Raising An Outdoors Girl

Raising An Outdoors Girl

By: Morgan Garcia

EvoOutdoors Team Member, Armed Rogue

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Total Archery Challenge: 7 months pregnant

I’m about to become a first time parent. I’m having a girl and we couldn’t be more excited.

I have always loved the outdoors. I felt like I was outside all the time when I wasn’t in school. I had this big forest behind the house where I grew up and I’d always take my dog and friends up there and just wander around. In general, I was outside playing all the time. I was constantly riding my bicycle everywhere, too. We also camped quite a bit in the summer months.

However, I never hunted, never fished, was never around guns or archery or knives or any of that sort of stuff. Even though I may not have had those experiences growing up, I adopted them later in life.

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Now that I’m about to have a girl, I want to be able to pass my knowledge onto her and have her be a well-rounded individual with respect for nature and the drive to have experiences outside of technology.

Kids these days, (feel free to imagine me sitting in a rocking chair out on the front porch, shaking my fist at them dang kids to get off my lawn), are spending more time indoors playing with their tablets, smartphones or video games and practically no time outside using their imagination or honing a skill or hobby. I have nothing against technology, I’m pretty addicted to my smartphone sometimes. However, there needs to be a good balance. And it’s up to us as her parents, to teach her that balance.

I want to instill into my child the importance of the outdoors. I want to teach her how to shoot a bow, how to shoot a gun (and in turn, teach her proper gun safety), how to fish, how to hunt, how to find wild edibles, how to purify water, how to make a fire, how to setup your own campsite without a tent, etc.

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I am also eager to teach her how to defend herself. I’d love to get her into MMA or some other form of martial arts so that nobody is ever able to take advantage of her.

I can’t tell you how many times I am told, “Just wait for the baby to come, then you won’t have time to do anything ever again.”

I don’t understand that thought process.

I want my child to be apart of our lives and hobbies, and of course for her to discover her own likes and dislikes. When we go to the shooting range, she’s coming with (don’t worry, we have some sweet eye protection and ear muffs for her)! When we go hunting, she’s coming with. When I go for a walk or run, she’s coming with. When we go camping, she’s coming with. When we go fishing, she’s coming with.

You get the idea.

How did you instill the love of the outdoors in your son or daughter?

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Morgan resides in central Texas where she spends her time either participating in shooting competitions, 3-D archery shoots, hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, prepping for disasters and emergencies, training for a 5/10K or just enjoying all that the Texas outdoors has to offer.

5 Ways to Get Her to Hunt: From a girl who loves hunting

5 Ways to Get Her to Hunt

From a girl who loves hunting

By: Molly Keefe

EvoOutdoors Team Member & Fit Huntress 

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It’s no surprise that the hunting industry is male dominated, BUT there are some awesome ladies making their way in and becoming great role models for young women and girls!  This is written for anyone looking for ways to share the hunting lifestyle with the special girl in your life, and keep her coming back!

I was raised in a hunting family, my Dad has a passion for upland bird hunting, shooting trap, and he enjoys deer hunting.  I was lucky enough to have such a strong male role model who encouraged me to come along but never made it feel like I was pressured to do something I wasn’t interested in.  I found my love of the outdoors was not just hunting, it was being out in the woods during the most beautiful time of the year, it was watching our dogs look for birds, and making memories with my Dad that I will never forget. He planted the seed  and has been able to watch it grow into a lifestyle with my own family!  I married an outdoorsman and we now have a two year old daughter we already have tagging along with us.

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  • Take her along: Yes, she’s a girl! But girls don’t always want to stay home, girls love adventure too!  Teach her that hunting isn’t all about harvesting an animal,  teach her how to check trail cameras, how to track the movement of deer, where to put food plots and mineral stations.  Let her help you!  Show her how to put up a deer stand, with teaching her how to do things you give her the tools and confidence to hunt on her own someday. Maybe she’s not old enough to hunt yet?  Take her with you anyway!  Guess what she gets the thrill of seeing?  Watching YOU, her role model call some ducks into your spread, or watching a doe and a fawn eating acorns 20 yds away, maybe it’s sitting on a mountain side while the sun rises.
  • Whatever it is that you do, she gets to be with you.

  • Make her comfortable: The thing about being a female in the woods, going to the bathroom is awkward, cold, and uncomfortable.  Let her know where she could relieve herself, there’s not much worse than sitting in a cold deer stand, shivering…and feeling like your bladder is going to explode at any minute!  You don’t need to hold her hand but simply letting her know a private spot close by will do it.  If it’s cold out, bring extra hand warmers, gloves, a blanket, or extra snacks. Things that you usually don’t think of because maybe you’re used to the cold! And those snacks?  Bring out some homemade deer or goose jerky!  And while she huddles under her blanket you can whisper to her how you shot that deer right out of this very stand!
  • The best thing you can do is make a positive memory, and she will want to come back again!

  • Set her up for success: By success I don’t mean make sure she harvests an animal her first time out.  There’s a process that starts WAY before hunting!  Let’s say she’s never shot a shotgun before, start her out with something small like a 20 gauge.  Make sure you teach her how to take it apart, put it back together, load and unload it, and how to properly mount it.  Don’t give her a 50lb bow and expect her to pull it back.  Start her out with a low draw weight and teach her how to work her way up!  Show her the proper form and share the excitement with her when she’s able to shoot 20 yds accurately!
  • Everything goes back to the basics, always encourage her.  If she misses don’t tease her, watch her next shot and see if she needs help with her form.  

  • Share your pride!: Brag. Her. UP! I mean it! I’m 26 and when my Dad tells our hunting stories to others and talks about that perfect shot, or watching the Northern Lights after I harvested a deer. I see the pride in his face, and my heart just SOARS! Tell anyone who will listen how proud you are! How amazing she is and how she caught the biggest fish that day!  Or how she sat for 8 hours in -15 degrees and didn’t complain, she’s a tough girl.  That right there, will make your girl feel amazing.  
  • Be the example: You can’t expect her to just go out and start shooting a shotgun by herself. Or be able to shoot a tight group of arrows picking up her bow one time.  You are the example she needs to see!  Practice together, because it’s not just the practicing she will remember…it’s spending time with you.  And when she beats you because she will celebrate!  
  • You just found a lifelong hunting buddy.

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Molly Keefe hails from Minnesota where she loves the outdoors, fitness, hunting for grouse, ducks, geese, pheasant, turkeys and deer. Especially bowhunting. She is a huge animal lover and has a hobby far with a lot of animals.

 

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

Dedication, Passion & Understanding: Passing on the outdoor tradition

11164156_10204022900597409_752139943_nOne of the greatest feelings in the world is to give back. To teach someone something that puts a smile on their face. Throughout my life I’ve been lucky enough to have a dad who has spent every waking second with me trying to better me not only in the woods but as an all around person.  That is why I am where I am today. With all the knowledge my dad has given me I have been able to give back to many people.

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Ryan and his father

11121269_10204022899957393_536069988_nGrowing up I was given my first bow at age 4. Since then a bow has never left my hand- day in and day out I shoot. It’s part of who I am. Many joke around saying I came out of the womb with one. Through my years with a bow I have been able to meet some of the best coaches around and they spent a lot of time with me.  These coaches took me to tournaments to see how far I could go. I took the opportunity and ran with it. First starting off in paper tournaments and winning them, then stepping it up to 3D competitions. I even won my division.

At age 14 I was able to hunt for the first time. My dad would put up a stand for me and one for him 50 yards away so he could watch me and make sure everything was ok. My first year hunting I shot my first buck. I was on cloud 9. Three years later I asked my dad why he had not shot a deer since I started hunting. He told me he enjoyed sitting in the stand and watching me, teaching me things as I grew up in the woods. From that moment I realized it’s better to give back in the outdoors rather than to keep all the knowledge you have to yourself.

Since then I have been a coach for the Junior Olympic Archery Development league through the West Falls Conservation Society, coaching kids from age 6-18 every Tuesday. At the league we have a wide variety of youth- from kids who have never seen a bow before to kids who are getting invitations from the Junior Olympic Dream team. Every single kid leaves that night with a smile, and that’s what keeps me coming back every Tuesday. Getting kids involved not only in hunting but in shooting is important. Just because you shoot doesn’t mean you have to kill something.  The trick with teaching anyone, in particular children, is to be patient and to remember each kid is different- attention span, drive and discipline. You can’t force a kid to shoot. If he/she doesn’t want to, don’t make them. Let the child choose how much they want to shoot and when they want to shoot. Tuesday nights are one of my favorite nights because it feels great to give back and install the lessons my dad taught in me.

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When it comes to hunting this is where my passion really stands out. Any chance I can to introduce someone into the outdoors and hunting I do. I am prideful that everyone calls to ask if I can take them or a child out and introduce them into the outdoors. I feel I have a way with understanding people and being able to introduce them into what I love doing. I have been lucky over the years to be able to be very successful on hunts for someone’s first time deer, turkey or waterfowl.  One of the main reasons I have been successful is because I spend every second I can to scout. I want to make sure that we at least see something during the hunt. To get others involved in hunting, you have to make the hunt exciting in order to keep their attention span focused. My main goal is to keep them interested in wanting to go back into the outdoors. The reactions are priceless and that is what makes the sleepless nights and the long hours scouting all worth it.

When you get a chance to introduce someone into hunting, fishing or shooting make sure you do it no matter the gender or age. They are going to be the reason these traditions live on.

-Ryan Van Lew, EvoOutdoors ProStaff

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Total Archery Challenge: The ultimate 3D trial

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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

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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.

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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.

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NO hunt’N, NO Fish’N, NO Nuth’N

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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

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Serena Lynn of STAR (South Texas Archery Riders)

 

3. Comradery  

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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

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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

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See you next year Total Archery Challenge!

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).

Jorge 2

Jorge, age 11

La Trinidad RanchHoffman Ranch (4)

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

Group shot

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