Conservation day introduces youth to outdoor living

Published 6:39 am Monday, July 26, 2010

A few children learned to shoot a gun, others competed to see who could hit the most targets, some built a bird house. But they all had one thing in common: They got to enjoy the outdoors.

The fifth annual Jakes Conservation Day Saturday was a time for youth to get outdoors and have the chance to safely learn about firearms.

Children under age 17 had the chance participate in a number of different activities like trapshooting, rifle safety and maintenance, BB gun safety and marksmanship, archery and crafts.

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“The main thing is having fun. We like to have fun,” said Dave Alford, a local National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) chapter member and district director. The NWTF and the Cedar River Longbeards Chapter of the along with Mower County Pheasants Forever hosted the event from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

Typically about 50 to 70 young people attend the event, and about 50 participated this year. Alford said the participants can come and go as they choose, and they can pick the activities they do.

“We get people that come out here and they’ve never done it, and it kind of opens them up,” Alford said.

Jakes coordinator Linden Anderson said it’s important for youth to be familiar with firearms and know how to handle them safely.

“It’s a tool, and any tool you use incorrectly can hurt you,” Anderson said.

Alford and Anderson try to ensure the learning the learning experience should be fun. One girl used a shot gun for the first time Saturday at the clay pigeons station, and she almost hit her first target. Another girl was handling a gun for the first time on the pellet gun range.

“To get that first one is something,” Alford said.

Kim Krulish, 15, has been attending the event for about three years, and she said it’s important for people to learn to properly handle guns.

“If they plan to go hunting or go to firearm safety, this is definitely something they should try out,” she said.

Many parents have guns in their homes, and Alford said children should know how to act around firearms. Even though many of the youth participating Saturday may never go hunting, Alford said the experience gained at Jakes Conservation Day is important.

Hunting wasn’t a key focus of the event. Instead, the day was a time to introduce youth to the sport of shooting and other outdoor activities. The day offered more than shooting, as many participants built bird houses.

“We’re just trying to expose them to all the different things you can do outdoors,” Anderson said. “You don’t have to sit there and play on the computer or play a video game. You can go outside and have a lot of fun.”

While Brad Gerlach, 13, and his brother Dan, 15, often trap shoot at home, but Brad said it can sometimes become redundant. On a day like Saturday, he said it’s fun to shoot in a group.

Michael Bergstrom, 12, said the friendly competition adds a new element to shooting.

“It’s good experience,” he said. “It teaches you how to compete under pressure because all the people watching.”

John Ferris said the event offered a chance to get outdoors.

“It’s better than sitting at home and doing nothing,” John said. “You see new people and meet new people. It’s something to do. Just being outside is fun.”