The Deer Creek Shooting range was filled on April 9 with eager female hunters ready to take part in an all-women turkey hunting class. 

The class, called Turkey Tactics, was dually hosted by Venery and Artemis sports women as a part of a series for women to learn gun safety and techniques to hunt turkeys. This class, and other turkey-hunting-related classes, will continue to run through the spring.

“What I was hearing from more and more women is that they were interested in learning how to hunt, and interested in being outdoors more, but didn’t have mentors,” Venery cofounder Alex Stockman said. “Women learning from women is really important to them.”

The Turkey Tactics program started out with an explanation of the biology of turkeys and how to find and properly hunt them in the wild. David Nikonow, a wildlife biologist, taught this portion of the class including anatomy, diet and hunting regulations. 

Randy Tanner, a seasoned hunter from southern Illinois, began the next section by talking about how hunting is more than just going out to shoot — it’s a lot of preparation. 

His love for the sport features him preseason, sitting with a cup of coffee, looking at maps to scope out the best spots to find birds. He spoke about calls and how to lure the turkeys in, and gave out homemade mouth calls for the participants to take home and practice with. 

When the classroom portion finished, participants grabbed their coats, eyewear and ear wear, and headed outside to the range.

Hannah Nikonow explained some basic gun safety and gave demonstrations on different shooting patterns and kinds of ammunition. She grew up in a hunting family, but gave it up for a few years in high school to be a vegetarian before coming back to the sport. She is now married to David Nikonow.

“Turkeys are tough sons-of-bitches,” Hannah Nikonow said as she explained that to kill a turkey, one needs a dense, precise shot.

She is a member of the University of Montana Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Montana chapter. The chapter partners with UM to do other outdoor events, like ice fishing. Hannah Nikonow spoke about the dangers of lead ammo to the environment, and showed other non-lead options. The course was centered on conservation, safety and comfortability. 

Hannah Nikonow took the less experienced hunters and brought them into the classroom to learn proper technique in shouldering the gun, loading it and setting up to shoot. The more experienced hunters stayed out on the range to focus on shooting patterns and target practice. 

Kim Mize, a participant, said she came to the course because “it was offered,” and said she enjoyed the aspect of it being all women. She went on a deer hunting trip with Venery in the fall and enjoyed it, and said she was eager to learn more about turkey hunting.

“I thought ‘That sounds like a good idea,’” she said. 

Venery was started by Stockman about five years ago as a way for her to share her knowledge and love of hunting, while giving women a safe and comfortable environment to learn. 

For the Turkey Tactics class, Venery partnered with Artemis, a sportswomen group with a strong focus on conservation. 

“I took the opportunity to share my knowledge and I really enjoy teaching other women how to hunt and just about the outdoors because I enjoy it so much,” Stockman said. 

Venery is hosting more Turkey Tactics classes and a weekend turkey camp in May for women to use their skills, and maybe even harvest their first bird.