I just ran across a great program in South Dakota and I encourage any of you that are interested to take a good look at this program to see if it might work in your state or community. Called South Dakota Adventures, this program teams adult mentors with interested youth who have limited access to outdoor sports, specifically hunting. Jim Glines, vice president for South Dakota Adventures, explained some of the program to me recently and I was more than impressed with the dedication. In brief, Glines became involved for the reason most of us help spark interest in youth.
"I just wanted to see these kids have the same chance I had when I was growing up," explains Glines. "I could walk out my back door and go hunting.
Many kids just don't have that chance and I knew we could give it to them with this program."
The program teams with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Black Hills to help screen mentors, screen youth participants and team the pair together.
One of the biggest expenses to the whole program is the screening process, but it is invaluable to the success of the program.
All mentors have to take hunter safety and then take their youth hunters through the program as well. Before the excited hunters take to the field the organization gives each one a "goodie bag" complete with boots, socks, shirt, orange hat, orange vest, first aid kit, compass and other outdoor knickknacks. The participants are then treated to a day of shooting before they head to the autumn fields for a deer hunt. If they are successful on their deer hunt each participant receives free meat processing of their game.
The community has rallied in the three years this program has been in existence. Banks, hospitals, the National Guard, ammunition companies, sporting goods stores and others all provide funding or equipment donations to these excited kids.
How does it affect the kids? Glines was at McDonald's recently and ran into one of the kids from the previous year. The kid was raring to go Glines said and asked "when we going to start? I'm ready to go hunting." That sounds like a successful program to me.
If you'd like to learn more or even donate to the South Dakota program, visit South Dakota Hunting Adventures at www.bigmentors.com/Youth_Hunting.
You do know that hunters are a dying breed, right? OK, it might not be that doom and gloom, but we're not breaking any records in recruiting youngsters back into the sport and in some hunting segments we're actually losing participants. If you ever want some interesting reading on the subject check out the National Survey on Hunting, Fishing and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (http://www.census.gov/prod/www/abs/fishing.html).