We set out with a goal to get kids excited about hunting, fishing and the outdoors while centering it around a hunter safety course. We wanted to make the entire event free for all kids who came through the gates. 78 students graduated from our hunter safety course, with an overwhelming majority being children from right here in Southern Illinois. All of the students that completed the course are now eligible to obtain a hunting permit and take part in our great hunting tradition. While we offered all of the components of a typical IDNR Hunter Education Program, we added several interactive and exciting components to offer a more hands-on experience. We also had several activities that we felt would help to promote living an active lifestyle and encourage children to spend time in the outdoors.
Tree stands were setup just outside the hunter safety tent, and children had an opportunity to learn about how to properly hang, climb, and hunt from an elevated stand. “Camo the Clown” made an appearance during the course, and truly left the children wanting more. He got them excited about hunting, fishing and getting into the outdoors and enjoying everything it has to offer. Lcal trapper and outdoor enthusiast, Phil Mendenhall, gave trapping demonstrations throughout the weekend and taught everyone who was interested about all the animals that are available for trapping in our state. He also showed them how to care for game, both in the field and while preparing it for the dinner table. We had a 3,000 gallon fishin’ hole filled with local bluegill and channel catfish. The children had the opportunity to catch fish with the help of local volunteers during breaks from the classroom portion of the course. A local chainsaw carver was on-hand and took a 5 foot piece of red cedar tree trunk, and turned it into a beautiful eagle carving. Everyone had an opportunity to shoot skeet and .22 rifles with our certified range instructors. We even had a martial arts instructor from a local academy give demonstrations and talk about all the benefits of staying active and living a healthy lifestyle. We had a Civil War era replica cannon on site with volunteers from the local encampment talking to kids about how people lived during that time.
Upon completion of the course, we had prizes donated from several local organizations and individuals. Drawing from the names of the kids who passed our hunter safety course, we gave away 2 guided pheasant hunts at a local hunting preserve, a waterfowl hunt with a local expert and guide, a fully guided whitetail deer hunt during the upcoming youth season with a local guide and landowner, and the Grand Prize: An all inclusive, youth season whitetail deer hunt with Dead Zone Outdoors.
The Grand Prize Hunt was won by Caitlyn Phelps of Simpson, Illinois. Caitlyn is 9 years old and could not possibly be any happier about winning this hunt. Here’s the short list of what this hunt will include: licensing, transportation, guides, meals and lodging on a top notch property that has been strictly managed under QDMA practices for over 12 years, a “Rhino Blinds” ground blind, a youth model shotgun, camouflage apparel for the hunt that the hunter will take home, free processing of the harvest from Miles Brothers Meat, and a free mount from Rankin Taxidermy. This entire hunt will also be filmed by the crew from Dead Zone Outdoors TV for an upcoming episode on the Pursuit Channel. As a bonus, Caitlyn will also take home a youth model Mathews bow, and she is very excited about learning how to hunt with stick and string. This hunting package is valued at over $3,000!! After the event, Caity said, “I learned a lot of stuff about hunting that I did not know. I learned about guns and how to be safe with them. I had so much fun, it was the best weekend ever! It was awesome to win the hunt, and I can’t wait ’till I get to go.” All in all, we gave away over $6,000 worth of hunting opportunities, family activities, hunting gear and other items, all of which was donated to the kids at our event.
We cannot thank everyone enough for the help and support that was given to us this weekend. There are truly a lot of people who share our passion for the outdoors, and gave freely, both of their time and money, to make this event what it was.
This event was the first of its kind in Southern Illinois, and plans are already being made for next year’s event. Look for more stories from the event, sponsor info, photos and news about Wild Wings and Hooves 2012 in the very near future at www.wildwingsandhooves.com.