Youth Programs Lead to Dreams of a Career in Conservation: A personal account by Tennessee SCTP athlete and volunteer Rachael Irby
I am currently a student at Mississippi State University, an avid outdoorsman, and a competitive shooter. For my last three years of high school, I was an active Tennessee SCTP athlete for Centennial High School in Franklin, Tennessee. I started competitive shooting thinking it would be something fun to do and a way to make friends. What I didn’t know was that it was the beginning of an amazing journey.
Come senior year of high school, I received an email from my coach. He forwarded a Tennessee Wildlife Federation youth turkey hunt drawing to me and encouraged me to enter for the chance to get my first turkey. I had never harvested a turkey before, and I thought it would be an amazing experience, so I entered the drawing. When I got a letter from the Federation saying I had been selected for the hunt, I couldn’t believe it! I thought there was little chance of my name being drawn.
By the time the turkey hunt arrived, I was very excited. I knew the weekend was going to be filled with learning experiences while meeting new people who share a passion for the outdoors and hunting. I harvested my first turkey with my dad on that hunt, but that wasn’t the best part of the weekend. The second night, while everyone was relaxing in their tents, I got the chance to talk with the Federation’s Youth Hunting & Fishing Program coordinator. We discussed my future. I shared with him my dream of going into law enforcement and my passion for the outdoors. I told him I didn’t know what I wanted to study at school or what branch of law enforcement I wanted to go into. He told me about different opportunities and told me there was a way to combine my passion and dream into the perfect career for me.
I left that weekend with a new outlook on my future and made the decision to study conservation law enforcement, so I may be a game warden or wildlife officer once I graduate from college.
Again, I reached out to the Federation to see if they could help me gain experience in wildlife conservation, and I began volunteering at youth events.
I LOVE THAT NOW I GET TO MAKE IT POSSIBLE FOR KIDS TO EXPERIENCE THE SAME JOY AND EXCITEMENT.
For the past couple months I have been volunteering for the Federation’s youth hunting events. Soon, I will be trained as a Hunt Master. Once I’m old enough, I will be trained to guide, so I can share my hunting knowledge with youth. I have had nothing but fun so far, and I’m excited to continue volunteering in the seasons to come. I have met amazing people and have enjoyed sharing my passion of the outdoors with others.
Nothing makes me happier than seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces when they harvest their first animal. I remember the first animal I harvested and how excited I was; I love that now I get to make it possible for kids to experience the same joy and excitement.
And so, because of the Federation, I am getting great experience in the field of wildlife conservation while gaining skills for my future career as a wildlife officer.