By Cody Ellis, UGA Academics Afield Coordinator
Academics Afield has been a very neat and exciting experience for me as the Coordinator for UGA. Not only did I get to teach students how to be involved with the outdoors, I was able to share my passion with them. I finally had a chance to show others why I have fallen so in love with the outdoors and the hunting world.
At the start of my time as the coordinator at UGA, in Spring of 2021, I was nervous. We hosted a waterfowl hunting workshop. I was unsure how I was going to convey the process and ensure it was a constructive experience for the participants. I was unsure whether we would be able to successfully harvest the species we were chasing. Although I was able to take students from UGA that had not experienced the rush of a waterfowl hunt, I was upset at our opportunity rate of 33%. I at least wanted participants to have a chance at taking a shot.
At the start of the Fall 2021 semester, I was preparing for the annual dove hunt and again felt a little nervous as we approached the field. I recall an interaction that significantly changed my outlook on how I defined success for an Academics Afield hunt. On the way into the field, I was speaking with a participant and continued to say “I just hope we get some shots…… I hope everybody gets to try to take some birds,” and this individual looked at me with a smile and said “Cody just relax, this is a positive experience for everybody here and whether they take a bird or not they will learn something from you.” At this point, my outlook of myself and how to continue working with Academics Afield made a complete U-turn. I went from hoping people were able to harvest whatever species we were pursuing, to focus on teaching them something they could use in the field if they practiced hunting on their own.
Next, we held a Deer hunting workshop and I think it was a huge success! I believe every participant had an amazing time. Not because we were able to harvest more game, but because the entire workshop, from start to finish, was focused on the entire experience. I worked to make each part of the workshop, the firearms training, the biology/hunting strategies class, and the hunt itself, enjoyable, calm and stress-free. I worked to provide opportunities for the participants to learn from coaches and apply it in the field themselves.
I had the same focus for the waterfowl hunt in Spring of 2022 and had the same positive results. Participants enjoyed the brisk morning air, felt excited at seeing the wood-ducks and laughed at themselves during the challenge of wading through the swamp. It was fascinating.
Engagement with Academics Afield has been an unbelievable opportunity for me. I learned how to bring new individuals into the world of hunting and give them an experience they will never forget. I provided them strategies to use and to build upon in their future. I drastically grew as a person from start to finish during my time with Academics Afield, so with that I say thank you to the Academics Afield program, UGA, and Georgia Wildlife Federation.
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.