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 that Friday for target practice with rifles. A first for many of the students. They picked up target shooting quicker than when they learned to shoot clays. Once the students were assigned rifles and had a chance to sight them in, we returned to campus to discuss the hunting plan and strategy.

The afternoon of the hunt, we rode to meet the mentors at the Orianne Societys’ land to prepare for the hunt. Introductions were made and mentors were partnered up with their students. The students went off with their mentors to get into hunting positions before the sun started to set. Once in our spots, each group took a different strategy, but every student had a great experience. One student saw 2 deer pass by her ladder stand, even though she wasn’t able to get a shot in. Others tried to track deer only to see them on the road back to our vehicles. Each mentor made sure to teach their mentee signs to look for and ways to be successful in the future. Overall, it was a fantastic experience that all the students were thankful for.

The next month, the students were out and about on another adventure: a small game hunt. They went back to the sporting clays club to practice with the shotguns; the next morning it was time for the squirrel hunt. Luckily, the students were able to access private property for this hunt as well. Being able to hunt on private land eliminates the competition from other hunters. It makes the activity safer for a newcomer because they know all the other hunters on the property and their location.

The students broke up into 2 groups each led by an experienced hunter and set off into the woods. The students learned to identify squirrel nests and signs of squirrels nearby. They saw deer tracks and various deer stands along the way. One group of hunters also stood quietly and watched as a group of 10-15 deer frolicked through the woods and ended up crossing the same path the students were recently walking. Shortly after the group of deer were no longer in sight, the group heard gunshots ring out. Text messages a moment later confirmed that the other group successfully harvested a squirrel. A little while later a few more shots were heard and a second squirrel was harvested.

Once both groups gathered together again, everyone started discussing what they saw during their time in the woods. Coach Dan Land, from Albany State University, walked the students through field dressing and cleaning a squirrel to save the meat for later consumption, while venison tacos were being prepared for a post-hunt meal. The students bonded, learned skills needed for successful hunting, and shared a delicious meal. The workshop overall was another achievement for the Albany State University Academics Afield program.

The Georgia R3 Initiative is a cooperative effort between  Georgia Wildlife FederationGeorgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources DivisionNational Wild Turkey Federation, the Georgia Chapter of Safari Club International, and Ducks Unlimited.

Academics Afield is supported by a grant (#F22AP00937) from the Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Programs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Georgia R3 Initiative:
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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.

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