Ikes in Action: Hunting and Fishing Day Brings Community – and Chapter – Together

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People trying archery

Maryland >> The Rockville Chapter holds an open house on National Hunting and Fishing Day that draws between 350 and 400 people from the surrounding community. A lot of folks look forward to this event every year. Among the event’s many benefits, notes chapter president Lee Hays, is “getting roughly 90 chapter members working together, year after year, to make it all happen.”

Located in the suburbs outside Washington, DC, the Rockville Chapter grounds include 52 acres of woods, nature trails, ranges, and a three-acre lake. This annual event allows members of the community to experience a wide range of outdoor activities. This year, for example, they could try their hand at archery, kayaking and canoeing, BB gun and black-powder muzzleloader shooting, fishing, a tomahawk toss run by Boy Scout Troop 1097, and many other family-friendly activities.

It’s hard to say which activity had the biggest impact on our guests.

The chapter also invites other local organizations to set up exhibits and hand out information. Exhibitors this year included the Seneca Creek Watershed Partners, Maryland Bluebird Society, Muddy Branch Alliance, Friends of Seneca Creek State Park, representatives from the Montgomery County Department of Environment/ Recycling, and a duty officer from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Duane Hovorka, Agriculture Program Director for the League, set up his “Soil Your Undies” display to show the benefits of healthy soil. It was a big hit – especially with the kids. Nature tables offered touchable displays, including shed snake skins, locally found deer and fox skulls, a mummified bat, snapping turtle shells, and prickly chestnut hulls. One chapter member had a table that focused on bugs – lots and lots of bugs, including some live ones that could be held. This particular exhibit was originally developed as part of the chapter’s youth conservation education program.

It’s hard to say which activity had the biggest impact on our guests. Archery, for example, never slowed down. Even though the chapter has a ten-lane archery setup, there was always a line of people waiting. There were enough members who are NASP- or USAA-certified instructors to provide calm and patient coaching. Each archer got to shoot six arrows, after which many of them immediately got back in line to do it again!

Black powder shooting was a venue that really made a difference in attitude. One of our instructors noted that a lot of people came in apprehensive but willing to try. They left smiling and confident – and with a whole new understanding of the fact that shooting can be just plain fun.

Down at the lake, our water sports group had ten kayaks and six canoes going, with a couple of patrollers out on the water at all times watching new paddlers and giving instruction when required. The canoes were particularly popular, allowing parents to take their small children on the water with them. And with help from members of Scout Troop 1097 on shore, no one got wet during the process of getting in and out of the boats!

People canoeing

On the other side of the lake, things were equally busy. We had about 50 fishing rods available, and they were pretty much in use the whole time. A couple of high schoolers earned student service hours preparing little paper cups with cut worms for bait. The bluegills and bass were cooperative. Many kids caught a fish for the first time in their lives. Have you seen the look on a kid’s face when he pulls in his very first fish? It’s a rare experience.

Thanks to the efforts of past chapter president Ryck Lydecker, who organized and oversaw the entire operation, it was an amazingly successful day. None of it could have happened without the many chapter volunteers who spent the entire day taking care of the myriad tasks required, both obvious and behind-the-scenes, to make it work. This event always results in new chapter memberships as well.

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Miles Greenbaum is the Rockville Chapter Secretary and Past President.