From the Classroom to the Field
Not many students can say they went turkey hunting with their teacher during high school. Probably even fewer have gone on a turkey hunting field trip.
Rebecca Farrow, an agriculture education teacher and FFA advisor at Tennessee's Siegal High School, made both happen for some of her students this spring — with a bit of help from the NWTF.
All it took was one of Rebecca's students saying she would go turkey hunting if someone asked her, and Jason Lupardus, an NWTF regional biologist for Kentucky and Tennessee, set in motion an event that would give Murfreesboro, Tenn., high schoolers a chance to go on their first hunt.
It began at the Youth Wildlife Conservation Experience at the NWTF annual convention in Nashville. Seven area high schools sent teachers and students to participate in a field trip to the Opryland Resort and Convention Center, where they learned about wildlife conservation and hunting, as well as careers in both industries.
Thanks to support from Mossy Oak, thousands of youth learned hands-on outdoors skills at the Roost, the family-centric area of the NWTF Convention's sport show. More than 170 of them took part in YWCE (sponsored by MidwayUSA), where they interacted with a panel of outdoor industry professionals, including USDA Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell and Bone Collector/NWTF Spokesman Michael Waddell.
A dozen students — half boys, half girls, half hunters, half non-hunters — sat on a panel to answer questions from state wildlife agency personnel on how to engage youth in hunting. Every one of the youth came from a rural area, had taken a wildlife management course and completed hunter education. And all but one had already shot a gun or bow.
Yet half of them still hadn't been hunting. Why?
They offered three reasons:
They didn't know how to start.
They didn't have the transportation to get to a hunting spot.
No one had ever asked them to go.
Reason No. 3 sent Jason on a mission to get these kids on their first hunt. And two months later the first Tennessee YWCE Hunt came to be.
Jason, along with several members of the Tennessee NWTF board, set a date, secured private land and recruited several enthusiastic NWTF members as guides. He also brought in co-worker Kenny Barker, NWTF youth hunting coordinator in Florida, to lend his expertise on mentored youth hunts.
Amazingly, Rebecca was able to make it a school-approved field trip. Her dedication to her students and teaching wildlife management was key to making this hunt a reality.
NWTF education programs make a difference in the lives of students, teachers and their families — as you'll see on the next two pages. This one also has proven to be a gateway to hunter recruitment, even if it happens one teacher at a time.
—Christine Rolka, NWTF education director