A lot of people still consider hunting as a male sport, but today, it is an industry enjoyed by women, too. Dawn Freeland talks about hunting with other female hunters and reveals how and why she started hunting. She shares her observation on how the industry has changed for women and how women hunters have better options with regards to gear and opportunities these days. She also offers five tips for women who want to pursue hunting. Hunting is a fun activity, and Dawn encourages women hunters to take a breath, have fun, and follow her simple tips.
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Women Deer Hunt Too – Dawn Freeland
I’m heading out to Michigan. I’m going to meet with an extraordinary fabulous woman huntress, Dawn Freeland. Dawn was on Episode 124. You can go back, read it and see if we changed it up at all. Dawn, it’s a pleasure to have you back on the show. I know we’re going to talk about a lot of things. We’re going to touch on some struggles you had. People might wonder, “Where did she go?” Tell the folks why you’ve been out camping for a while.
Thanks for having me on the show. I appreciate the time. My husband and I got into a severe accident. We were T-boned on the west side of Michigan. We’ve been rehabilitating since then. Both had broken backs and busted up necks. My husband also had a broken rib. I had a traumatic brain injury. We’re still healing from that, but things are looking a lot better than they were. We’re doing much better than we were. We’re starting to get things back to normal. We’re starting to gain some momentum. We’re heading the right direction.
It was fortuitous that we got connected at the beginning of May 2018. It’s turkey season so let’s talk about turkeys. I was fortunate I had on a couple of states. I did not shoot a turkey. I saw more coyotes and turkeys. What’s been going on in your neck of the woods?
We had a spring turkey hunt. In Michigan, you can take the last two weeks. It’s give or take a few days there. In April, for open over-the-counter licenses that they have, you don’t have to apply for them. You can if you want to. They usually have enough leftovers that you can purchase over-the-counter. I had one of my Pro Staff. She’s also a good friend of mine, Christy. She came out to go turkey hunting with me. We planned for the weekend, but her husband ended up getting sick. She was not able to come out. It didn’t work out. She was able to come out for a couple of nights after work. We had everything set up. We got the decoys out there. We tried to get it because something is coming in. We were there for a few hours and had some giggles and some laughs. In the end, we had one hen come out right about 7:00, 7:30. It’s pretty standard when she starts walking around out there. She wasn’t able to bring any of the boys back with her. There’s none of the boyfriends or the husbands. We were disappointed in that. We risked out there to have her bring it out the following night.
Christy was able to come back out the second night. We got everything situated. We got the decoys set up and started calling early after. We didn’t hear any gobbles for a long time to hear anything talking back to us. I said, “What’s going on?” About 6:30, we hit a couple of times to show up from across the field. One was threatened. One was standing. He was smaller. He was gobbling back too. The other one was quiet. It didn’t stand at all. It wasn’t paying attention to what was going on. He paid attention to the other turkey. It was a strange behavior there going on. Two hundred yards out, they would hack at the ground a little bit, gobble a little bit. The one would and then strut towards us. It was still apprehensive and under guard. They weren’t in a full run or anything, but they were there and interested. After a while, it started coming towards us. All of a sudden, they took a left and started heading down the embankment into the creek. I tried gobbling them and call into them. The one gobbled back, but it sounded like it’s way in the woods. He was already down and out.The hunting industry is getting a bit more serious in bringing more opportunities for women hunters. Click To Tweet
“We lost them. What happened? What scared them?” I’m going through my brain, trying to figure out what happened. What did I change? What did I call? What did I do? She looked at me and I said, “You can get up if you want to stalk and go over the embankment and try to get a shot that way. I’m going to stay here because you don’t need the extra sound or the extra movement. You could go ahead and try to stalk if you’d like to. I think they’re pretty much gone. Once they hit that embankment, they don’t come back. You can try it if you like.” She said, “I’m going to.” She gets out, tiptoes around, gets out of the blind and shuts the door. I’m getting up out of my seat and getting up into her seat so that I could see well. As soon as I sat down and put my head up, I see the two come back into the field and coming full-on right back at us. I was whispering to her, “Get back in the blind. Try not to move.” These things are 47 yards away already at this point. They can see us moving. It didn’t faze them at all, which I couldn’t believe. I’ve hunted turkeys at twenty yards. When the wind came up to me and blew my hair sideways a little bit, they ran off. These two guys took it off.
Christy backed out. I told her to take a shot. She said, “Which one do I shoot?” I said, “Which one do you want? You got your choice. They’re right there. They’re both at a range. Pick which one you think is bigger.” She did that. She shot the left-sided one and a little bit brighter redhead. He was the one that didn’t gobble. He was the one that didn’t strut. She had great size. We took him down right there. We waited a few minutes until he stopped moving around a little bit. We got up and started walking out. I said to her, “That was a great shot. When was the last time you shot with this gun?” She said, “I’ve never shot this gun.” I said, “Is this the first time you shoot him with this gun? Is this your first time ever shooting a turkey?” She said, “Yeah. This is the first time shooting with a bead. I didn’t have a scope.” I was like, “That was a heck of a shot. You did an awesome job.” I was so proud of her. I couldn’t believe it.
We laughed for a couple of minutes. We got up to the turkey and tried to pick him up. We threw it in the back of the side by side and brought him up. We start pulling him up, getting him washed off and getting some pretty pictures for her. She was happy. I was excited because I’ve tried calling in for other people. It’s never worked out very well. This time, everything worked for us. We had a great time. It ended up being a nine-and-a-half-inch beard, approximately twenty pounds and one-inch spurs is what he ended up with. It worked out great. We had so much fun. I took her out to dinner afterward and had a drink or two. I wish I could recreate that for me while I’m trying to turkey hunt.
Why do you think they came back the embankment? A little bit I know about turkey hunting, once they head one way, they’re heading that way.
I’ve never had them come back up. Once they’re down, they’re down. It’s a very fairly steep hill. They don’t like to walk it. I’m not sure because I could hear the gobbling. It was echoing down so he was headed down. I’m not sure what brought him back up. I did try to call a couple more times to see because you never know. This time, they did come back out. I have no idea why. I must have hit the right call or something. I must have done something a little different than I’ve done before. I wasn’t aware of it, but I wish I could have videotaped it. Get a sense of it a little more of what I did so I can use it in the future.
You’re thinking about strategy, technique and all those things. Sometimes it doesn’t matter. You said they came on a string. They hustled right to you.
I’ve had them on full runs before. I’ve had three coming right at me at a full run. I didn’t have time even to look at which one I wanted. I had to plug one before it got too close to me. That happens too. You don’t see anything all season. You take the good with the bad. In the end, it’s all a challenge and fun. You have a good time. It’s all about having that camaraderie with that person too, especially a new hunter. It is amazing to see that fire. You’re out there in the woods a little bit more.
They came out 200 yards. You worked them a little bit. They took off and decided to come in. She gets out. Before she’s outside the blind, they’re coming back. Did you have hens or a jake?
I had all a two hens out there. I had one at the top of the embankment, inside the woods that way. Sometimes I have some turkeys that are down below and they don’t see the decoys. They just hear the call. I put one at the top of that ridge. It gives them something to aim for. They know the prize that they’re working for. I’m not sure if these guys saw her. That’s usually my layout plan. It usually works pretty well for me.
Your friend to have a beaded shotgun the first time and staring down a turkey, I get excited shooting anything. It wouldn’t matter. That’s a heck of a job.
She did awesomely. She’s almost as tall as I am. She’s a little bit shorter. She’s lifting that thing out the window. They didn’t bother at all that we moved around and could hear the sounds change and her sitting in the chair and moving. They did not care. They were coming right in.In hunting, you need to regard safety as priority. Click To Tweet
It was your night. That’s about all you can say.
I was shaking just as much afterward as if I had shot that gun myself. I was excited. I worked for her for hours later. It wasn’t even my hunt. It was awesome.
A lot of our readers can agree to that, especially hunting turkeys because it is a social event for the hunters. To see a first-time hunter get their turkey is a great thing. It’s a rite of spring. That keeps our hunting traditions alive. You were talking about the position of women in hunting and the difficulties that get your foot up. What has changed in that arena now?
The industry is taking us a little bit more seriously. We’re talking about apparel, firearms or bows. They’re starting not just to have a pink-colored arrow. They’re making full-on bows for women now. We have more than one to choose from, especially with guns. We have so many more options than we ever had. It’s not just the color. It’s the size, weight and everything. It’s also the clothing and apparel that fits our bodies better. We’re taking it more seriously. The industry is noticing and recognizing and responding with giving us better options too.
If you go in the ATA the last couple of years, it’s a huge market switch, change or pivot. They realized that women want to hunt. They have money. It’s single moms or career ladies. There are a lot of career ladies that say, “I want to go elk hunting. I have the money. I’m going to go elk hunting.” They’re tougher than nails. It’s a good thing that I see throughout these years. It’s a positive trend. You have people like Kirstie Pike who has grown her business significantly. She’s just one person who I know very well who’s been very successful with a company, specifically for women.
We’re receptive too. They’re receiving us. It’s a two-way street now. At first, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go if this was going to be a fad or something that was popular at the time. I don’t think it is. I think this is sticking around. A lot of people are getting into it. They appreciate the way that we do things better. They appreciate it more, the process that we have to go through. They understand it as far as planning the hunts and what goes into it. If you can afford some of the higher-end hunts and the farther away and the bigger games, that’s awesome. Get out there and enjoy yourself. If you have to save up for a long time too, that’s what you’ve got to do. We’re all in this together. We all have the same attitude and end game. It’s to have a great experience, whether you were able to harvest or not successfully. It’s not the point. You’re out there to have a good time and enjoy the surroundings and enjoy what God has given us.
Talk to me about Women Hunt Too, where that’s going and what do you hope to bring forth and beyond?
The business has been a little bit slower because I haven’t been able to work very much in my rehabilitation. I haven’t pursued too many things coming down the line for women. However, I specifically will be able to go on two different bear hunts. It’s both in Canada, which is amazing. One is gathering with outfitters. The other one is Tom’s black bear service. Both places I’ve been to before. They’re amazing. I had good times with both of them. I’m excited about that. Perhaps it’s a wolf hunt. I’m not sure. That’s something in the back burner too. We’ll see. We could work one of those in. I’m ready to go. I’m ready to make up time a little bit for what I missed out on. We do have some events coming up for the outdoor ladies out there.
We have expos and shows coming up. It’s pretty low-key but they’re fun and exciting. For instance, the Fun-N-Sun RV & Camper Show in Silver Lake, Michigan. That’s on June 2nd and 3rd. That’s a camping event. I’m going to be camping at lot 82. I’m going to be talking to women and children about fishing, camping and getting outdoors. I’m doing some activities with them to try to encourage and feed that fire in them and get them out there more often. That’ll be a fun one. I have a big one at the outdoor weekend, which is in Imlay City, Michigan. That’s an all-weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On September 7th to 9th, I’ll be in booth 51 in the blue building.
I’m promoting women in the outdoors, hunting, fishing, camp and whatever that looks like to you. I love all three. Some women are not particularly fond perhaps of hunting, fishing or camping but they’ll do one of the other ones. Maybe they’ll go for walks or hikes, whatever that looks like to them. We want to encourage them. We want to get all women outdoors. We belong there too, not just home, work or the mall. We also belong outdoors. That’s what my message is. I’m trying to get that out to all the ladies out there.
You had some tips for ladies. Why don’t we talk about the tips or must-haves?Before going to the field, you need to be aware of where you are going, what the area is like, and what the predators in the area are. Click To Tweet
I have five must-haves for every woman hunter. Number one is safety. You have to have some common sense. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Be aware of the threat of predators in your area where you’re hunting in. Be aware of the bucks during the rut season. Use safety harnesses when using treestands. Use flashlights at night. Bring your phone, a radio or a walkie-talkie, something to communicate to. Let them know where you are hunting at and when you’re supposed to return. You need to let them know in case something was to happen. Number two is training, which goes on with hunter safety. It’s lots of practice. Do your homework. Google what you’re hunting and where you’re hunting, what the area is like. What are some of the natural predators in that area? Is there something that you’re not familiar with? Number three is your license. Don’t forget your license. After all you’ve been through and after everything you’ve done, I always have it on me. I have to stop and consciously think, “Where is it at? Which pocket is it in? Which backpack is it in?” Make sure you always have that with you.
Number four is de-scent. People de-scent their clothing, body and hair with unscented shampoo and conditioners. Five times people forget to do their boots, backpacks or slings. You consider everything on your body, but you don’t think of something you’re adding later. Number five is to stay warm. The number one comfort thing that women like to have is warmth. That’s the number one complaint that they have, staying warm and comfortable. Think ahead about the weather conditions. Bring an extra chair pad, a blanket even, a heater, extra scarves, hats, gloves or whatever it takes to keep you warm out there. The longer you’re more comfortable and warm out there, the longer you’re going to stay in there and enjoy yourself. A bonus one is your confidence. You’ve been training and working for this. You’ve been doing your homework. Be confident when you’re out there. Be ready. Take it easy. Take a breath. Have a good time and enjoy yourself.
One thing about safety, we’re getting a larger problem about this in Colorado. Because of our marijuana laws, people are growing on the national forest or BLM land. A lot of women hunt in Colorado. There are some great hunters. A lot of them are carrying small LCPs or a small nine to not even the odds, just a deterrent. They’re confident that they can get into a situation where it could be really uncomfortable. They can say, “This is what I’m going to do. I’m going that way. You take care of what you want to do.” I ran into one of these situations. He was armed. My buddy and I were armed. “I’m going that way. You stay where you are. You won’t see me back.” That’s it. We live in a different society. Safety isn’t just safety in the treestand. It’s safety from the time you leave your house to the time you get home. That’s my thing about safety.
This should always be at the forefront of your mind, whether it’s safety from your vehicle. Make sure you have a spare tire. It could be anything regarding safety. It’s other people or other hunters’ problems that should arise regarding that. In some states, you have a weapon permit to bring a handgun with you along with your rifle or shotgun. You’ve got to pay attention to what states allow you to do that, which is a nice bonus if you can but not all states do allow that.
Check your state rights before you say, “I heard this guy on Whitetail Rendezvous. He said I could.” That’s a disclaimer right there. Thanks so much for that. Check your state regs. Be safe, especially because now it doesn’t matter. What are your plans for a whitetail hunting this fall?
We’re hunting around our farm on the west side in the state of Michigan. That’s where I do most of my whitetail hunting. I do have a friend in the southern part of Illinois that I like to occasionally visit here and there and get a chance to get down there and hunt. I take advantage of that if I can. As far as my everyday hunt, I started hunting on September 15th for fall turkey. In October 1st, we start with our tree for whitetail and go until January 1st with the different seasons between bow, rifle, shotgun or muzzleloader. I hit them all.
Where did that passion come from?
My family was raised with it. My dad was an avid hunter. He would go out quite a bit. He would take my older brother from time to time. They would go squirrel hunting and such. I would see the squirrels and they bring them back. I’d watch them gut them and clean them out. I was so interested. I wanted to go too so badly but he pretty much said things like, “It’s not for girls. See what your mom’s doing in the kitchen.” He wasn’t able to foster that for me. He passed away in a car accident when I had turned eleven so I didn’t have that avenue to go down the torch, but I was always curious about what he was doing, why and what was happening. I wanted to find out the process. A few years later, my husband who was my boyfriend at the time was an avid hunter. He was going out quite a bit. He lived and breathed in the fall. “What is so intoxicating and great about this?” I was more curious. “What is this?” He tried to explain it to me. I was like, “Whatever.”
I sat with him one time. I brought a college textbook with me or something. I was reading in the blind. It had my head down for quite a bit. I didn’t notice it had been snowing. I had no idea. I had been reading. He’s hunting. A doe and two fawns come out. He said, “Look up.” I did and saw all this blanket of snow. It’s rustling through the pine trees. Here are the mom and the two babies walking through the woods like a postcard or a fancy calendar that you would get in the mail that you would purchase. It was stunning. I tell people it was a third from my dad, a third from my husband and a third from me. I had to take some initiative in it. It had to work with me. I had to have that curiosity, want and drive. Otherwise, no matter what they said or did, it wouldn’t have mattered. It’s a bit of everything, a little combination of everything.
Now you’re sharing it, passing it down and mentoring. You’re doing all the wonderful things that you do. You’ve been very active in the state helping a lot of people and paying it forward. You’re a great representative of women in the outdoors. That’s nice. That’s a wonderful thing. What’s your promo code for your store?
I have a discount code. It’s RADIO. They’re going to get 20% off everything in the store at WomenHuntToo.com. It’s the second tab. Click on that. Anything in there is 20% off, even the sale items.
Go to her website. Your promo code when you check out is RADIO for 20% off. That’s 20% however you want to look at it. It makes a difference. Thank you for that. Where in social media can people get ahold of you?
What are your call signs there?
It’s Women Hunt Too. I love what I do. I love talking to these women and encouraging them, even some of the younger girls to get outdoors. When I first started, there wasn’t much out there geared towards women that hunt. I looked. I’m trying to find something. When this all came about, it was out of necessity. It wasn’t anything like that. I wanted a place where women could go. They could go onto the Facebook page. It’s very interactive. You can ask questions and post some of your fan photos. A big question that we get quite a bit is, “What do ladies do when you have to go to the bathroom when you’re in a treestand?” It’s things like that. You don’t have too many places in life where you can go and ask these questions. People do on the Facebook page. We’re able to share that question with others. You will get probably many different answers back. One of those answers or comments will work for you. Not all of them, but some will. You can adapt that to your surroundings and to what you’re doing in your hunt. That will work for you. We encourage fan questions and shares all the time. We love it.
You think about the simple things that guys take for granted. Things change up with women getting the stand, sitting in a stand all day and the weight of lifting things. There are a lot of different things that enter into for women in the stands. I find it interesting that women have surpassed men as being better hunters. I take that from my fly-fishing days when I instruct women and they were much easier than guys. Guys just want to be all muscle and all this. Women listen and use even the timing and the muscles. They were very proficient fly fishermen very quickly.
I encourage all women to get outdoors. We’re finding that those women tend to pay attention more to details, whether it’s visually. In the woods, you’re visually paying attention to every little detail, every little leaf that has moved or different colors, the way the sun hits different parts of the trees, different bushes. Things will change. “That black bob wasn’t there a few minutes ago. Maybe that’s a small deer or a bear.” Five minutes later, the sun changes again and it’s like, “No. It’s the bush.” Women tend to pay attention to some of the minor details a little bit more than guys do. It’s a fact. I’m sorry.
We’re going to wrap up another episode with Dawn Freeland of Women Hunt Too out of Michigan. Check her out. She’s a real deal. She’s a good friend. I’m so happy she’s recovering from her car accident last 2017. There are some great hunts ahead for her. I can’t wait to see some pictures of her turkey and some bears on the wall coming soon.
Thank you so much. I appreciate your time and having me.
- Episode 124 – past episode
- Kirstie Pike
- Women Hunt Too
- www.Facebook.com/WomenHuntToo – Women Hunt Too
- Twitter – Women Hunt Too
- Instagram – Women Hunt Too
About Dawn Freeland
She started out doing a radio talk show called Shooting It Straight on Saturdays. The show talked about guns, pistols, CPL’s, hunting and shooting. *They have since changed their format.
Dawn has done numerous radio interviews, guest hosts and several appearances on local TV shows for news programs and special hunting events. But writing blogs about her outdoors experiences are still on the top of her list.
“Being a female hunter in a male-dominated sport has been trying at times. The prejudices and attitudes have been the hardest to overcome. Some other difficulties have been working with gun store owners, property owners, and the “Good Old Boys Club”.
I believe I have used my love of the sport to sustain my drive in becoming a successful hunter. I also use my love and knowledge of the sport to help other female hunters have an enjoyable and successful hunting experience, whether they are just starting out or are an experienced female hunter.” ~Dawn Freeland