By Bob Garrett
For The Daily Item
“I’m sure that I’m preaching to the choir when I say the outdoors is good for you. We’ve all enjoyed a sunrise in the woods, an afternoon on the lake or simply a morning cup of coffee on the porch. The outdoors is commonplace for most of us. But the national trend over the last 20 to 30 years says something different for the youngest citizens. More time in front of TVs, computer screens and video game consoles has meant less time outside playing tag or digging in the dirt. Electronics are not the only culprits. Now more than ever, kids’ schedules are packed with ballgames, piano recitals and homework — all wonderful components to a well-rounded childhood. What’s missing is time to discover the great outdoors.”
This quote is from Christine Rolka who is the Director of Education for the National Wild Turkey Federation.
In case you haven’t heard of it, the National Wild Turkey Federation is one of the pre-eminent conservation organizations around. They are no “newcomers” to the efforts to get kids out into the out-of-doors.
Starting in 1981, the federation, working through their local chapters has connected hundreds of local kids to the outdoors since through their JAKES program. JAKES, which stands for Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship, is dedicated to informing, educating and involving youth in wildlife conservation and the wise stewardship of our natural resources.
In “Turkey-Hunter parlance” a Jake is a young or immature male turkey. But please let me dispel right here, that the JAKES program is wide open to all boys and all girls. In fact, the National Wild Turkey Federation is also our nation’s leader in getting as many girls and women into the out-of-doors through their Women in the Outdoors (WITO) program.
In our Valley, there are three National Wild Turkey Federation chapters. The Col-Mont Chapter covers Columbia and Montour counties and they’re very active in Youth Field Days at the Northern Montour and Orangeville sportsmen’s clubs. This chapter hosted a wonderful booth at Early Bird Outdoor Expo in Bloomsburg last month.
Also, the members of this chapter work alongside the White Deer Jakes Chapter to host WITO events. The SUN Chapter covers the Snyder, Union and Northumberland county area. You may visit with the members of this chapter today at the Cabin Fever Outdoor Show in Mifflinburg.
Coordinating all of the National Wild Turkey Federation activities in our area is a fellow with seemingly endless enthusiasm and energy named Walter Bingaman. He is the regional director for the federation and he is based in Shamokin Dam. He can be contacted for information about the JAKES program or to schedule a school or youth group presentation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Wild Turkey Federation has really ramped up their efforts to introduce more young people to nature through classroom-based resources, conservation training workshops for educators and hands-on events for children. Chapters can host educator training workshops, participate in conferences and curriculum development initiatives, place federation education boxes in schools and host hunting heritage programs.
These efforts are paying off in insuring that no child is left indoors. The JAKES program has expanded to now include JAKES Youth Field Days, Xtreme JAKES and JAKES Take Aim events.
Through these events, chapter members give young people chances to explore the out-of-doors through fun events that help pass on the traditions of responsible hunting while teaching the principles of habitat management, ethics and safety.
Xtreme JAKES gives youth ages 13-17 opportunities and challenges appropriate with their abilities and experiences. Xtreme JAKES learn to be responsible outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen through fishing, camping and other outdoor activities. They learn to identify plants and animals, as well as how to effectively call-in those elusive Toms (that’s a mature, adult male turkey) through hunting seminars.
JAKES Take Aim
The JAKES Take Aim program presents opportunities for youth under 17 to try target shooting, clay target shooting and shotgunning in a safe, fun environment. In addition, the Pennsylvania state chapter has a fully-equipped airgun trailer to use during local JAKES and youth events that contains everything needed to set up an indoor or outdoor airgun range.
Here’s a partial list of upcoming youth and women-focused events, sponsored by the local chapters that you might want to consider. As I hear of more events, I’ll definitely include them in upcoming articles.
You and your family members can visit with some of the finest wild turkey from our valley at the Cabin Fever Expo that’s being held at the Mifflinburg High School.
Habitat improvement projects will be undertaken by the local chapters along with the Pennsylvania Game Commission. These are great events for young people to get hands-on experience and possibly complete school service project requirements.
Typically, the chapters’ May monthly meetings are cancelled to allow for maximum Spring Gobbler hunting time. But at the June meeting there will be lots of bragging (and maybe some downright lying) about great gobbler hunts.
The local chapters will kick off their first Women in the Outdoors event for the summer in our area on June 8 at the Montour Preserve and at the North Montour Sportsman’s Club. Please drop Melissa Letterman a line at email@example.com to learn more about this event. You can learn more about the events that will be held at the Buffalo Valley Sportsmen by visiting their website at www.bvsportsmen.org. Club members always host phenomenal events that include the Ladies Outdoors Day on June 15 and a JAKES Youth Field Day on Sept. 14.
The Orangeville Sportsmen’s Youth Field Day will be held on Aug. 17. Call 683-6084 for more details.
The North Montour Youth Field Day in late August and more details will be included about this wonderful event when they are available.
Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org