Mountaineers Host Youth Field Day
With 1,100 acres of rolling mountain land, the Mountaineer Chapter is ideally situated for a day introducing youth to the great outdoors. The chapter held its first Youth Conservation Field Day last September.
Bruce Evans, who holds a multitude of chapter offices including Youth Programs Coordinator, got the idea from a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) representative he met at a local event. Evans set up a meeting with the chapter’s Board of Directors and they voted to give it a try. The chapter applied to the IWLA Endowment and West Virginia Division for grants to support the event.
Children ages 8-15 visited six different learning stations:
- Fish and aquatic insect study: A native brook trout runs through the chapter’s property. “When you drive by, it doesn’t look like there’s much in there,” says Evans. Using a fish shocking technique, the children worked with a fishery biologist from the state DNR to catch and identify six species of fish. They also used nets to inspect aquatic insects.
- Virtual fishing: How do you introduce kids to the joy of fishing when you don’t have a pond handy? Bring in a virtual fishing simulator, which Evans says gave “a very realistic feel for fighting and landing a large fish. We had one little boy who would have stayed there all day!”
- Clay target shooting: Children had a lesson in shooting safety and got to test their shotgun skills on clay targets. Although many of the children had never handled a shotgun, Evans report that most were hitting some clays by the end of the session.
- Archery and airgun: Children were briefed on safety and technique and enjoyed both bow and airgun shooting. The airgun targets were either spinning or breakable, which added excitement to the shoot.
- Animal radio tracking: A wildlife biologist from the Department of Natural Resources showed children how the DNR uses radio collars to track the movement of different animals to determine their range, reproduction, and mortality rate.
- Animal identification: Children learned how to identify animals based on their pelts, tracks, and skulls.
Kids, parents, and volunteers received a free lunch and door prizes at the end of the day.
The chapter was creative in advertising the event. They sent fliers to the local elementary schools and put fliers up in store windows. The local radio station has a “Talk of the Town” segment, and three chapter members went on-air to talk about the event. The chapter also paid for ads in the local newspaper.
Fifteen children and their families turned out for the field day. It wasn’t quite the turnout the chapter had hoped for, but it was a good start to a new annual tradition. “School had just started along with football and soccer leagues,” says Evans. ”But the kids who did show up really enjoyed themselves. This year we’re looking at a different date — either late spring or in the late summer before school starts.” Evans hopes to double the number of kids at this year’s event.
For more information about the Mountaineer Chapter, visit the chapter's Web site.