DNR’s “Hunt and Learn”

The Next Step In Youth Hunter Education

Brad Gill | August 29, 2012

Hunt and Learn Rabbits was a blast for (from left) Kevin Byrd, 15, Tori Poss, 14, and Marty Moore, all of Eatonton.

Imagine a weekend in deer camp with 10 to 20 kids and their parents. Not only do the adult/child pairs get to make memories in the woods while deer hunting, they learn about rubs, scrapes, field-dressing, scouting, conservation, safety, hunting skills and all the ins-and-outs of deer biology from state WRD biologists. Pretty cool concept, huh? Well, the concept is a reality. DNR’s Hunt and Learn program, currently offered at the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center (CEWC) in Jasper County, is entering its second year of youth hunting programs.

“The program is the next step in hunter education,” said Rusty Garrison, program manager at CEWC. “(DNR) is making it easier to take a child hunting and teach them about the out-of-doors.”

These weekend programs—which include half hunting and half education in the classroom and woods—fill on a first-come, first-serve basis and are available for youth 17 and younger who have had the hunter-safety course. Youth may take the online hunter education course prior to the Hunt and Learn weekend and then take the test on Friday night during the Hunt and Learn weekend.

Dustin Green was hunting with his grandpa Larry Davis when he connected on this Clybel WMA gobbler. The two were participants on a Hunt and Learn Turkey event.

“One of the main goals is to teach them to hunt and give them confidence to return to the field to hunt again,” said Rusty.

With this being a goal, I’d conclude that DNR’s Hunt and Learn program has seen success after year No. 1.

“Last year, on Oct. 7-9 the CEWC staff held a Hunt and Learn Deer Program. We had 10 adult/child pairs attend the program,” said Rusty.

During that Hunt and Learn weekend, the deer simply would not cooperate when kids and adults took to the woods. Only one deer was killed. Were the kids discouraged? Not hardly.

“An (open) adult/child hunt occurred at CEWC in December,” said Rusty. “Five Hunt and Learn participants returned to CEWC to participate in this sign-in hunt (not a Hunt and Learn hunt). Three of those adult/child pairs harvested deer. One participant harvested his first deer, a nice 8-pointer with a 13 1/2-inch spread.

“It seems the Hunt and Learn Program is meeting its goal of teaching participants to hunt and giving them confidence to return to the field to hunt again.”

This nice Clybel WMA buck was taken by Joseph Defore while hunting with his father Randall during a Hunt and Learn Deer event.

All Hunt and Learn weekends are $60 per person ($120 per pair), which includes two nights lodging at CEWC and excellent food in the dining hall. The price is so reasonable because half the money needed to fund these weekends comes from a hunter-education grant through Pittman-Robertson funds.

“This is an incredibly affordable opportunity to really teach a child the basics of hunting, help them learn more about conservation and enjoy a wonderful outdoors experience together with their parent or adult supervisor,” said Rusty.

I’ve volunteered at five of these Hunt and Learn weekends, and I say with all assurance that this is a fantastic tool in taking kids to the next level in hunter education. Rusty and those assisting him are passionate when it comes to teaching kids about hunting and conservation, another reason I believe it has been so successful. It’s my hope that DNR’s Hunt and Learn program expands well outside of CEWC.

“My goals are to see the program expand statewide. We would love to see such programs offered in other areas of the state,” said Rusty.

To sign up for a Hunt and Learn weekend this hunting season, call CEWC at (770) 784-3059.

Hunt and Learn Squirrels covered everything from squirrel biology and hunting techniques to cleaning and cooking squirrels.

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