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Last Saturday 100 area youngsters gathered between Fulton and Indian Ford at the Hillside Spring Hunt Club (608/884-7272) along the Rock River. They all scored big, but not at Saturday cartoons or video games. On this waning weekend of summer they opted to attend the 2nd annual Youth Outdoor Skills Day put on by Pheasants Forever and The National Wild Turkey Federation. Both groups have area chapters and I'm happy to say they put their money, time and energy to a great cause. A fact of life today is the single parent family, and many have asked me how to get started because they haven't been active in outdoor activities themselves. I'm also betting that for every parent who asks there are many more who don't come forward. We are lucky in this area to have various sportsmen's type clubs. Go as a guest to a meeting of a club that interests you, and ask about their program, agenda, what they put back in the community NS have for youth programs. I don't know how this event could have hit more of a home run then it did. Youngster's in-groups of ten visited 10 skill stations throughout the day. I visited the various stations and was impressed with two things - the knowledge of the presenters and also the enthusiasm of the pupils.

The various stations included shotgun warm-up, 22 rifle shooting put on by Rock County Shooting Sports, Archery by Stoughton Sportsman's Club, outdoor safety and first aid put on by EMTs of the Edgerton division of Curtis Ambulance, wood duck house building with Ryan Volkey, and trapping instruction by Skip Gregoir. An old friend and great dog trainer Jim Hoffman and his crew from Shady Oaks Gun-Dog Kennel put on retriever demonstrations. I hung around for DNR Forester Mary Ann Buenzow's program on forestry. Also included were a bird cleaning demonstration by conservation warden Shawna Stringham, which gave me a new word seldom, used in sports. I commend one gentleman for being "egoless". He asked if someone would "walk" him and his son through the cleaning of a pheasant as it would be the first time for them both. We need more parents like that guy. Turkey hunting and calling was covered by NWTF, along with archery by various clubs. Many hands and hours were needed, and a tip of the cap also goes to MacFarlane Pheasant Farm, Waterfowl USA, Wayne Johnson, Mike Arneson, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. and all those behind the scenes.

As you can see it was a full day, and I'm sure these young people came away with memory banks on full. Hands on workshops bring them more than just what was offered. I know that as they venture into the outdoors they will not only take their newly acquired skills but a new respect for nature and stewardship of what they love. Another unwritten benefit that isn't in any textbook is the new friends and relationships they acquire at events like this. They meet other youngsters that enjoy the same endeavors. This is important at any age if you wish to make the most out of your time in the field or on the water. Probably most important to me is that they will turn into teachers of a different sort, not only of the skill they learned that day, but something many older hunters and fisherman need to learn. Going to a multi-faceted workshop starts to teach us about the true relationships in nature and how one feeds into the other. The Wild Goose says; A better gun or bow won't necessarily make us better out there. What will is continually learning the relationships and networking of all things around us and why we must all "walk softly".

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