Activities for kids dominate every parent's summer plans.
Conservation clubs worth their salt all have events and promotions designed to help youngsters find their way into outdoor activities. The Pennsylvania Game Commission hosts a score or more of special opportunities for youth to get afield and I support them all.
This Saturday is the 2012 Youth Field Day for our region. What a fun time it always is! It will be held at the Henrietta Sportsmen Building starting with the 8:30 a.m. registration.
It's an all-day event and admission is free. However, every child that attends must have an adult with them and the event is open to children ages 5-17. Lunch will be provided.
Also, be sure to dress appropriately for whatever the weather is forecasting that day. Insect spray will be important as will sun blocker. Be sure to bring raingear too.
This event is sponsored by the Tussey Mountain Strutters and the Allegheny Mountain Chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation. For more information contact, Kevin Kunsman at 814-317-7535.
All sorts of outdoor activities will be provided: archery, turkey hunting and calling are two I know of for sure.
The "Jake's Day' program in the NWTF is designed to give children the chance to explore the outdoors while acquiring knowledge, skills and sportsmanship.
In the old days, kids picked all this up at home, usually from Dad and/or Grandpa. Once so many lived on a farm or knew someone who did and hunting was as natural as breathing. School was canceled on the first day of buck season and the night before opening day rivaled Christmas Eve for excitement and anticipation.
But, slowly things changed. We've become more urban now and so many girls and boys do not have anyone to mentor them in the basics of hunting and shooting. If someone does not show an interest, and school them, they often end up in the ranks of those asking "How can you shoot those poor, little deer?"
It's exactly how my addiction to sports in general, and hunting in particular, got started. When my son entered the farm system for Little League baseball. I began going to the games, learned to love baseball and followed my son right up through Junior Legion ball and beyond.
Today, I am a huge Pirates fan, Steelers junkie and Penguins lover. I listen to Cory Giger's sports show every day. In my young adult life, I spent three or four nights a week at one ballpark or another. In my senior life, I'm watching whatever game is playing on TV and getting disgusted with folks who have the nerve to schedule meetings and dinners and other unimportant events during playoff games.
Few people, if any, just wake up one morning and decide to take up hunting. Somewhere along the line, each person usually has a family member who is the example for hunting. It might be a grandfather, father, uncle or friend who helps each one get started.
It takes some time and commitment on the part of that mentor to patiently help an individual get their gear and clothes together and learn the basics.
When I got married back in the early 1950s, I had no exposure whatsoever to hunting. My father, a military man, would not have known the difference between an ostrich and a bluejay. So when my new husband implored me to go hunting with him, I was horrified.
Go out in the woods and freeze? Shoot things? But then fate intervened.
My husband broke his leg playing softball during the next summer. When it came time for taking the beagles out and training them, he loaded them into the car and asked me to drive him to the field. So I went.
How was he going to keep up with the dogs with that heavy cast on? When he fell and broke the other leg, I could at least go for help I figured.
When Ken unleashed the dogs into the very first brush pile, my life was changed. A rabbit squirted out the other end, the dogs right behind, bugling a music that just charged my batteries. What an afternoon that was as I learned the habits of a chased bunny and tried to figure out where I should place myself to see the rabbit as it circled back to its original hiding place, the dogs barking somewhere behind them.
My husband had no idea what a monster he had unleashed. From then on, there was no leaving me behind on any hunting foray. This was in the days when a woman out hunting was equated with Eve biting that apple. But I didn't care what anyone thought. This was for me!
It's still true today. Whether you are male or female, most folks need a little help and encouragement to get started. To this end, getting people started properly and safely, the Game Commission has introduced several programs over the years.
The present mentoring program is one. These days, there are lots of young people who have a thought that they might like to take up hunting but no father to help.
A decade ago most states began popular programs designed to get women who were interested started properly and I taught in both New York and Pennsylvania in those programs, and they were instrumental in getting scores of women and girls truly motivated and instructed in the basics of hunting and fishing.
Saturday's event is designed to do the same: spark an interest in and knowledge of the outdoor pursuit we love so much.