Youth Learn Outdoor Skills Through LSU AgCenter 4-H Program

Terril D. Faul, Coolman, Denise, Holmes, Jason E.  |  4/21/2005 11:56:14 PM

Trent Saucier from Haughton Middle School practices archery as part of the LSU AgCenter's 4-H shooting sports program. Shooting sports are one part of an overall 4-H outdoor skills program, which involves more than 5,000 youngsters across the state.

News Release Distributed 3/31/04

Louisiana is called the "Sportsman’s Paradise," and the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H program has found ways to teach the state’s youth valuable skills – particularly when hunting is in vogue and sleeping in a tent is hip.

Michelle Abington-Cooper, a 4-H outdoor skills specialist with the LSU AgCenter, said about 5,000 4-H’ers are involved in the shooting sports program, which is part of the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H outdoor skills program.

"At some point, 4-H outdoor skills will include 4-H shooting sports, sport fishing and community all-terrain vehicle safety," Abington-Cooper said.

Joe Barrett, an LSU AgCenter agent from Bossier Parish, has a group of 4-H’ers who meet on Mondays and Thursdays to learn shooting sports skills.

"There are a lot of hunters who live in our state, and there are a lot of parents who want their children to learn how to hunt safely," Barrett said. "In this class, we teach the 4-H’ers how to shoot, but we also teach them about safety – such as how to carry a gun, cross a fence when carrying a gun and things like that.

"It’s all about safety," Barrett continued. "Marksmanship will come, but the main focus is safety."

The hunting skills discipline of the outdoor skills program focuses on wildlife conservation, hunter ethics, safety and an appreciation and understanding of humans’ relationship to wildlife through hands-on activities and simulations, said Lisa Ware, an LSU AgCenter agent in Webster Parish.

"The shooting sports discipline can be taught in many ways," Ware said. "I prefer to teach it through active participation. We do lots of Project WILD and Project Learning Tree activities, games, simulations and so forth, so that youth can actually be involved in the activities and can relate what they do to real hunting situations."

Among the goals of the shooting sports program are to expose participants to vocational and life-long avocational activities related to shooting sports and to introduce them to recreational opportunities – not only hunting, but a variety of shooting sports, as well, Ware said.

"Youth are not limited to just 4-H shooting but have opportunities to expand this project into a lifelong hobby," Ware said. "My son, Jesse Garcia, was so hooked on shooting sports that he joined the Amateur Trap Association and the National Sporting Clays Association and has shot in local, area and state matches.

"He's shot with and talked to shooters from all over the country, learning valuable skills and career options from experts in the field."

The shooting sports program also focuses on character education, as well, Ware said, explaining that it includes such principles as:

–Trustworthiness through being safe with firearms.

–Respect for other people's safety, for the firearms and for the environment.

–Responsibility in caring for their firearms and in being safe.

–Fairness by learning rules of the sport, hunting regulations and so forth.

–Caring for the environment and caring for the firearms.

–Citizenship through being good citizens by abiding by hunting regulations, caring for the environment and so forth.

The program is successful at helping youngsters gain self-esteem, said Jason Holmes, an LSU AgCenter agent for Union Parish.

"This is the second year we’ve had this program in Union Parish," Holmes said. "One 4-H’er’s father said he has seen an improvement in his child’s schoolwork since the child has been taking this class.

"The program helps young people learn about concentration and discipline," Holmes said, adding, "Skills learned in the program roll over into the classroom."

Donny Moon, an LSU AgCenter agent in Winn Parish, said possibilities "are endless" for youth involved in the program.

"Many of the 4-H’ers get local, state, even national attention," Moon said. "What they learn in this program definitely helps in other areas of their lives."

4-H’ers all over Louisiana can participate in the outdoor skills program. In West Feliciana Parish, the 4-H rifle team has grown in the past few years, and most of the participants are female. St. John Parish offers a program in the Archery and Rifle Discipline. Lafayette Parish has a 4-H Shotgun Club at Teurlings Catholic High School in Lafayette. And the variety of programs goes on and on.

There are even hunter safety classes offered at 4-H Camp each summer at the Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center in Pollock.

The LSU AgCenter’s 4-H Camp Director Jane Jones said campers passing a test during that program become certified through the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to hunt in the state. In addition, another camp is held later in the year for those 4-H’ers placing highest in shooting and archery competitions during summer camp.

Sara Brakeville, a parent who helps with the Bossier Parish 4-H program, said the program is ideal for students who aren’t athletic but want to participate in some type of sport.

"Not every child is a runner or a basketball player," Brakeville said. "This gives young people a chance to explore skills they may not know they have."

Terril Faul, head of the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H Youth Development department, agrees.

"The outdoor skills program provides an opportunity to develop youth in outdoor 4-H programs," Faul said. "4-H members develop confidence, listening skills and an appreciation for the outdoors.

"It's one of the fastest-growing areas in 4-H and is recruiting new 4-H members in several areas of the state," Faul continued. "It's especially identifying and developing adult volunteers that are sorely needed in our 4-H program. The shooting sports program is growing due to more volunteer development."

4-H’ers from across Louisiana will meet May 1 for the outdoor skills state competition.

For more information on the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H outdoor skills program – or the variety of 4-H youth development activities ranging from computer science to community service – call your parish LSU AgCenter office or visit www.lsuagcenter.com.

###

Contacts: 
                Michele Abington-Cooper at (225) 578-2196 or mcooper@agcenter.lsu.edu
                Joe Barrett at (318) 965-2326 or jbarrett@agcenter.lsu.edu
                Terril Faul at (225) 578-2196 or tfaul@agcenter.lsu.edu
                Jason Holmes at (318) 368-9935 or jholmes@agcenter.lsu.edu
                Donny Moon at (318) 628-4528 or dmoon@agcenter.lsu.edu
                Lisa Ware at (318) 371-1371 or lware@agcenter.lsu.edu
Writer: 
                A. Denise Coolman at (318) 644-5865 or dcoolman@agcenter.lsu.edu

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