By Zach Stevens, ABAC Academics Afield Coordinator
Spring hunting opportunities through Academics Afield at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College can engender excitement. The squirrel hunt in February particularly aroused interest among the newer cohorts of students. For this workshop, we had a few attendees with absolutely no shooting experience. Occasionally, this intimidates new hunters more than anything else.
As the Academics Afield Coordinator, it’s my job to promote the next generation of hunters by creating a safe and organized environment for these novices to develop their skills. We quickly alleviate any nervous butterflies through our shooting course. We cover eye dominance, proper form, and handling techniques. The nervousness of the attendees quickly reverts to excitement and surprise. Both attendees who had never handled a firearm did not miss a target the whole time we were shooting. I was surprised but thrilled.
Hunting for any animal species can be a challenging feat, especially in the late season. The population of squirrels on Alapaha River WMA is what one might call lackluster. However, we were very hopeful due to the amount of habitat on the WMA. On the other hand, as with any land management practice, you cannot rely on the “Field of Dreams” movie quote of “build it, and they will come.” Alapaha may be a host of beautiful South Georgia scenery, but the squirrel population just wasn’t there. The species of interest were Eastern Grey Squirrels and Fox Squirrels. While every attendee did see squirrels, we were unable to harvest any before they ran into nests or tree holes. I assured the attendees that this was normal behavior for the year and season. Typically, it is easier to harvest squirrels during the cooler months at the beginning of the season. But that is hunting! Hunting is this constant emotional roller-coaster, and I assured the attendees that it’s the hard times that give us the value of a successful harvest.
For our next workshops, Academics Afield at ABAC will look to implement better strategies and possibly integrate into more fruitful private lands to take our attendees on. With that being said, the enjoyment the attendees have while out in the field is always a favorite part and that comradery is what builds future hunters. It’s about the hope of harvest and the adrenaline that pumps the attendees that drives them to want to go after more.
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.