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Alaska Fish & Wildlife News
July 2013

The Sportsmen of Tomorrow
Outdoor Youth Days

By Josef Rutz
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Living in the last frontier certainly provides Alaskans with opportunities to participate in some unique recreational activities. Residents can fish for king salmon from the banks of the Kenai River or haul in a halibut from the depths of Prince William Sound. Hikers can climb the rocky peaks of the Chugach Mountains or wander amongst the towering spruce trees of Tongass National Forest. Hunters pursue moose and grizzly bears throughout the Interior and stalk caribou and gray wolves across the North Slope. Fun is done a little differently in the 49th state, which is why the Alaska Department of Fish & Game founded the Outdoor Youth Days.

The Outdoor Youth Days is a three-day summer camp for kids 10 to 14 years old that teaches Alaska’s next generation of sportsmen how they can take advantage of living in the land of the midnight sun. The camp offers two separate sessions that take place in the first weeks of June. The program’s main coordinator, Kirk Lingofelt with the Division of Wildlife Conservation, says that the basic function of the camp is, “to foster an appreciation for the outdoors and to get kids outside to enjoy what Alaska has to offer.” Lingofelt, along with several other Fish & Game staff members and guest speakers from Municipality of Anchorage Watershed Management Program, Alaska Mountain Rescue, and Alaska Department of Natural Resources’ Office of Boating Safety, teach the campers how to safely work and play in Alaska’s most remote regions.

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The first two days of the camp are spent at the Rabbit Creek Shooting Park just outside of Anchorage across from Potter’s Marsh. After reviewing proper firearm safety techniques, the kids are taught to shoot a .22 rifle, 12 gauge shotgun, and even a bow and arrow. Along with target practice and five-stand shooting, the campers learn wildlife identification and tracking, geocaching, and outdoor survival skills to keep them safe as they explore the more untamed areas of the state.

After spending two days participating in land-based activities, the kids head over to Cheney Lake to learn about aquatic life and sport fishing. The day begins with a guest speaker from the Alaska Boating Safety Program teaching the campers about the dangers of cold-water submersion and hypothermia. Campers learn techniques to preserve body heat in frigid waters, how to signal passing boats or Coast Guard vessels, and, most importantly, that life-jackets should always be worn when on the water. After the water safety seminar, the kids spend the rest of the day learning about macro-invertebrates that live in Alaskan lakes and rivers, fly and spin fishing for rainbow trout, and enjoying a barbecue lunch on the beach. At the end of the day, campers are sent home with a bag full of wildlife information, outdoor safety equipment, and even their own fishing rod and tackle.

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As the 2013 Outdoor Youth Days came to a close, the kids were asked if they had learned anything new or useful during the camp—every hand went up. Some said that they never knew how to survive in cold-water conditions. Others said that after learning how to shoot safely, they wanted to give hunting a try. Every camper enrolled in the program takes away something that they will use as they venture into the great outdoors to experience all of the exciting opportunities that Alaska has to offer, and in turn, they help pass on the knowledge to others. The Outdoor Youth Days is more than just a summer camp, it helps to educate the sportsmen of tomorrow.

For more information, contact Kirk Lingofelt or Gail Volt at ADF&G, or to register in the Outdoor Youth Days program, visit the hunter education website.


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