THE WORLD IS YOURS: Guiding through the Texas Youth Hunting Program

THE WORLD IS YOURS

By Kristin Parma, Evo Media

www.evooutdoors.com 

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            “Ariel, I am here for you,”

the words of her father, echoed in my mind as he braced his daughter in the ground blind the morning of November 14th, 2015. Ten year old Ariel had the determined but worried look of a beginner hunter as she shouldered up to the rifle the way her father had taught her. The kick of the barrel, the pressure of making the right shot, and the consequences of missing her target. The check list of thoughts that we as hunters think about at one time or another in our lives. Ariel took the rifle off safety and peered through the scope.

The target? A sounder of feral hogs.

DSC_0830According to Texas Parks & Wildlife, feral hogs are distributed throughout Texas, with the highest population densities in East, South and Central Texas. Feral hogs compete directly with livestock and often cause damage to agricultural crops, fields, wetlands, creeks and trees. Because of this and many more reasons there are few regulations in the state of Texas on the harvest of feral hogs. For more information about feral hogs visit TPWD: Feral HogsDSC_1028

After a few more encouraging words from her father and I, Ariel pulled the trigger. The sounder scattered in all directions. A young hog was hit as it slowly made it’s way into the thick south Texas brush. That morning we saw many whitetail does. Ariel however, made the decision not to take a shot. The does were walking in front and behind, chasing one another. Ariel was not confident she could shoot in time to only hit one deer. Visibly, she was worried and felt remorse for the beautiful deer in front of her. Based on her training, Ariel wanted to make sure any shot she took was a clean, ethical one. An extremely important and mature decision to make for a ten year old child. A decision that her father and I supported despite any effort we made to coach her through it.

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Sunset at Hoffman Ranch

For the second year in a row my husband Adam and I have been blessed with the opportunity to volunteer with the Texas Youth Hunting Program (TYHP). TYHP is the joint effort of the Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to offer youth hunts that are safe, educational and affordable, all while learning about the valuable role that landowners and hunters play in wildlife conservation.

ThDSC_0935is was our second year as hunt guides/mentors at the Hoffman Ranch, a low fence cattle farm owned by Mr. & Mrs. Hoffman in Alice, Texas. This particular TYHP hunt included four children ages 10-14, their fathers and four volunteer hunt guides/mentors. The primary target was to harvest one doe whitetail deer and/or varmint. Volunteers like Hunt master Jack Thompson and cook Dan Griffin, as well as the generosity of the landowners made the hunt possible. In addition to hunting two evenings and two mornings the kids were treated to an educational and enthralling talk from Texas Game Warden Carmen Rickel.  Kids and adults alike, were invited to look through Carmen’s night vision goggles, ask questions about gear and hunting regulations, as well as take an oath to uphold the responsibility to be wildlife stewards.

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The experience of volunteering your time with a youth program is a wonderful feeling however, guiding this hunt with Ariel and her father made it rewarding beyond measure. Prior to that weekend, I questioned my skills as a guide.  I am not an expert hunter and I have reservations about ever considering myself one. I believe ego can kill our compassion for wildlife. I refuse to think I am so good at something that I forget what it is like to learn, to grow, and to be excited about a day in the field, harvest or no harvest. From the smallest white-wing dove to the largest game animal I have hunted, the Roosevelt elk, I respect all wildlife beyond the kill. What I do have are many experiences in the pursuit of game that have helped me gain the knowledge to help others in the field. In particular, animal behavior and tracking. Some time after Ariel’s shot I took to the brush in search of her harvest. I was determined to find that hog and though I am scratched and scarred from the cactus and assortment of thorny trees, I did. An accomplishment and affirmation to myself that I am worthy of being a guide and mentor.

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Ariel’s first harvest on her father’s birthday! This hog was dressed and taken home by the father/daughter team for consumption.

I came away from the weekend with a renewed sense of what hunting really is. Hunting is time spent outdoors pursuing and celebrating all wildlife. Some people may contest that I did not hunt that weekend. I would challenge that argument. I experienced everything a hunter experiences and more- except pulling the trigger. I prepared, watched, analyzed, tracked and felt the adrenaline, remorse and excitement of a weekend in the field. All the components that we perhaps take for granted sometimes as adults in the hunting community. After all, we don’t call it “killing” for a reason. Hunting is so much more than that.

Wildlife we saw: Coyote, bobcat, quail, turkey, deer, javelina, hogs, fox, geese and more!

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Though Ariel had never pulled the trigger until that weekend I learned that she helped her mom and dad with an array of activities including hunting, baking, canning wild edibles, and tanning snake skins. I learned from Ariel that weekend about many of those things. I treasure the time spent with her and her father. Most importantly, I respected her father’s patience. If Ariel decided she didn’t want to shoot something it was OK. There was no pressure, only support and guidance from the both of us. To spend the following morning after her harvest in the blind taking pictures of all the beautiful animals and being an audience for the fidgety, spitfire antics of Ariel, was more than enough to satisfy any of my goals for the weekend. A girl who wanted nothing more than to make her dad proud, and of course, laugh. Something I can completely relate to as a wife and daughter.

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A father daughter pact

That morning I stood outside the blind watching father and daughter make a pact.

“I will hunt the piggies and you can hunt the deer.”

Ariel told her father. The love of a father is something very sacred and special. To know that a father wants the world for his daughter is even more special. To be thanked by that father for my guidance and help to instill the confidence in his daughter was beyond measure.

20151114_111227My message to Ariel:

Ariel, the world is yours. You can do anything you put your mind to. Never stop dreaming and striving to fulfill those dreams. You ARE a hunter however, continue to learn and be in wonder of the wildlife around you. A picture is just as special as a harvest. May your father and you be blessed with many more hunting memories. Now, bring home the bacon!

Adam and I hope to visit Ariel’s family in the new year and give Ariel her first archery lesson. I am also told that Ariel’s homemade biscuits are melt in your mouth good!

 

Kristin Parma  Czech Out Ranch

“Look a hawk in the tree!” -Me

“There’s a hog in the tree?”  -Ariel

“Yeah when pigs fly!” -Ariel’s father

(Laughter)

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TYHP Hunt: Hoffman Ranch 2015

Follow the link below to read about my first TYHP experience at Hoffman Ranch:

TEXAS TRADITIONS

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TYHP Hunt: Hoffman Ranch 2014

MORE THAN JUST BEARS

MORE THAN JUST BEARS

By Erin Merrill, EvoOutdoors ProStaff

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Kryptek Camo from EvoOutdoors

Seven miles down a narrow dirt road, into the back woods of Maine, away from towns, pavement, electricity and cell service, five Maine outdoors women of varying ages and backgrounds are at camp for the same reasons:

We love the outdoors and we want to hunt black bears.

For some of us, we want to keep pushing the boundaries of our comfort zone and become better outdoors women.

Estimates put Maine’s bear population at around 30,000 and with successful hunters taking an average of 2800 bears over the 16-week season. The Maine Black Bear is thriving if not over-populating species in the dense woods. However, these animals are incredibly smart and keenly aware of their surroundings which makes successfully hunting one a great accomplishment.

Robin and I have each shot a bear before; her’s over bait and mine using hounds. Tammy is a professional photographer and has been bear hunting for a handful of years now. Taylor is an incredible biologist by trade and while she was at camp, the bear she wanted is at a different bait site closer to her house.  Sue is a trauma nurse and active leaders in the outdoor women’s movement in Maine.  Robin enjoyed silencing critics who questioned if, as women, we could handle bears by ourselves in the woods alone by pointing out,

“We are five women who have and know how to use high powered rifles.  No person or animal is going to mess with us.”

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Since it was early in the season, we were sitting over baited sites waiting for the bears to hit hyperphagia and begin to come into the sites before dark.  Each morning Robin would get the bait together and with a truck and 4-wheelers, we would check the sites to see if they had been hit and add more bait and smells to lure the bears in.  It is no easy task to get the bears to steadily come to the sites when there is so much natural food around.

‘I’m terrified of them,”

Sue said when I asked if she enjoyed her week in camp so far even though she had not yet seen a bear, “I came here to conquer my fear and if I haven’t done it, I’ve come close.” For Sue, conquering her fear meant sitting on a metal chair placed behind a piece of camo fabric tied between two trees and looking between the trees towards the bait site.  For a beginner with a healthy fear of bears, sitting on the ground and waiting for one to come in is about as bad ass as you can get. Bears are silent in the woods which is how they earned their nickname the black ghost. It tests your mental and physical limits as you sit, listen and watch – without moving and giving your location away.  As night sets in and new sounds emerge, you need to be on your game and ready for a bear to stroll in.  Every sound you hear may be a bear or it could be a moose, deer or coyote or fisher.  Hunters know how many other animals are roaming the woods with us.IMG_6501

Hunting and her relationship with Robin helped Tammy become more independent and grow her confidence in her outdoor skills.  She sat in a treestand as the winds from an incoming storm steadily increased and decided to build herself a ground blind when the swaying of the tree got to be too much. Using fallen branches, leaves and a piece of canvas, she created a small blind that she sat behind until dark.  Just a few years ago, she would not have had enough confidence to get down alone from her stand, let alone build one on the ground.

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Taylor and I

I am not nearly as courageous as Sue or Tammy when it comes to conquering the mental piece of hunting.  I sat in a treestand with Robin and tried to become familiar with the sounds of the Canada Jays, ducks in the bog and tree frogs.  I watched a Northern Flicker land on a branch 15 feet from us and preen for a few minutes, totally unaware that we were in the tree.  A Snowshoe Hare came in and out of the site a couple of times before disappearing into the thick underbrush.

During the entire week, we saw signs that bears had been around and were eating grubs from tree stumps and fallen logs but none of us saw a bear.  We spent time hiking, foraging for mushrooms, exploring the fields, talking about our favorite guns and scopes and drank lots of coffee and wine as we shared stories and our love of the Maine woods.

Bear camp is about more than just the bears.

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Erin is actively involved with local organizations that promote women in the outdoors and has taught classes on writing, campfire cooking and white-tail deer basics. You can find Erin’s writing about the challenges facing women hunters, life in the Maine woods and her hunting and outdoor adventures on her blog www.andastrongcupofcoffee.com as well as in her monthly magazine column “Women in the Wood” featured in the Northwoods Sporting Journal.

Old Traditions, New Blood

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“What is the number one rule?”

November 14th, 2014

Jack Thompson addressed all four youth and their fathers. “Be safe?” a boy piped up, proud of his answer. “Being safe is extremely important but it’s actually not rule number one.” Jack responded, throwing the boys for a loop. The boys who came from the town of Mission, TX were all friends prior to this meeting. They looked at each other and their parents, unsure and sleepy eyed. “Have fun?” Horacio, one of the oldest chimed in. Mr. Thompson grinned from ear to ear as he responded, “YES. And rule number two? Everybody…” In unison the group, volunteers and all responded, “Remember rule number one!”

This wasn’t a trip to Disneyland or a Boy Scout fundraiser assembly. Soap box derbies, rollercoasters and action figures couldn’t have been further away. All four boys, ranging from ages nine to thirteen had accomplished several assessments and activities at the state and local level to be there that evening. Through the Texas Youth Hunting Program (TYHP) volunteer Hunt Master Jack Thompson had arranged for all four boys to take part in a two day rifle hunt on the Hoffman Ranch. Owned by the Hoffman family, the ranch is a 2,000+ acre low fence property in Alice, TX. The ranch has been honored as a Texas Family Lane Heritage ranch for its continuous operation by the Hoffman’s since the late 1800’s. Each youth hunter was provided the opportunity to fill a doe tag in addition to hog and coyote, accompanied with their guardian and a volunteer hunting guide.

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Good morning! Fathers and sons enjoy a big breakfast made by volunteer Chief Cook Dan Griffin

Saturday morning the air was cold and crisp. The misty rain ceased to stop collecting on the top of the deer blind. Drip, drip, drip- it splashed on to my knee. The icy wind tickled my nose as I snuggled back into my hood and blaze orange head warmer. The weather took me back to my hometown of Eugene, Oregon where the smell of damp clothes and the sound of squeaky rubber boots permeates everyone’s senses almost year round. I didn’t move an inch or make a sound. Normally I would have had my bow or shotgun in hand and I felt the anxious feeling of having forgotten one or the other. My Nikon camera and smile were my only accessories. I sat in that deer blind on an unimaginably cold day in south Texas as a volunteer hunting guide on behalf of the Texas Youth Hunting Program. My responsibly? Accompany a youth hunter and their guardian during the hunt and assist in following safety measures throughout. Number one rule of course, have fun.

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Alice educating the youth on shot placement

A state law in Texas, to be a hunter one must pass the Texas Hunter Safety Education course. For hunters seventeen and older the test is offered online however, all youth ages nine through sixteen must pass the course in addition to a field day. The field day includes a hunter skills trail, a live-fire exercise, and a written exam. When I write that each youth hunter had been through several forms of testing before getting the opportunity to hunt at the Hoffman Ranch I was not kidding. In addition to testing at the State level to legally become a hunter each boy learned firearm safety and sighted in their rifle the evening before the first hunt. Most impressive to me was the skills test that was given to each youth hunter during the trip. Volunteer Alice Hammond took each kid into the field and asked them questions regarding safety, animal identification, and shot placement. A long time educator and avid outdoorswoman, Alice presented each obstacle or question in a thoughtful but laid back manner. I shadowed her on a skills test with youngest youth hunter Diego. Alice asked him what the word ethical meant. Perplexed, she provided him an example that he could relate to in his ordinary life. Alice then pointed to a cardboard cutout of a Whitetail fawn. “Would it be legal to shoot that fawn?” Alice asked. “Yes” Diego responded. Alice followed his response by asking, “Would it be ethical?” Diego pondered her question for a moment. Ethics can be a hard concept to wrap your head around for a nine year old boy. “No.” Diego responded. Alice reaffirmed his answer was correct and why.

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Alice uses real hides to educate on animal identification

In addition to hunter safety Alice spoke to each boy specifically about firearm safety. Holding up a rifle she asked, “If I were to give you this gun what would I need to do first beforehand?” Each youth hunter would name safety measures such as unloading the firearm and making sure there was not a round in the chamber and leaving the bolt open. In a world where we deal with numerous firearm accidents a year I found it so essentially perfect that Alice made it a point to tell each boy about their responsibility to practice safety precautions around firearms.Diego 3

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Diego, age 9

That morning Diego harvested his first doe Whitetail deer with his .243 rifle. I have volunteered with children for over ten years, worked in a school based health center in my home state of Oregon, but I have never seen a nine year old beam with so much excitement as Diego did after harvesting his first doe. Each boy followed shortly behind Diego the following evening and morning hunts and filled their doe tag. I had the pleasure to accompany youth hunter David, age twelve and his father Mauricio. David had hunted several times before however, he was the last to harvest a doe on Sunday morning. I quickly made myself the butt of a joke in regards to the notion of luck. David, who at twelve years old was vertically superior to me, kept a positive attitude as hunt after hunt went by without harvesting his doe. He and his father welcomed my assistance and conversation (I enjoyed practicing my Spanish) in those chilly times after shooting hours. My husband Adam Parma accompanied youth hunter Jorge, a first time hunter at age eleven. As a former TYHP youth hunter Adam recalls, “It was better than pulling the trigger myself. You don’t always have to be the one behind the trigger to get buck fever.” I was immediately impressed by all the youth hunters. No feeders. No high fences. These boys had to practice patience and work in tandem with their fathers and guides to get the job done. Soaking up the knowledge and traditions of hunting as every minute passed.

 

Jorge 1Ironically, I did not grow up hunting. I didn’t shoot a gun until I was nineteen years old when my father refused to let another man (now my husband) teach me how to shoot one before him. As a country boy in Akron, Ohio my father has memories of hunting with his father, “My old man always had a few beagles around and would go pheasant and duck hunting.” he recalled to me. How come I was never exposed to hunting as a kid? “There may not have been a program like this. You grew up running around in the woods. The deer were like your pets. I took you fishing though and you were always outdoors.” My dad stated. Having not grown up around the traditions of hunting why then was I volunteering for this program? I pondered this question throughout my time spent on the trip. On our first chilly morning together I asked David’s father Mauricio the simple question, “Did you grow up hunting?” He responded by telling me about growing up in Mexico hunting with his father and how he cherished those memories. I looked around that evening at the smiling kids, volunteers and friendship that was forming around me.  It was clear then to me that I was volunteering to give back what I never had as a child. Yes, I ran around the woods as a kid in Oregon but I never experienced the excitement and rewarding feeling that hunting brings to a child. When I looked around at each boy it was easy to see that their fathers beamed with pride over them. That sort of parent/child bonding was all made possible through the TYHP. Yes, this was an important program on so many levels. Because of this program a tradition, and all that comes with it, of hunting in Texas was being continued in a long legacy of hunting families of different cultures and upbringings. Now as a hunter in my adult life I understand the richness and meaningfulness behind passing on such an important tradition to anyone, especially your child. Learning the foundation of hunting as a child teaches so many important attributes- discipline, ethical thinking and probably the hardest trait of all to teach- patience. (I am still working on that one).

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Jorge, age 11

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David, age 12

The Texas Youth Hunting Program is the product of a collaborative effort by the Texas Wildlife Association and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Created in 1996 as a response to the declining number of youth hunters in Texas, the Texas Youth Hunting Program (TYHP) has provided over 55,000 youth hunters a safe, mentored and educational hunting experience. The TYHP runs on three components: Landowners, Volunteers & Youth Hunters. With the majority of Texas’ land privately owned, landowners provide the place where the TYHP can groom future hunters and encourage cherished hunting traditions. In addition to giving the landowner the enjoyment of allowing youth to experience a hunt on their property the landowner benefits by using the TYHP to manage their wildlife population- does, feral hogs and more. Diego 2It is important to note that all participants of this hunting experience were volunteers. Though the TYHP makes reimbursements for things such as gas, food, etc. all are unpaid workers. Volunteers are the backbone of the TYHP and its ability to provide so many hunts for the youth of Texas and to make each hunt a memorable one. Volunteers provide each youth hunter the opportunity to learn, grow and accomplish so much more with their guardians beside them so that they too, will grow into safe, ethical Texas hunters who pass on the traditions to their family members. I will never forget my first time volunteering with the TYHP and the wholesomeness I felt in my heart.  I learned so much from giving my time to the program and I encourage all hunters, family members of hunters or outdoor enthusiasts to give back to programs like the TYHP. If you are interested in volunteering please visit the Texas Youth Hunting Program website for more information. There are many options and ways one can service this great cause- from fundraising, guiding a hunt, cooking on a trip or becoming a certified hunt master. Land owners too can volunteer their property for hunts just as the Hoffman family so graciously did. Don’t live in Texas? I highly suggest you look into similar programs in your area. For example, the Dream Hunt Foundation in Louisiana provides guiding hunting or fishing trips for disabled, terminally ill and underprivaleged youth. If there is no youth hunting program in your area then why not start one? I promise you will feel humbled, rewarded and thankful as you pass on old traditions to new blood.

Kristin Brooke Parma, EvoMedia Coordinator

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Volunteers, Youth Hunters & Fathers: Horacio Sr., Jorge Sr, Jorge, Horacio, Dennis Parma, David, Alice Hammond, Jack Thompson, Adam Parma, Mauricio, Jorge, Kristin Parma, Diego

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Among the many whitetail we saw we also enjoyed watching birds, rabbits, coyotes, feral hogs and Javelina

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Thank you Hoffman family

For more information visit: www.texasyouthhunting.com

Texas Disabled Youth Hunt

Texas Youth DIsabled Hunters
The North Texas Disabled Youth Hunt is put on through the combined efforts of several area ranches that are located in northwest Texas and members of the North Texas Sportsman’s Consortium as well as a non profit 501 c3 organization, Dream Catcher Outdoor Adventures.  2012 was the first year this hunt was conducted and it was viewed as a resounding success by all.  The children had a wonderful time participating in a wide variety of activities and most were successful in harvesting deer.
Ranches generally in the Eastland County area offer opportunities to harvest excess does and management bucks.  These ranches typically are highly managed for quality and quantity, and offer top notch hunting conditions.  These young hunters have an excellent opportunity to see lots of wildlife and harvest a deer.
Youth learning about firearm safetyAmong the various activities the children participated in were a hunter safety course including firearm handling, loading, and firing.  A guide was assigned to each child and they were able to spend time before hunting so they could not only bond, but the guide was able to evaluate the hunter’s capabilities and skill level.  Besides the deer hunt itself, there was a trip to a local fire station for a tour through the facility which included discussion with fire station personnel about fire safety and a ride in a fire truck.  Ready for the FIretruck RideMeals (three/day) were a focal point. Not only were they top shelf cuisine, but they allowed everyone to hear the stories of each other’s outings and events.  Stories of successes and failures were told and enjoyed by all.  The last evening was a blow out bash with a campfire, barbeque, guitar picking and singing, and a ride up in the dark by an assembly of cowboys mounted on horseback ready and willing to take anyone on a ride that was ready, willing, and able.  Youth Hunters meeting the cowboysA hayride to and from the barbeque was enjoyed as well!!
The event ran from noon Friday,  to departure after hunting on Monday morning.  It was open not only to the children, but their parents/guardians were encouraged and welcome to join as well.  Attendees were provided lodging in a local hotel in Eastland, Texas.
The 2013 North Texas Disabled Youth Hunt promises to be even better than our maiden voyage last year.  Our goal is to learn from prior year’s experiences and to focus on bringing  joy into these kids hearts through a wonderful outdoor experience.  We want to grow the event without sacrificing quality for numbers. Each year will be a learning experience and the following year will benefit from what knowledge we have gained.  If we can provide a quality time for these youth, and grow the numbers so that more can participate, that will be the best of all worlds.
 Dream Catchers Youth Event Harvest
If you would like to contribute and help us make this year as successful as the LAST!!!!
“Keep your blades sharp, and your powder dry”
David Frisbie