By Zach Stevens, ABAC Academics Afield Coordinator
Thursday, September 16th, 2021 for many people, was just a typical day. Still, for new recruits of Academics Afield at ABAC, it was an exciting yet nervous one, it was range day. Many participants have never had experience handling firearms, but that is one of the many jobs as Afield Coordinators we are trained to handle. We started with a brief history of wildlife conservation and the importance of hunting to the field.
Then we explained how to identify our desired species for the hunt (Mourning dove, Zenaida macroura) and reinforced the safety taught in the hunter safety course (hearing, eye, and safety of everyone else). After introductions, we hit the range!
We demonstrated proper handling and carrying techniques. Then how to operate the action and the mechanical safety. While it was unloaded, the participants held the firearm and we provided constructive feedback on safety and form.
Next, we taught them how to load the firearm and then encouraged them to shoot. The most important thing when working with new shooters is patience and understanding their body language. While that shooter may say they are comfortable, it is essential to visually confirm. After the first few shots, enjoyment set in for the attendees. They began to feel more comfortable with the firearms and wanted to shoot all evening; shooting hours always end too early!
Saturday September 25th, we drove from ABAC to Clybel WMA to hunt on the R3 Dove Field. Before leaving the van, we reinforced the safety measures. Walking to the field, we met up with UGA’s Academics Afield program coordinator and a few of his attendees. As much as I would like to tell you that we all limited out, there is a reason they call it “hunting.” While we didn’t get any birds that day, the conversations about the natural resources field taught our attendees a lot about wildlife management and conservation.
Our goal as Academics Afield Coordinators is a lot more than teaching someone how to hunt. We want to promote the next generation of hunters and continue the tradition. We are promoting positive and enjoyable experiences within the community that will last a lifetime. For most attendees, this is their first time hunting and operating firearms. Positive and safe experiences from the beginning open the door to hunting and other great outdoor experiences.
Academics Afield is supported by a grant (#F21AP00678-00) from the Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Programs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Georgia R3 Initiative is a cooperative effort between Georgia Wildlife Federation, Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division, National Wild Turkey Federation, National Deer Association, and the Georgia Chapter of Safari Club International
Georgia R3 Initiative: https://gwf.org/r3/
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About Georgia Wildlife Federation
Georgia Wildlife Federation was founded as a sportsman’s organization in 1936 and is Georgia’s oldest conservation organization. Today, members include hunters, anglers, bird watchers, hikers, educators, and all Georgians who are interested in preserving our natural resources and outdoor heritage.