Academics Afield

Academics Afield – A Collegiate Hunting Community

Academics Afield is a college learn-to-hunt program initiated and supported by GWF and the Georgia R3 Initiative. Academics Afield is focused on removing participation barriers while providing training and opportunities to students new to target shooting and hunting. Game species biology, hunting strategy, firearm training, a guided hunt, animal processing and a wild game meal are a component of every workshop. There are internships and volunteer opportunities at each participating school. In Georgia, programs are active at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Albany State University, Fort Valley State University, Georgia Southern University, and the University of Georgia. If you attend one of these colleges and are interested in participating in the program, click here to complete a short survey. 

Goals

1) Engage folks from non-traditional backgrounds in hunting and shooting sports

2) Increase societal acceptance and support of hunting and shooting sports

The Academics Afield program began in 2019 at two colleges in Georgia. Since then, it has expanded across the United States to include additional programs in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas.

In 2022, Georgia schools saw 190 participations at 46 events. Across all institutions, 57% of participants were women, 29% of participants were BIPOC, 53% of participants came from a medium to a large city, and 100% of participants now agree that hunters contribute to wildlife conservation. The Academics Afield program is an R3 effort to recruit, retain, and reactivate hunters and target shooters. After participating in the program, 90% of participants said they will probably or will definitely hunt in the future.

As of 2023, seven programs across the southeast have been launched at Historically Black Colleges and Universities with the goal of enhancing diversity, inclusion, and equity in the hunting and shooting community. The program strives to help underrepresented communities forge stronger relationships with the outdoors and our natural resources.

Current Events

Career Series

The Career Series events are for students interested in the firearm industry or wildlife management field. This series is funded by NSSF. Guest speakers from the firearm industry and wildlife management field present information about their jobs. They also speak about their journeys into the career field and provide tips and tricks to pursue similar careers. If you are a college student interested in learning more about our upcoming events, please email Coral Minchey (cminchey@gwf.org).

Previous Presentations:

Alan Vestal: Owner of Alan’s Armory

Alan Vestal is the owner of Alan’s Armory. He’ll discuss why and how he got into the firearm industry, what he sells and how he sells it. He’ll also speak on his involvement with the local community and what he does to support it. Interested in getting into the business? Alan will cover tips for entering the industry. 

Dr. JT Pynne: Private Lands Biologist with Georgia Wildlife Federation

JT has a passion for learning about wildlife and habitat, and he is particularly interested in teaching others about the biodiversity found within the native pine systems in the Southeast. He even considers himself a part of the family with his last name (pronounced like the trees). JT earned his BS in Environmental Science from Samford University, MS in Biology from the University of West Georgia, and PhD in Forestry and Natural Resources from Warnell at the University of Georgia. His career has mostly been in school with a few semesters off for technician positions. Join us as JT discusses his experience in academia, government, and nonprofit.

Sargeant William Freeman: Collegiate Conservation Outreach Coordinator at Alabama Department of Conservation Natural Resources

Join Georgia Wildlife Federation’s guest speaker Sergeant William Freeman from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Sergeant Freeman has spent the last 10 years sharing his passion and excitement for the outdoors with others. During his talk, Sargeant Freeman will focus on providing pathways to careers and opportunities across a very diverse conservation landscape. 

Phillip Harding: National Training Manager at Burris/Steiner Optics

Join Georgia Wildlife Federation’s guest speaker Phillip Harding from Burris Optics as he discusses his path into the industry. He’ll also discuss skills he developed during his career journey and lessons learned along the way.

Donation Efforts for the Academics Afield Gear Locker

We strive to remove barriers that prevent individuals from learning to hunt. One barrier is the monetary barrier. Georgia Wildlife Federation has started a gear loaner program for our students, Academics Afield Gear Locker, that includes clothing, headlamps, gloves, and backpacks that students participating in our college learn-to-hunt program may borrow. If you want to donate new or lightly used hunting gear or clothing to this cause you may email Coral Minchey (cminchey@gwf.org).

Academics Afield is Supported By:

Student Testimonials

As a newcomer to UGA and the Athens area, the Academics Afield program has been an exciting way for me to meet new people with similar interests and gain knowledge and experience I’d be hard-pressed to encounter elsewhere in my busy life. Like most people, I imagine, I was not raised in a hunting or gun-owning household. Prior to getting involved in this program, I had absolutely no experience with hunting and only a basic knowledge of safe firearm handling and use due to personal interest. Through the program, I’ve learned so much in a very short time about responsibly hunting a variety of game and the firearms, techniques, and regulations involved. I’ve been able to meet people and go places I’d never know or have access to on my own. I possess skills I never thought I’d have or even need, and the program still has so much more to offer. I am grateful to Georgia Wildlife Foundation, Academics Afield and those involved and look forward to the opportunity to give back in the future.

Tristan Green-Tagalog

Academics Afield Participant, University of Georgia

I was interested in participating in Academics Afield because it was able to give me as a student the opportunity to learn and try hunting firsthand under experienced hunters’ supervision. I also enjoyed that these workshops were free for students to participate in and gain a lot of knowledge in a variety of topics related to hunting and nature.

Tyra Dowery

Academics Afield Participant, Fort Valley State University

Gallery

Articles, Blogs, and Videos

Albany State University’s Busy Spring Semester

The beginning of 2024 was a busy time for the Academics Afield students at Albany State University. After finishing the first week of school, students with the Academics Afield program went out on a learn-to-hunt deer hunt. We visited the Mike Commander Shooting Range...

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A Tale of Rabbits and Students

Statesboro students recently went out on their third hunting trip in their Academics Afield programming. The 2023-2024 SY cohort, funded by the Georgia State Chapter of NWTF, had two previous hunts where the intended game species was not successfully harvested. During...

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