fish caught and discuss their habitat requirements. Be prepared to get wet from the knees down. Participants should wear rubber boots, water shoes or shoes that can get wet. Bring sunscreen, bug spray, towel, hat, water and a change of shoes.

Techno-Identifying Nature, Wednesday July 21, 6 – 7:30 p.m., Register by July 17, Free.

Do you ever wonder what bird species are in your backyard? Are you curious about what butterfly species are visiting your garden? Would you like to know more about the mammals that call your local park home? Discover how your mobile (smartphone) devise can help you learn names and more about the world around you. These apps have the ability to quickly and easily identify flora and fauna, record your findings and learn more about them. It is recommended that prior to the program participants download the Seek by iNaturalist app, directions will be sent prior to the start of the program. Dress for the weather and be prepared for a short walk. Bring bug spray, hat, and water.

S’more Survival, Wednesday July 28, 6-7:30 p.m., Register by July 24, Free.

Do you have what it takes to make the ultimate s’more? Can you start a fire? Test your merit to see if you can produce a flame using flint and steel, bow drills, or the classic match. Learn about safe and responsible fire building practices, the importance of fire safety in our state parks, and conclude the evening with a delicious treat. Dress for the weather. Be prepared to kneel and work your upper body. Participants should wear close-toed shoes and bring bug spray and water.

Canoeing the Minnesota, Saturday July 31, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., Register by July 28, Free.

Learn paddling while exploring the Minnesota River and backwaters. This program teaches basics of river canoeing, from launching/landing a canoe, paddling with a partner, safety skills, and more. Canoe, paddles and life jackets are provided. Be prepared to get wet from the knees down. Participants should wear rubber boots, water shoes or shoes that can get wet. Bring a lunch, sunscreen, bug spray, towel, hat, water and change of shoes for this longer program. 

Cords and Rope, Wednesday August 4, 6 – 7:30 p.m., Register by July 31, Free.

Making rope from plants, (aka cordage) is an age-old practice dating back some 28,000 years. Today, rope has many practical uses especially when in an outdoor setting. Rope making involves processing and adapting materials into a useable form and then making cordage. Learn which local plants and trees that are good for making cordage, along with the simple techniques of rope making from hand twisting to use of simple mechanical tools. Participants will try their hand at all techniques and take home samples. Participants are required to bring one or two old sheets or t-shirts and plastic shopping bags. Wear long sleeves and pants and be prepared for a short walk. Bring sunscreen, bug spray, hat, and water.

Gourmet Campfire Cooking, Saturday August 14, 5 – 7 p.m., Register by August 11, Fee $15.

Become an Outdoor Foodie! Cooking over a campfire can take any camping trip to the next level. Go beyond the basic S'more, toss aside the hot dog, and wrap yourself in great baking as we go beyond the old tried and true recipes. Campfire safety cooking techniques are included. Be prepared to practice these new cooking techniques. Food fee of $15 per participant is required. Participants with food allergies or dietary needs please note those in the registration. Participants should wear close-toed shoes and bring bug spray and water.

Signs of Bigfoot, Wednesday August 18, 6 – 7:30 p.m., Register by August 14, Free.

What’s that scat? Who made that track? Animals leave clues that give us a great deal of information about how they survive. Learn how scat, tracks, fur, and other signs help us identify the hidden creatures of the Mississippi and Minnesota River bottoms. Join us as we explore the park in an interactive way as we work to solve the mystery of the elusive Bigfoot. We will be using GPS units to reveal clue of Bigfoot’s presence in the park. Dress for the weather and be prepared for a short walk. Bring sunscreen, bug spray, hat, and water.

Women in the Parks Series - Whitewater State Park

Below is a class available at Whitewater State Park located in Atlura that is designed for women and girls ages 14 and older with guardian. The class is free and registration is required. A State Park day or yearly pass is required to enter State Parks and can be purchased at the park. Register by emailing Sara.Holger@state.mn.us or calling 507-312-2306.

BOW Backwaters Kayaking Field Trip, Friday July 23, 2 - 4 p.m., Free.

Join Sara on a kayaking field trip to explore the backwaters of the Mississippi River near Kellogg. Bring your own kayak, lifejacket and gear or rent from a nearby outfitter. Call Sara for information on how to rent a kayak from an outfitter prior to the program.


Upcoming Webinars

Minnesota Outdoor Skills and Stewardship Webinar Series: Wednesdays

Anyone interested in fishing, hunting and care for the outdoors can learn about activities such as shore fishing, firearms safety, muskie fishing, archery or how to catch catfish during webinars hosted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Webinars are scheduled every Wednesday at noon and last less than an hour. The courses are free, but participants are required to pre-register on the DNR website. Summer series topics are as follows:

  • July 7 - Shore fishing 102, down by the river
  • July 14 - Getting started in archery
  • July 21 - Finding trout in Minnesota streams and lakes
  • July 28 - Bear hunting and biology
  • Aug. 4 - How to get certified in firearms safety
  • Aug. 11 - Rifle basics
  • Aug. 18 - Mourning dove hunting
  • Aug. 25 - DNR at the 2021 Minnesota State Fair

betty wilkens

My Outdoor Story

By Betty Wilkens

A little over twenty years ago, I attended my first BOW event. It was a winter workshop at Laurentian Environmental Learning Center and made a large impression on me. Not only was it a refreshing break to my hectic work schedule, it provided a chance to explore many outdoor activities I had not tried before. Along with good company, good food, and a high level of enthusiasm among the women and girls who attended, I had a great time.

This event began my awareness of how important it was for women to link arms, to learn and grow together, to have fun as a group exploring all the ways the outdoors calls to us. In addition to attending more workshops, coordinator Jean Bergerson and I hatched a plan to offer women archery hunts during deer season. With the approval of the DNR, sixteen hunts were held on our farm over the years, most of them archery and a few were muzzleloader.

When Linda Bylander became the new BOW coordinator, more events were added to the calendar including the popular clinic called “Deer Day”. We attached a couple mentored early season antlerless rifle hunts as part of that program during the years deer populations were high. Perhaps Linda will share the picture of the beautiful doe she harvested on one of those hunts if you ask her!

Although hunting is a sport I am known to be active in, fishing is just as important and enjoyable to me, and outdoor photography has become a great passion in recent years. Reflecting on the past, I realize how much I have learned from other female anglers and hunters, and how important it is for us to connect with one another. We have a lot of enthusiasm, skills, and knowledge we can share with one another. Because of our important role as daughters, mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, teachers, co-workers and friends, we can support and empower women of all ages as they explore the outdoors and all it has to offer.

In February of last year, I started a book that reflects my experiences as an outdoor woman. In May of this year, this book appeared on Google Books under the title “Why Am I Invisible?” It is free and can be downloaded through that app. Just write Elizabeth Wilkens in the search box and that book, along with the second edition of Deer Grandma will pop up. I hope you find it interesting and valuable to you and other female anglers and hunters. Here is the intro to the book:

Our perception is that hunters and anglers are men.

In reality, women have fished and hunted for centuries.

By reviewing history, looking at data, and leveraging more than sixty years of experience as a hunter and angler, the author tackles false perceptions and sets the stage for change.

She discusses proven processes for encouraging lasting change, and provides activities that connect, educate, and empower women. The goal is to create inclusive fishing and hunting communities where everyone feels valued and valuable.

Becoming an Outdoors Woman Program (BOW)

The BOW program provides hunting, fishing, and non-consumptive outdoor skills classes to women in a safe and supportive environment. BOW works cooperatively with DNR staff, volunteers and outside agencies to provide opportunities for women to learn skills. BOW is guided by a volunteer steering committee. To find out more visit the BOW Website. Note the website is currently being updated.  

Do you want to stay informed about upcoming fisheries and habitat management activities and ways that you can discover, explore and experience Minnesota’s outdoors? Sign up to receive Minnesota Fishing updates in your email inbox each week. Information about hunting and trapping regulations, harvest registration, contacting a conservation officer and pursuing a variety of species can be found on the DNR hunting page at mndnr.gov/hunting.

The DNR also has a variety of other email notifications available and you can sign up for them on the DNR website.