Conservation work is often a slow and steady process that can take years, and sometimes decades, to see progress. Building the next generation of conservationists is no exception.
The Federation’s Hunting and Fishing Academy is recruiting more Tennessee families and youth into the great outdoors. This is critical work because a vast majority of wildlife conservation funding comes from sportsman licenses and special equipment taxes.
David Land, of Clarksville, and his son Matthew have always enjoyed the occasional camping and fishing trip, but they had never tried anything like hunting before.
That all changed when they heard about Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s Hunting and Fishing Academy. David said Matthew took an interest right away and they registered for their first experience—a dove hunt in Clarkrange.
“I’ve never been hunting before, it was just something I wanted to try,” said Matthew.
David and Matthew arrived in Clarkrange excited and a little anxious about what the day would hold.
Over the course of the day, they learned firearm and field safety, how to distinguish doves from other birds, what to pack for dove hunting, and more.
“What’s great about the volunteers and Federation staff is they understand how you’re feeling that first time. They know you might be a little nervous and they’re great at calming the waters and making it easy for you,” said David. “From learning where to hit your target to preparing the game for cooking or freezing, they showed us everything.”
At the end of the day, Matthew had harvested five doves. And it is safe to say they enjoyed their first experience because not long after the dove hunt, the father and son duo found themselves out in the field again with the Academy—this time learning the art of deer hunting.
“Even though we didn’t harvest a deer that trip, we still were able to learn and watch the steps first hand,” said David. “It’s not just about going out and harvesting something each time, it’s about taking your time and sticking with it.”
David and Matthew were ready to try hunting on their own.
They traveled to a friend’s property in Kentucky for their first solo trip and Matthew said his heart began to race when they finally saw a deer. With David by his side, Matthew recalled what he learned through the Academy and bagged his first deer—an impressive nine-point buck.
David couldn’t have been more proud. “The opportunities the Academy provided have allowed me to watch my son evolve into a young man. When we’re out in the woods now, I have no doubt that Matthew is being safe and applying the skills he learned,” said David.
“Hunting is a really fun experience. It’s okay if you’re nervous at first, just give it a go,” said Matthew
“I can’t express my appreciation enough for the volunteers and staff. As a parent, they were patient with us, educational, and always put safety as a top priority. I wish everybody knew about the Federation’s Hunting and Fishing Academy,” added David.
This year, Hunting and Fishing Academy will be opening more opportunities for adults themselves to learn the art of hunting and fishing—no children required.
Interested participants are encouraged to complete the interest form online tnwf.org/interest and can expect to see more details in the summer of 2020.