Outdoor learning opportunities valuable for youth

By Dan Armitage

Although I fished all my life, I didn’t come into hunting until my 30s, when a certain person I had an interest in spending time with let me know that if I wanted to extend our summer relationship into the autumn, that I had better learn to shoot a shotgun. It seems that she had an affinity for waterfowl hunting and once the season commenced Terrie informed me that she would be spending more time in a duck blind than poolside at the apartment complex where we had met and enjoyed each other’s company through the warmer months.

Long story short, I bought a Steven’s 12-gauge side-by-side for $150 from the JC Penney’s outlet store in Columbus and found myself wanting for a place to learn to shoot it, let alone practice with the scattergun.

Had I been raised in rural Ohio, as had my love interest, I likely would not have faced such a learning curve when it came to firearms handling. But, as a suburban youth, we didn’t have the opportunities at hand to engage in, such as shooting guns in the lower 40 — let alone in the backyard. Of course, that’s still the case today, where such pursuits are frowned upon.

Fortunately, there are groups such as the Lake and Trails Organization that offer events where outdoors skills are taught and the lifestyle nurtured. Makes me want to be a kid again.

Outdoor Skills Camp

The Lake and Trails Organization will conduct its annual autumn Youth Outdoor Camp Sept. 29 through Oct. 2 at FFA Camp Muskingum in Carrollton. The camp is open for youths 10-17 years old, with a parent who may accompany up to three campers. Lake and Trails Organization’s mission is to educate youth with regard to the outdoors, conservation and the environment. It does so through the Youth Outdoor Camp, a four-year program, with young men and women adding to their outdoor skills each year.

First-year campers attend the Ohio Hunters Education Course with classroom and hands-on training at all ranges (rifle, pistol, air rifle, archery, muzzle loader, shotgun) as well as receiving boating safety instruction. Second-year campers advance their skills at all ranges, canoe, attend turkey clinic, taxidermy, trapping, and make their own hunting knife. Third-year campers take advanced shooting, attend the Ohio Boaters Education Course, practice motor boating, and receive advanced shooting training. Fourth-year campers attend a bird dog clinic, learn instinctive shooting, deer processing, high power rifle, and kayaking skills, and end the program with a guided pheasant hunt.

All clinics are taught by experienced volunteer instructors, NRA certified instructors, the Ohio Division of Wildlife officers, and the Ohio Division of Watercraft officers.

The all-inclusive fee for attending the Youth Outdoor Camp is $110 for youths and $120 for adults, and scholarships are available on a first-come basis through sponsoring clubs. For more information, contact Karen Metzker at 330-725-87847 or karen@lakeandtrails.org or visit www.lakeandtrails.org.

For more from Armitage, see the Mid-September Ohio’s Country Journal.

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