What Is a Wild WoodsWoman?

One spring I was setting up for turkey hunting with a friend. Knowing that we were likely going to find a tree to sit against, he had carefully made himself a back board and brought it with him. We each found our tree, and he arranged his back board and sat against it comfortably. I must have looked less than comfortable leaning against my tree because he looked at me sympathetically and said, "I'll make you one when we get back to the house." I confidently replied, "That's OK, I'll make one right now." and I pulled a camp saw out of my pack, cut a forked branch off a dead limb and leaned it against my tree. He looked at me in disbelief like he'd never seen a woman do something like that before (Self-sufficiently make herself comfortable in the woods? I'm sure he hadn't.) - and out of nowhere I dramatically flung my arms out and said "I AM a wild woodswoman!" We both laughed and moved on with the day. But it stayed with me as the moment that I really KNEW that I belonged in the woods. So this is what I think a wild woodswoman is and why I started this site....

A wild woodswoman is one who knows she belongs outdoors,

even if no one else believes it.

The Last River Rat by J. Scott Bestul & Kenny Salwey

"For there is no beginning in this land of river and hills. Nor is there an end."

In 2003, I saw a tiny notice in the local paper that an author - Kenny Salwey - would be speaking at our local library. I was intrigued when they described him as "a river guide, trapper, fisherman, hunter, root and herb collector and general all around woodsman and naturalist." They should have added story-teller extraordinaire! He read excerpts from The Last River Rat - Kenny Salwey's Life in the Wild, and discussed portions of it with the audience. He was as eccentric and warm and interesting as you could hope a wise outdoorsman would be.

The book itself is organized to follow the months of the year. Each month is a new chapter with both Kenny's and J. Scott Bestul's stories and commentary on life in the wild. J. Scott Bestul is most well known for his work as an editor for Field & Stream. The chapter begins with Bestul's reflections of time spent with Kenny during that month, and ends with a "Rat Tale" from Kenny's life in his own words. Some of them are funny, "I'd scream like a cat with its tail caught in a washing-machine wringer." Some are poignant, "For there is no beginning in this land of river and hills. Nor is there an end." Some are informative, "If smoke hangs close to the ground, it will rain or snow within the next day or two." All of them are vivid. A good addition to your outdoor library!

Geocaching - Treasure Hunting Outdoors

We drove slowly down the winding back road through woods and swamp. Around the next corner we saw it - a mysterious small cemetery. We got out of the car, looked respectfully at the grave and then walked to the far side. Looking, looking, looking - there! A dull green box under a tangle of dead wood. We slowly opened it and found....a cow....that moo'ed. Success!! Were we psychic? Were we crazy? No, we were just geocaching!

What is it?
Geocaching is basically a world-wide free treasure hunt. Wikipedia describes it as "an outdoor treasure-hunting game in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers (called "geocaches" or "caches") anywhere in the world. A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook and "treasure," usually toys or trinkets of little value." I recommend reading the full Wikipedia entry for a more complete overview.

What do I need?
Transportation and a GPS. Garmin is a popular manufacturer of GPS technology and they've incorporated geocaching into some of their products. They also have a page on their website devoted to geocaching. Magellan is another GPS manufacturer. They sell geocache "bundles" which are apparently a bundle of their products geared toward geocaching. Actually, there's too many GPS products for me to list here, but you get the idea!

Where do I go?
You'll be surprised at how many caches there are and where they are. To get the GPS coordinates for a cache, visit either or . Personally I used From there I load "waypoints" directly from my computer into my GPS. From the website description, I note landmarks or cache descriptions (e.g. long blue box, small green match case) to take with me.

Why should I?
First of all, who doesn't like treasure hunting?!? This will give you one more excuse to get outside. Geocaching is great for a "date night" idea or a family outing. It's also fun while on vacation; load up coordinates near your destination before you go and you'll find places to explore while there.

So get out there, try it, you'll like it! Who knows, you may even find the very same crazy moo'ing cow that we found!

Acorns...Chicken Little's Sky

On the edge of the parking lot at work is a huge old White Oak Tree. In the past 3 weeks, this tree has let loose an unbelievable amount of acorns. I literally scooped them up with a shovel! (Just for "clean up" purposes - baiting is not allowed in these parts!) Which got me thinking of what I know about acorns:

  • White oak acorns have less tannin than red oaks - therefore sweeter to eat for animals and humans.
  • Humans CAN eat them, but they need to be "leached" first by boiling in water, dumping the brown water and repeating until the water is mostly clear.
  • Insects like acorns. Uninfested acorns will sink to the bottom of bucket of water, infested ones float.
  • Acorn production varies but normally alternates each year - strong one year, weaker the next, strong again the next year.
  • Oak wilt is a disease infecting oak trees. It spreads through connected root systems or to new oak groves via "wounds" on healthy trees. If you have oak wilt in your area, don't open a wound (cut through bark, break a branch) in spring or summer.
  • An acorn is what prompted Chicken Little to think the sky was falling.
Here's some good sites on acorns:
Acorns Big Adventure - A fun little online game; Acorn can collect mushrooms, jump, and shoot with little acorns!
Harvesting the Wild: Acorns - By Jackie Clay - a great article on harvesting/preparing to eat; recipes included.
Interesting Facts About Oak Trees - A fairly technical article about oaks and acorns.
Identify, Prevent, and Control Oak Wilt - Not about acorns, but about the mama tree's health.
The Sky Is Falling fable - Everything Wikipedia knows about Chicken Little's story

Convince a kid you are an outdoor expert

You don't have to actually be a certified outdoor expert to convince a kid that you are. My nephew so believes that I know EVERYTHING about the outdoors, that he's taken to saying, "Ask Dana, she'll know." for anything that is outside of a man-made structure. He'll pick up a random leaf, and fully expect that I'll know the name of the plant and use for it. How did I get him so convinced? By taking him on walks and pointing out the tiniest interesting thing I can think of.

"See that gravel? Some birds actually have to eat it! Really, it helps clear out their food somehow." I stored that info since 8th grade science when we dissected a bird. See how I didn't exactly explain why birds eat it? It was enough that I knew it helped them with their food somehow. "This is birch bark - it's good for starting campfires with. Some Indians actually made canoes out of it!" Here's another tip - sound impressed. Like emphasize how it's SOOOO crazy that someone can actually make a canoe out of bark. That heightens the excitement level. Use anything - see it, smell it, touch it, or use it to remind you of a good story. See a mouse? Remember to tell him of the owl you saw last year catching a mouse. See new corn? Tell her about the time you walked through standing dry corn and saw does bedded down.

Finally, keep it up throughout the whole walk and by the end they will be enthralled, convinced and most importantly, interested in the outdoors!

Wonky Hunting Stand - Appraisal Price?

This wonky stand was submitted to NRA's American Journal when they called for pics of the readers wackiest stands. I'm hoping that Rex over at the Deer Camp Blog will stop by and give us an appraisal price. He's an appraiser by trade, and I think he'll be able to tell us the value of this amazing structure! Let's assume it's in an up and coming hunting neighborhood - people are leaving the area and deer are relocating to the neighborhood.

Hunting Big Bad Mice

My ex-boyfriend was so excited to deer hunt with me one fall. He had tricked out our box stand with the backseat of an old car. Wait, it's not what you're thinking - he was looking forward to the HUNT, not the backseat if you know what I mean. I was skeptical about sitting on something that mice may have moved into. I have a fear of close encounters with mice - a big fear. He reassured me there were no mice. So as we sat silently in the pre-dawn light, I suddenly twitched. "There's something moving under my butt!" He scoffed, "Shhh, sit still!!" Then I heard a scuffle in the leaves in the corner of the blind. "I heard a mouse in the blind!", I squeaked. He again scoffed, "It's just the wind. Shh!" I tried so hard to ignore it, and watch for deer, but I was really just starting to watch for mice. The upholstery vibrated under my seat again. I softly pounded my fist on the cushion as my boyfriend glared at me. I hissed, "There's a mouse in there." Then I saw it, it scurried into the leaves in front of me! I jumped to my feet and screeched, "I TOLD YOU THERE WAS A MOUSE!!"

The natural result of a screeching, jumping hunter??? 40 yards away from the stand, three deer sprang out of the tall grass and I swear I heard one of them say to the others, "I TOLD YOU THERE WAS A HUNTER!!"

Pic from

Gander Mountain as an employer

Did I ever mention that I used to work at Gander Mountain? I was mostly in the camping, clothing, and footwear areas, but I got to help out in archery and hunting also. It was a great experience because they really encourage the employees to know the gear, use the gear, talk to the customers about gear. The pay? Pretty low, and I spent all of it right back in the store. But the employee discount helped and I had fun talking 'outdoors' for a job.

My favorite part was providing product recommendations. I didn't get as much skepticism as you'd think. Once I related my personal experience with an item they would listen immediately, apparently disregarding gender. I got the most disbelief from a new manager when I said I was the store expert on camoflage. He tested me by grabbing a garment and asking 'What's this?' and I answered correctly and he moved onto the next, "What's this?" It got my back up, so I whipped through the racks, rattling off the types of camo, "Realtree Hardwoods Gray; Realtree Advantage Timber -my personal fav; Mossy Oak Break Up; Break Up again; Realtree Hardwoods Green..." "Ok, ok! I get it, you know your camo." and he moved on to annoy someone else. I was puffed up proud of myself for a while after that!

Any other Gander alumni out there??

Paulette Bunyan - A Beyond BOW Event

Heard of BOW? Curious about it? Way back in April 2001, I attended a Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) - Beyond BOW event called "Paulette Bunyan." The 2-day event included lodging in cute cabins, eats, classes, and fun side events. The classes were Forestry 101, Forest communities, Chainsaw safety, Tree ID, Tree climbing, Maple syrup making, Building nest boxes, Map and compass and Tree planting. (No, I didn't remember these class names from that long ago. I had to ask Peggy Farrell the director to refresh my memory!) You select your classes ahead of time - 2 per day. The whole weekend was very fun and a good opportunity to learn targeted outdoor skills or info. It also confirmed that I love the outdoors and there's lots of other women who do too!

What I love about BOW, is that its not just about hunting and fishing. Indeed, there were quite a few women in Paulette Bunyan that never hunted or fished. To be an outdoorswoman doesn't necessarily mean you want to shoot something, and they accomodate that with plenty of non-hunting related classes. If you are interested in learning about BOW in your area, visit and click on "Find a workshop near you."

Have any of you attended a BOW event? What did you think?

Support Local Farmer's Markets

This picture is from a friend of mine. He hunts on a local produce farmer's land with permission, and wants to encourage everyone to frequent your local farmer's market and purchase their wares! If you are looking for a place to hunt, try asking the vendors at the farmer's markets. Deer are very hard on produce farms, and the farmer is probably supportive of hunting.

Cabela's Master Catalog Fall 2007 - Reviewed for Women

(Note: This is an old post, but I'm keeping it on here for nostalgic purposes...)

You've probably gotten Cabela's newest catalog in the mail by now. So how does it rate for the outdoors woman? Here's a review...

Navigation - Grade B
Women's items are generally marked with both pink text and a women's logo box, which is eyecatching on the page if you are looking for it. I was impressed by the entries in the Table of Contents (ToC) for Women's Hunting Clothing, Activewear, Outerwear, and Underwear/Sleepwear. However, they totally missed many pages that DO have women's items, but aren't listed in the ToC. As an example, for Women's Hunting Clothing they list: 24-25, 55, 66-69 (this should be 68-69), 71, 91. But they missed pages 28-31, 97, 99-100, 260, 262, 265, 267, which also have women's.

Selection - Grade B+
I personally think it's important for women to have pants, bibs, gloves, and shoes sized specifically for them. Jackets and shirts are a bit less important - you can usually find men's sizes that will do. I found pants/bibs for women for waterfowl, upland, general hunting, plus rainwear. The glaring items missing? No blaze orange pants/bibs, and no camoflage gloves for the ladies! I have to give them some credit, they did pretty good on selection otherwise.

Now, as for how the items rate specifically, you'll have to let me know! (Or if I buy any, I'll let you know!) **Posted a day later...Hey, I just found out that Cabela's has a magazine - who knew?**

I probably caught the same dumb fish 20 times…

You never think of your parents as having crazy hunting stories – at least I didn’t. I figured that I’d have heard them all by the time I was 18. Not so! Years after I started hunting, I was talking with my mom about something and she says, “That reminds me of the time I went hunting with your dad right after we got married." I said, "You went hunting?? I had no idea!"

So she told me the story, "Your dad was bow hunting with his brother, and they wanted me to drive deer for them.” (Side note here – I double checked this. It WAS a deer drive for 2 bow hunters – traditional bows no less!) “But I was nervous about getting shot accidentally, so I kept on waving my arms and yelling ‘Hey I’m down here!!’ Eventually, they had me stop because I was scaring all the deer, which I thought was the point, but I guess it wasn’t. Then I went and sat by a creek, and found a line and hook tangled in the brush. I untangled it, tied it to a stick and started fishing. And wouldn’t you know, I caught fish after fish after fish. I kept throwing them back in, but I must have caught 20 or more fish! Now that I think about it, I probably caught the same dumb fish 20 times. You dad came back to the truck after hunting and didn’t believe me. I’m not sure he ever believed me, but it was true!”

This is my all-time favorite story from my mom – it seems so extraordinary and random! I love stories like this!

Hunting Items are HOT at Rummage Sales

I just finished with hosting a rummage sale and guess what the HOT HOT items were? Anything camoflage or hunting related! The only things that didn't sell were those I priced high because I secretly wanted to keep them. I placed the hunting items on a table closest to the street so that the guys would notice and get out of the vehicle to inspect. The buyers were a mix of boys, men, and women who hoped they were getting something their husband would like.

There was one woman who tried on the camo hat, and for a moment I got my hopes up that she was a wild woodswoman! But then she turned to her friend and said, "Is it 'me'?" and they both laughed at her joke. But at the end of the sale I got the last laugh - It was one of the things I had secretly wanted to keep. And when I try it on and look in the mirror it IS 'me'!

How to Make Money With Your Garage Sale, Yard Sale, Tag Sale, Apartment Sale, Moving Sale, Porch Sale, Estate Sale, Rummage Sale, or Any Sale

Camoflage Patterns: Intro

I'm a believer that the camoflage pattern you wear, does make a difference. One turkey season, I approached my hunting partner from a distance away, and spotted him immediately at the dark gray blob in a variety of greens, gold, and browns. He was wearing Realtree's Hardwoods Gray, and should've been wearing something more like Realtree's Advantage Timber or at the very least Hardwoods Green.

Coming up, I'll describe some of the more popular camo patterns and where you might use them. For now, I'll start you off with a list and links to some of the camo pattern makers:
Realtree; Mossy Oak; CamoWest; Predator Camoflage Am I missing some? Let me know if there's more I should add to the list!