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

THE WORLD IS YOURS

By Kristin Parma, Evo Media

www.evooutdoors.com 

20151114_160335

            “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.

DSC_0946

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.

DSC_0920

 

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.

DSC_0840

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!

DSC_1000DSC_1007DSC_0988DSC_0806

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.

DSC_1051

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)

DSC_1055

TYHP Hunt: Hoffman Ranch 2015

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

TEXAS TRADITIONS

Group shot

TYHP Hunt: Hoffman Ranch 2014

Total Archery Challenge: The ultimate 3D trial

IMG_20150301_143053

When I first saw mountain goats effortlessly move about a treacherous rocky ridge along the Snake River on the Oregon/Idaho border I dreamt of what it would be like to hunt them with my bow. How exhausting it would be to hike miles in search of the ghost-like creatures and what kind of impossibly lucky shot you’d have to have the opportunity to get.  For a moment I got to imagine that I was there on that ridge at the Total Archery Challenge event in San Antonio, Texas. On a steep muddy incline in the south Texas hill country I drew my bow at 35 yards. Focused. I shot my arrow across the deep ravine and made contact with my target, even if he was only made of foam.

If you’ve never heard of Total Archery Challenge (T.A.C.) you’re about to wonder why. Total Archery Challenge is one of the biggest and best 3D archery shooting events in the United States. The T.A.C. crew is selective about where each event is held in hopes to focus on family friendly locations across the nation where archers of all skill levels can practice their craft.

I had become a fan of 3D archery shooting when I joined a small league in my home state of Oregon. It wasn’t until I moved to Texas last year that I heard about Total Archery Challenge through none other than a conversation about my new dentist (a bow hunter). I immediately contacted the T.A.C. coordinators and volunteered my time for the event at Natural Bridge Caverns in February 2015.  At the event I expanded my knowledge of the benefits of 3D archery from a volunteer and a participant’s perspective. In this article I will discuss and elaborate on my experience.

1. Practice With Purpose

10378130_10203638026498627_475758882678177341_n

Adam Parma. EvoOutdoors ASAT hat, EvoOutdoors jersey tshirt

As an outdoorswoman and bow hunter there is much to be said about practicing your craft. Whether you’re a beginner or pro athlete, practice leads to confidence in the field.  Confidence should lead to an improved shot placement when bow hunting wild game. In general, a swift ethical shot is the number one goal when I am hunting. While shooting at Total Archery Challenge I was able to envision bow hunting situations such as the mountain goat on the ridge, an alligator on a riverbank, a strutting turkey in a clearing and much more.

If you read our previous blog written by Stephen Casey, you will know the many benefits as a bow hunter to practicing shooting at different distances and angles. Stephen Casey writes:

I always find it shocking how much can change out on the 3D range when shooting 40 yards downhill as opposed to horizontal… I like to practice with the target at varying inclines and declines, at uneven yardages, and from a kneeling, sitting, or other position(s). A great 3D range with a course that enables this kind of shooting is a great place…I like to consistently push myself to be accurate and consistent at farther distances, so that 40 or 50 yards feels like a breeze.

Total Archery Challenge really emphasized this model. Various courses offered different types of angles, distances and targets.

IMG_20150301_101006-1

EvoOutdoors ASAT hat, EvoOutdoors Women’s Fitted Tee

Intimidated? Don’t be.

One of the best rules about Total Archery Challenge is that participants are allowed to move closer to the target. This rule gives shooters of all skill levels the opportunity to practice what they are comfortable with.

As the name suggests the event was challenging, in more ways than one. I will admit the challenges did toy with my emotions. What I didn’t expect to be an added challenge was the weather. It was an unimaginably cold weekend in South Texas and many elements were against us- wind, rain, freezing temperatures. I watched many Texans struggle against Mother Nature but alas, it was just another obstacle to tackle…and very good practice for hunting in the cold weather.

It must be emphasized  that you don’t have to be a bow hunter to enjoy an event like Total Archery Challenge. In general, any 3D archery event will challenge you and force you to shoot fun, inventive shots which will ultimately help you master your craft.

IMG_8019

NO hunt’N, NO Fish’N, NO Nuth’N

IMG_20150326_083615

Members of a local youth archery club at the “warm-up” course

2. Entertainment

Participating in a Total Archery Challenge event might help you develop your bow hunting skills however; the event’s number one goal is to provide a fun and entertaining shoot for all. That being said, not all shots set up would be considered ethical and/or realistic while hunting (Unless you like to think that one day you’ll be taking on zombies hiding in outhouses and hunting blinds).

In addition to several different courses the event boasted a 3D pop up shoot controlled by computers. Described by the event’s coordinators as the archer’s “whack-a-mole” a handful of 3D targets raced across the lawn and popped up without warning. This was an extremely entertaining course to watch and very popular amongst those brave enough to tackle the challenge.

Even more entertaining, the event offered some extreme shots for prizes. By extreme I mean shooting a bulls-eye at an 3D elk target at over 150 yards to be entered into a drawing to win a new truck. Every time an archer would commit to take the challenge a crowd would gather to encourage the shooter. Instant comradery was formed.

My favorite entertainment at the event was a demonstration by local mounted archery rider Serena Lynn of S.T.A.R. (South Texas Archery Riders). The demonstration was a most impressive display of concentration as both rider and horse became one. Serena cantered and galloped across the open field while shooting her recurve bow with ease. Afterwards, Serena invited spectators to come forward with questions and pet her mare, affectionately named “Moonshine.” Serena states that the sport is “empowering and addicting” and hopes to inspire others to get involved. Serena is also confirmed to attend next year’s Total Archery Challenge in Texas. For more information on Serena and S.T.A.R. visit www.southtexasarcheryriders.com

10997808_1092836954075666_5153373811131670020_n

Serena Lynn of STAR (South Texas Archery Riders)

 

3. Comradery  

IMG_20150301_154144

Locals Course: Adam Parma, Kristin Parma, Morgan Garcia

 

Volunteering for the Total Archery Challenge event my friend Morgan (Armed Rogue) and I were given the task of overseeing the warm up course. During our long day spent at the course I spoke with many archers of all backgrounds and ages. I witnessed the gathering of so many types of archery enthusiasts as well as their family and friends who attended the event to cheer them on. In the hundreds of people I laid eyes on at the event not once did I see any severe negativity, aside from cursing the weather.

Adam & I enjoyed getting to shoot with our friends. In addition, we ventured on to another course and made friends a long the way. There was so much comradery between strangers, as well as guidance and direction. Each person wanted to see the other succeed. Inspiring to me was a 16 year old girl named Gabby whom we met. This sharp shooting girl had no fear of any target situation. If she missed the target she laughed, nocked another arrow and tried again. I asked her father how long Gabby had been shooting and he replied, “1…2…about 2 months now.” I couldn’t believe it! It was fun to be inspired by those around me and to be a part of such a positive atmosphere.

Noteworthy, I witnessed the constant dedication of the event’s staff. Setting up and running a large event smoothly is taxing and tough. As volunteers and as participants we were treated with utmost care, concern and hospitality. A true testament to their love of archery and all that comes along with it.

 4. Giving Back: The next generation

20150301_105733

Big kids can shoot the Kid’s Course too!

As outdoorsmen and women we know the value of passing on our passions to the next generation. Total Archery Challenge is a family friendly event and the staff encourage parents to bring their children. The warm up course as well as the kids course offered a fun challenge for kids of all ages. While volunteering, my husband Adam was stationed at the Kid’s Course. Adam reported that he enjoyed seeing kids with all the right equipment and more to get them started in archery. In the end, this is what it’s all about! Inspiring and giving back to the community and the next generation.

Don’t have a bow?

Total Archery Challenge has you covered. You can rent all the equipment you need to participate! No matter your experience with archery I encourage you to join a 3D league or find an archery shoot near you. Contact your local archery shop or to find the nearest Total Archery Challenge near you visit www.totalarcherychallenge.com You won’t regret it!

Thank you to EvoOutdoors for your support at this event. Thank you Total Archery Challenge, especially Monica DeGray for your kindness and hospitality.

Happy shooting!

 Kristin Brooke Parma

EvoOutdoors Media Coordinator

11009383_10203638027138643_3693702323891212357_n

See you next year Total Archery Challenge!