Stefen L. Givens, Morgan, Johnny W. | 3/17/2007 1:09:32 AM
The 4-H outdoor skills program is among the fastest growing programs in some areas of the state, and hundreds of youngsters from Southeast Louisiana recently gathered to take part.
Students from St. Helena, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes met at the Franklinton Long Range Skeet Club last month for the Florida Parishes 4-H Outdoors Field Day.
According to LSU AgCenter 4-H agent Stefen Givens, that Feb. 17 event was held in conjunction with the National Wild Turkey Federation’s JAKES Day.
"We have 130 kids and 35 adult volunteers from the four parishes represented for this event," Givens said, adding that the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H shooting sports program, which is one part of the overall 4-H outdoor skills program, is among the fastest growing 4-H projects in his area.
But Southeast Louisiana isn’t the only one where the outdoor skills programs are gaining in popularity. Givens and others in the LSU AgCenter say they have been introduced and well-received in other areas of the state, too.
4-H is the youth development and outreach program of the nation’s land-grant universities and is coordinated in Louisiana by the LSU AgCenter. Through a variety of educational projects and activities, it strives to help young people develop knowledge and skills that will benefit them, their families and their communities.
One of the high points of the 4-H outdoor skills program also is being taught in some schools in the state.
"We have lesson plans that the teachers can actually teach as a part of their curriculum," Givens explained.
For example, some of those lesson plans incorporate information on white-tailed deer, wild turkey and wetlands, he said.
During the recent southeastern Louisiana field day, the students get to compete in different age groups for various prizes and an opportunity to move up to district and possibly the state competition. Among the competitive were skeet shooting with shotguns, archery target shooting and target shooting with air rifles.
But competition wasn’t the only focus. Among the attractions that captured attention were two bobcats, a raccoon and a coyote that a local trapper brought to put on display for the youngsters – so they could get a close-up look at the wildlife.
Loyd Stafford, one of the organizers of the field day from the Louisiana chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, said the group has been involved in programs like this for the past 14 years.
"The JAKES program is a national program that stands for Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship. What we’re trying to do with this program is pass on some of our heritage to the next generation," he said.
Other members of wild turkey federation were on hand during the February event to show the participants how to operate the various turkey calls effectively, as well as how to make the sounds of some of the wild turkey’s predators.
Lane Warren, a Washington Parish fifth-grader who needs a wheelchair for mobility, is involved in the shooting sports program and doesn’t let his disability hold him back. Two years ago, Lane was hit by a drunk driver while riding on a horse-drawn wagon, and both of his legs were broken.
His mom, Sherri Warren said, "Lane was thrown from the wagon, and after two-and-a-half months in Children’s Hospital in New Orleans and 21 surgeries, he still lost one of his legs. "But he has been a real trooper through it all."
Lane said he really likes the shooting sports activities – and that he likes shooting skeet the most.
Another of Lane’s hobbies is deer hunting, and he bagged a six-point buck this past season.
Because of the popularity of the program, the February field day in Southeast Louisiana certainly wasn’t the only one. Similar events are regularly planned.
For example, Southeast Louisiana youngsters were invited to another monthly event March 3 at the Florida Parishes Skeet Club in Amite. That one, conducted in conjunction with the Delta Waterfowl Association, gave them a chance to learn more about calling waterfowl and setting up decoys.
For additional information about the LSU AgCenter’s outdoor skills programs or the shooting sports components of that program, contact the LSU AgCenter Extension Office in your parish or visit www.lsuagcenter.com.