Outdoors Group Caters To Women

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LANSING — As deer-hunting season heats up, members of Camo & Lace are setting their sights on increasing female participation in outdoor activities.

The nonprofit organization offers classes and sponsors events for women, including shooting handguns and shotguns, hunting, fishing, camping, hiking and riding ATVs.

Camo & Lace has members in Genesee, Lapeer and Oakland counties who travel across Michigan for events. The club also has a new “up north” chapter, based in Gaylord, with about 20 members.

“We try to give women an outdoor experience that is noncompetitive and informative,” said Laura Charles, president of the group, whose membership has grown to 73 since its founding in 2003.

Vic Ouellette of Gaylord, who first got involved with Camo & Lace by helping with hunter education classes, is a volunteer advisor to the new chapter.

“It’s a really great thing for the women in northern Michigan,” he said. “They’re only limited by their own imagination.”

Camo & Lace puts on a for-women-by-women hunter education class every fall and a women’s workshop — with a variety of classes including archery, skeet-shooting and wild-game cooking — every spring at Williams Gun Sight and Outfitters in Davison.

“The spring expo is dedicated to giving a wide variety of classes for many interests women may have. We want to educate women so that they will encourage their children to get outdoors and enjoy the wonders of nature,” Charles said.

Erin McDonough, a resource policy specialist with Michigan United Conservation Clubs, said Camo & Lace isn’t an affiliated club but its mission “aligns with (the Michigan United Conservation Club’s) statewide priority of getting more people in the outdoors.”

Hunters, anglers and trappers have always paid for conservation, she said, because money from fish and game licenses go directly back into managing natural resources.

“Camo & Lace is an amazing example of a club that has taken that mission and been successful in achieving results,” McDonough said.

Camo & Lace recognizes that there is a growing number of single-woman households and a need to provide a venue in which women can be comfortable learning how to hunt and fish, she said.

Arlene Minto of Davison, treasurer and a founding member of Camo & Lace, said she got involved in hunting because of her husband.

“He would go hunt up north and call me, and I’d tell him about all the deer I was seeing in our backyard, and he’d tell me about all the deer he wasn’t seeing up there,” she said.

Minto’s husband convinced her to try his sport. He gave her a gun, took her out shooting, and she enjoyed it.

“But, I thought it’d be fun to be out with ladies,” she said.

Minto and three other women put on an outdoor day event and 12 women showed up that first year. The next year, she said, 54 women came out.

Planned for this fall are a Women’s Bow Weekend in Prescott, a trip to see “Escanaba in Love” — a hunting-themed play — at the Gem and Century Theatre in Detroit, and a pheasant hunt in Kingston sponsored by WomanHunter.com.

An ice-fishing event in February also is in the works.

Minto, Charles and Kelly Sheffer, a Camo & Lace board member from North Branch, teach hunter education classes.

“It’s so fulfilling to see the kids get these big smiles on their faces,” Minto said. “The hunter’s ed part is near and dear to my heart.”

Charles said being involved in the club has given her the “ability to hunt by myself, great new friends, knowledge and experience to do new things, trophies for the wall, confidence in life and a renewed love of the outdoors.”

Sheffer said she volunteers with the group because of the effect it’s had on her life.

“I know how it’s changed my life, and I like to help change someone else’s life by trying something new,” she said.

Charles added: “Five years ago I didn’t touch a firearm. Now I own a pistol, a rifle and a shotgun. My next purchase will be a muzzleloader.”

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