The University of Maine 4-H Shooting Sports program has partnered with Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife to expand their youth shooting sports education program statewide over the next three years. The Bryant Pond 4-H Camp, now the University of Maine 4-H Shooting Sports (4HSS) program headquarters, has a long history of partnership with IF&W. Bryant Pond operates an on-site youth Conservation Camp during the summer, where young people have an opportunity to earn their archery or firearms hunter safety certification. This new partnership enables the 4HSS staff to work with IF&W Recreational Safety instructors, County Extension offices, local sporting clubs and other partners to extend the outreach of these important programs.
In the spring of 2011, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Recreational Safety Coordinator, Mike Sawyer approached the 4HSS staff at Bryant Pond requesting a three-year proposal to expand and enhance the delivery of shooting sports safety education statewide. By fall of 2011, funding was in place to begin offering training programs across the state. Through a Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund grant, we have recently purchased an enclosed trailer, which will be used to transport shooting sports program equipment to all corners of Maine.
This past winter, a 6-week pilot program was delivered at Westbrook High School to 22 juniors and seniors, who earned their archery hunter safety certification as part of their in-school curriculum. As I write this, the second Westbrook High School program is underway, and our 4HSS Trailer and staff have just left the parking lot, headed for Millinocket to deliver a 3-day program for 60 Middle School youth.
Future plans for the program include in-school, afterschool and youth group programs, outreach programs in all areas of Maine, including establishing county-based 4HSS clubs (like the Cumberland County Bullseyes). In addition, we also offer summer camp programs in Archery, Rifle & Shotgun and Apprentice Hunter (which includes an upland bird hunt).
Of course, to pull all this off, we need a corps of dedicated volunteers and instructors. To that end, we are sending four Bryant Pond staff to a week-long 4HSS Training in Kansas. They will return certified to instruct Maine volunteers to work with young people. Soon after their return, we will be offering a weekend training workshop for instructors interested in working with children in the following shooting sports disciplines: Archery, Rifle, Shotgun or Wildlife/Hunting.
4-H Shooting Sports is a nationally recognized model for encouraging active lifestyles, and holistic youth development. 4-H embraces a “Learn by Doing” teaching model and has documented success in promoting long-term involvement and leadership development. By partnering actively with the State of Maine and other public and private entities to implement the program Statewide, The University of Maine 4-H Shooting Sports program will contribute the development of a citizenry with life-long, active, outdoor hunting and shooting interests.
For over 50 years the University of Maine 4-H Camp & Learning Center at Bryant Pond (formerly the Maine Conservation School) has strengthened children’s relationship to the natural world with a combination of inspired outdoor fun, practical woods-wise skills, and “hands-on” conservation education. For more information please visit our website: www.umaine.edu/bryantpond or call 207-665-2068.