Wildlife Wednesday: Small Game, Big Impact

Sarah Topp
Last weekend, I was given the opportunity to be a part of the annual Youth Rabbit Hunt hosted by the Michigan DNR at the Crane Pond State Game Area.  Guides, sponsors, mentors, and parents gave 22 eager youth a fun and enriching experience in the outdoors. For many, this was their first hunt. Programs such as this one are of critical importance for engaging today’s youth in nature and conservation. After all, they’re our future conservation leaders!
The Crane Pond Youth Rabbit Hunt participants and guides after a successful event The Crane Pond Youth Rabbit Hunt participants and guides after a successful event
Not only did this event give kids a chance to safely scavenge the forest with a firearm, but it also provided a chance to learn about the role conservation and habitat restoration plays in the hunt. Thanks to the dedicated guides and mentors, they were able to see and utilize the brush piles created by DNR staff and volunteers from MUCC's On the Ground program in 2013; two lucky hunters even harvested a rabbit from the piles! What a sense of accomplishment that must have been for those kids. That day will be memorable for the youth participants and adults alike.  I still remember my first hunting adventures with my Dad at a very young age.
“Daylight’s burnin’!” That was the infamous phrase my Dad would shout as he rushed us out the door; one toddler, two toddler, three toddler, four.   All dressed in carharts, camo, and fluorescent orange stocking caps, we trudged clumsily in Dad’s footsteps—much like a line of ducklings trailing close behind their mom. For hours we’d walk down the seemingly endless two tracks, never missing a crunchy leaf.  Much to my surprise, I saw a statue of a bull elk placed elegantly next to our path.  He was looking right at us as if he was wishing us farewell while we ventured back to the truck.  When we got closer the giant, beast of a statue stood up and ran away; I could not believe that statue had come to life!  Another time, more mature in age but not in nature, I had the honor of holding the rattling antlers as we hiked to our hunting location.  Like a responsible 10 year old, I held them to either side of my head as I giggled and waited for my Dad to notice the shadow beside him as he walked quiet and focused on his hunt. Surely, my Dad knew he would not be harvesting a single animal with us along, but he brought us anyways and I’ll never forget the memories.
The kids are all smiles with their complimentary prizes from the event sponsors The kids are all smiles with their complimentary prizes from the event sponsors
Youth are extremely impressionable and their imaginations run wild; they don’t know what’s going to jump out at them when they aren’t boxed in by four walls and a ceiling or help captive by the screen of a TV, tablet, or smartphone. While technology is an innovative tool for education, it’s equally important for kids to get outside and learn about nature through hands-on experience.  That’s why programs, like the youth hunt, that get youth outdoors are essential. Aside from the exhilarating hunting experience, the kids at Crane Pond SGA’s Youth Rabbit Hunt also won some really cool outdoor gear provided by the event sponsors. Along with beaming smiles, some of the kids walked away with a generous membership to QDMA, items such as binoculars, camo hats, an oozing target, a fishing pole, or a bow complete with a quiver full of arrows. Each youth participant was also given a free membership to the National Turkey federation, and a gift bag with various outdoor gear such as a pocket knife and multi-tool! Events like this one are hosted all over the state for all hunting seasons; don’t miss out on the next opportunity!
Check out next week’s blog to see what volunteers did for rabbitat at the Fulton State Game Area!

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  • commented 2015-08-11 14:30:33 -0400
    What a great event! Far too many children today are sucked into the technology void and don’t get to enjoy the many things the outdoors provide. I thank the stars I grew up without the technology we have today and had a childhood of spending as much time outdoors as possible. :)