Friday, December 30, 2011

Organizational Spotlight - The Outdoor Foundation

I hope my readers will take advantage of some of the links I have here.  As a member of the Outdoor Bloggers Network, I have access to some of the best outdoor writers in the country.

I read one of the posted stories there, and it lead me to the Outdoor Foundation.  The Outdoor Foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to inspiring and growing future generations of outdoor enthusiasts. Through ground-breaking research, action-oriented convening and outreach and education programs, the Foundation is working with partners to mobilize a major cultural shift that leads all Americans to the great outdoors. 

Recently they did a study with Coleman and KOA (Kampgrounds of America) called Special Report on Camping that highlights enduring popularity of camping and in-depth look at profiles and segments of the industry [activity].  In the study they found for example that "that introducing children to camping at a young age is vital to their participation as adults. Half of all current campers ages 18 and over experienced their first camping trip before they reached the age of seven." Which tells me we're doing just the right thing if we're associated with youth outdoor programs.  They also confirmed that most campers between the ages of 35 and 54 consider it a valuable and rewarding activity for the family.  For a complete summary of the report click here.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Peace On Earth Discovered Right Near By

Photo by Kristen Sanderson
For the past couple of weeks I've been wondering what an appropriate story may be for Christmas Eve and this holiday season. I think I've found it, which is finding peace.

One of the greatest blessings we all have this holiday season is the fact that the last convoy of U.S. soldiers pulled out of Iraq on Sunday, ending nearly nine years of war. Full Story.  What could be better than the gift of Peace for the holidays?

As a 4-H Youth Development Agent, with every kid we reach and child we teach our goal is to impart instruction in life skills so as to make a long lasting, positive impact in a child's life that with culminate in positive behavior change.  In 4-H we typically think of the Life Skill Model most memorable attributes of Leadership, Citizenship, Record Keeping, etc.  On the other sides of the Skill Wheel are categories of Caring, Relating and Living which include the skills of empathy, concern for others and stress management.  These are some of the life skills of peace, and there are others.

One of my fellow outdoor bloggers, March of March's Outdoor Adventures wrote about this putting it in a spiritual context. He goes to the woods to find peace and clarity and to communicate with God. His article, What You Can Learn In The Outdoors, prompted me to consider, "What are we doing to teach the critical attributes of Relating, Caring and Sharing with the youth that we reach?"  In a Scouting program, those similar qualities might be included in the Scout Laws friendly, courteous, kind and reverent - also peaceful skills.

In our instruction we can make significant strides in teaching these softer life skills by emphasizing teamwork and cooperation, as might be part of a group project.  Concern for others can be taught when an older, more experienced young adult steps into a teaching position to help a brand new fly fisherman learn to cast or archer to shoot their bow.  Stress management can be taught through imparting words of wisdom in thoughts of the day or by simply making lanyards at camp or by sitting on a dock holding a fishing pole with their feet dangling down.  All children need these skills, not just so that they have them in adulthood, but so as to cope with the stresses they find themselves in now.  I challenge my readers to leave the house this holiday season and go to a nearby park or waterfront to seek inward peace, and then share that with someone you know.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Keeping the kids busy with fun outdoor activities over the holiday.

If you're anything like me, you'll have children at home or at least visiting for the holidays. Just prior to Christmas the family is still making preparations, and in the evenings going to holiday parties or community events. Sometimes the children are invited, sometimes not, but either way the kids have a lot of spare time on their hands. I remember the line from the Christmas carol, It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas that goes, "Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again!"

Well instead of having kids just sit around the house getting into trouble or being bored; why not break out the camping gear? It may be tough the more north you go, but central Florida this holiday season will be in the low 60's to mid-70's which is perfect camping weather, especially for a backyard adventure. Most of the mosquitoes are gone now so the outdoor environment won't be so objectionable.

As a kid I loved camping in the backyard. It gave me a sense of independence and when you're inside a tent. It’s easy to imagine that you’re not just in the backyard but anywhere in the world. Plus when you're 10, neighborhood noises can be just as scary as those in the wilderness! As a Dad of kids who wanted to sleep in the backyard, I knew that not only were they safe, but come springtime which is a real camping season for a lot of families, I knew that the kids would be pros at setting up the tent having had some practice. Consider this a dry-run for the real thing. If you really want to help in the family camping preparations, instead of having breakfast in the house break out the camp stove that only gets used once a year and show the kids how to use it. These type of activities will create fond family memories for a lifetime, reinforce useful skills and help give the children a sense of independence and accomplishment.

Sometimes you want to be out in the woods, but just can't! Some other outdoorish activities I plan to do with my kids and grand kids this season include indoor archery at a local proshop, fishing, going to the gun range, tying decorative knots in the evening and helping the kids with an online hunter or boating safety course.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Getting Started Into Traditional Muzzle Loading Rifles

This article is being written in response to a request by volunteer youth leaders of the Florida 4-H program who would like to get a youth shooting program started in their community.  It is also applicable to the individual who is wondering exactly what they need to get started shooting black powder, and how to buy everything at once within a fixed budget.  For the group leaders, in many cases sponsoring organizations such as the National Rifle Association or local chapters (called posts) of the Veterans of Foreign Wars will provide start up funding to start a shooting sports club, but the leader needs to come to them with a laundry list of items to purchase, with a near exact dollar figure.  Another fine organization, with local chapters to assist you is the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association.

A common practice in black powder instruction is to work in groups of two - as in two kids utilizing one gun. In 4-H Shooting Sports, we call it the Coach-Pupil method.  This way allows one shooter to actively prepare, load and shoot the gun, while the other assists, watches over and advises the partner.  After one person has shot, they trade places.  The reason this is so successful is that both are actively engaged, having fun and learning.  This also helps the instructor by providing an extra set of eyes on the procedure for safety's sake.  A third person may be added, but in my honest opinion that person has a high likelihood of getting bored.

A good size group for muzzle loading instruction is 4 to 6 shooters per 1 instructor.  Less can be awkward, more can start to compromise the instructor's ability to adequately supervise.  The list below is for one Coach-Pupil set, and should be multiplied to accommodate the group size.  This list is also "just the ticket" for the single adult shooter or parent/child combo.

The Rifle
I recommend rifles such as these 50 caliber, percussion cap-locks: the Great Plains Rifle and the Lyman Trade Rifle by Lyman Products and the Deer Hunter by Traditions Firearms.  If you want to consider a modern inline gun, the QuicShooter Magnum, 50 caliber by MDM Ltd. is a good choice.  Please note! There are many fine guns out there, but in the $400 or less price range, the ones listed have a proven track record of reliability, safety and customer satisfaction.  I personally shoot a Thompson Center New Englander and a Connecticut Valley Arms Mountain Rifle.  Remington and Knight Rifles have some nice inline guns.  The companies listed above usually have special programs with educational or nonprofit organization pricing if you inquire.

Please also note that there has been no compensation by any of the companies listed in the article to myself or my sponsoring organizations for mentioning them here.

The Accoutrements
One of the things I love about muzzle loading is all the gadgets. All of these supplies need to be put into a durable box made of either water resistant wood (home made) or a plastic box.  I prefer the black or bright orange totes that have the ability to lock.  The shooting veterans out there are going to get bothered because I failed to mention a Possibles Bag, as in a leather or cloth pouch one carries on their shoulder with everything they possibly need.  A Possibles Bag is perfect for the single, experienced shooter going to the gun range or out to the field.  I use one, but this list is for a brand new shooter or instructor with students on the range.

Supply Box
Ball Starter
Powder Flask
Powder Measure
Straight Capping Tool
Nipple Wrench
Patch Worm
Powder cap/funnel
Cleaning Kit w/ Brass or Stainless Steel Range Rod

Over time and with experience, these items can be made by hand and even picked up at garage sales or flea markets.  Are there more things you can use?  Of course!  But this list will get you started in taking your first shots or starting that new youth program.

Extra Items
These items are highly recommended, but not necessarily mandatory for a muzzle loading rifle program.
  • Every rifle needs a hard case to protect it while traveling.
  • A ball will get stuck at some point in the rifle.  The safest way to remove it is with a CO2 Ball Extractor (shown right).
  • Also at some point a rod will get stuck in the gun.  Rod Pullers or some safe way to pull it out, needs to be in every coaches tool kit.
My estimate for everything listed above was $502.00, less shipping and taxes.  Best of luck in your purchasing, grant application, and future enjoyment with muzzle loading rifles.  Keeping the tradition alive is so important in our society today.

Keep yer powder dry!

Mr. Gus

For their contributions to this article, I want to acknowledge and give special thanks to Brenda Heberling of Florida 4-H Shooting Sports, and Kenyon Simpson of the National 4-H Shooting Sports and the NMLRA.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hunting Safer Than Golf, Report Says

In a recent article by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms industry, they released the results of their compiled safety data for 2010. Their data shows that hunting ranks third in safety when compared to 28 other recreational pursuits, including golf and many others ranging from baseball to wrestling.

"Many people have the misconception that hunting is unsafe, but the data tells a different story," said Jim Curcuruto, NSSF's director of industry research and analysis. "Comprehensive hunter education classes that emphasize the basic rules of firearm safety and a culture of hunters helping fellow hunters practice safe firearms handling in the field are responsible for this good record."

To put hunting's safety standing into perspective, compared to hunting a person is . . .
- 11 times more likely to be injured playing volleyball
- 19 times more likely to be injured snowboarding
-  25 times more likely to be injured cheerleading or bicycle riding
-  34 times more likely to be injured playing soccer or skateboarding
-  105 more times likely to be injured playing tackle football.

For the entire article, click here.

Another very interesting and related report is by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and their WISQARSTM (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System), which is an interactive database system that provides customized reports of injury-related data.  This graphic by the CDC list unintentional firearms accidents a 0.5% of unintentional fatalities compared to all other major categories of accidents.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Brevard County Extension Partners With FWC for Advanced Archery Instruction

Seventeen states in the US now require a certification in bow hunting in order to participate in their archery hunts. Florida and others are considering the same requirement. This certification is in addition to the conventional Hunter Safety course now offered. What that means is that when Florida bow hunters go to anyone of the participating states such as Alaska, Vermont or Maine, they will not be able to hunt without showing certification in advanced archery. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) now offers this certification, and several University of Florida Extension Offices offer (or will) this in partnership with FWC, including Brevard.

The reason this training is so important, even though not at this point required in Florida, is that it reinforces basic safety guidelines specific to archery that will help prevent accidents, reinforce ethical decision making, fundamental skills, techniques and tackle. According to the National Bowhunter Education Foundation (NBEF) almost 90% of bowhunters hunt from elevated stands. Of those 10-37% report having accidents, with 25% of those being seriously injured. Using the teaching materials developed by the NBEF, students learn in hands-on approach topics including tree stand safety as well as equipment preparation and survival techniques.

Initially this class in Brevard will be offered to young archers through the 4-H Youth Development Shooting Sports Program, but will open up to the general public in the spring of 2012. For more information, contact Gus Koerner at 633-1702, ext. 229 or email

Saturday, November 19, 2011

4-H Shooting Sports Philosophy, Having Fun, Protecting All

To adult leaders and parents - even though this was written for a local Florida program, it is near identical to the situation in your state.  Please consult with your local County Extension Office on how these policies may differ in your location.

The focus of all 4-H programs is the development of youth as individuals and as responsible and productive citizens. The National, Florida and Brevard 4-H Shooting Sports Program, stand out as an example. Youth learn marksmanship, the safe and responsible use of firearms, the principles of hunting and archery, and much more. The activities of the program and the support of caring adult leaders provide young people with opportunities to develop life skills, self-worth, and conservation ethics.

In Brevard County, Florida we have 5 shooting sports clubs that meet 10 months of the year in four disciplines. Archery, Rifle (air and small bore), Shotgun and Traditional Black Powder Muzzle Loading. In addition to the community clubs, we also have partnered with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to teach a monthly Hunter Safety Class and beginning in 2012 an Advanced Archery Class. In the summer we host one day camp and two residential summer camps, which all include the shooting sports. Geographically our community clubs are accessible to most Brevard residents with two clubs in Mims, one in Cocoa and two meeting in Palm Bay.

One of the many challenges the Brevard 4-H program pays close attention to is “age appropriate” activities, and managing some of the challenges kids face while shooting. We confront the age appropriate issue on two levels. At the most basic level, we don’t allow 8 year olds for example, to shoot a 12 gauge shotgun. At the deeper level, we make sure that same 8 year old has equipment that fits them and that the challenges we put in front of them they can find success. For example, that same child will start with an air rifle they can pump themselves and hit bulls-eyes at 5 meters distance. When that becomes too easy for the child, we increase the challenge to keep them interested and excited about the sport. Likewise with older teens. If the challenges are too easy they will get bored and leave the program. In shooting sports we challenge the older youth with holding them to higher standards of shooting competence, higher-end firearms, longer distances and leadership responsibilities. In matches, every Junior (age 8-10) wins something, but as they get older the awards become harder to achieve and are more meaningful.

In 4-H Shooting Sports safety is our number one priority. Our coaches are all screened through the county as volunteers that are safe to be around children as per Jessica’s Law. If they have been screened by a government organization, we don’t screen them again. For shooting competence, each club has a Certified Instructor which goes through a mandatory 20 hour course that was developed and is sanctioned by the US Department Of Agriculture (the 4-H lead sponsor) in partnership with the National Rifle Association. This training is delivered to the instructors by the University of Florida, State Shooting Sports Committee who have been trained at the national level. In addition to this 4-H certification, we also strongly encourage the leaders to receive the NRA Basic Rifle training (identical curriculum) and training by other organizations such as CMP to help them be some of the finest coaches available.

Insurance – every approved 4-H activity is covered by at least two blanket insurance policies, one by the Brevard County Board of County Commissioners and by the University of Florida. I have Certificates of Coverage from both organizations. Also during 4-H activities, each registered 4-H adult volunteers is acting for and is covered similarly to any University of Florida faculty member. For that hour or two during 4-H, the volunteers are agents of the university, and as long as they lead within the shooting and child protection guidelines established with caution and prudence, they have the full backing and support of the University of Florida system.

Friday, October 7, 2011

FL FWC Seeking Help to Locate Florida's Eastern Fox Squirrel

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is conducting a survey to collect all sightings of the Eastern Fox Squirrel, a species of special concern. If spotted, please report your sighting at the Fox Squirrel Registry.

The fox squirrel, named for its fox-like tail, is a charismatic mammal approximately twice the size of the common gray squirrel. The coloration of the fox squirrel is highly variable, ranging from a creamy tan to all black. In Florida, the fox squirrel can be found in almost every county, but the distribution is patchy and not well understood.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Archery Targets "Success Close" May Be Too Close

This is to all those archery coaches out there, parents included who want their young archer to have success in making their first shots.  Being close enough to hitting the target, or perhaps even the bulls-eye means that the target needs to be at whatever safe distance is necessary for the arrow to hit its mark.  Depending on the archer, the equipment and the target, a commonly used distance of 15 feet or 5 yards may in fact be posing a danger to the shooter and others on the range.

A close call! - Last night on the archery range, one of our young shooters shot a 10 pound draw weight bow, into a commonly used archery target rated for bows and target arrows up to 40 pound draw weight.  The arrow bounced out.  It didn't just bounce and fall, it bounced with such force that it came all the way back to the shooting line and was caught by an instructor over the heads of other shooters and spectators!  If that arrow would have struck someone, it wouldn't have killed them, but it could have certainly penetrated the skin or other soft tissue.

The target that was being used was too dense for the arrows being shot, and was made of closed cell foam, which is common in the industry.  A much safer choice in this circumstance would have been a target made of open cell foam.  For those who do not know the difference, open cell foam is commonly seen in the white $2 insulated coolers, and closed cell foam is used in camping mattress pads and door insulation.

Gavin W. proud of his first shot!
The bow and target pictured right are a great combination for a young archer's first shot.  Gavin is holding a Matthew's Genesis bow, set at a 10 lb. draw weight, standing in front of a Drew Foam archery target made of open cell foam, which is covered with bulls-eye faced plastic for immediate use and weather proofing.

In a well rounded archery program the equipment will match the skill levels of the students. Having both open and closed cell targets, and alternative bag targets will allow for shooters with light and heavy equipment, at different skill levels have a safe and rewarding experience.

Mr. Gus

Thursday, September 15, 2011

UCF Pre-Service Teachers Learn All About GPS In The Classroom

I had the greatest experience working with Instructor, Shloe Kerness of the University of Central Florida teaching Elementary Pre-Service teachers all about GPS receivers, classroom navigation and Geocaching. I felt the classroom portion moved along quite well, and we had fun in the field looking for secret locations!  A few important points I failed to give appropriate attention to include:
Hands-On Activities In The Woods!
  • Space Coast Geocachers, who are very active in Brevard County and throughout Florida.  In fact, they manage the one and only geocaching retail store known to most of us in the sport!
  • In navigation, a GPS receiver can, usually does, but SHOULDN'T EVER be solely relied upon as the only navigational tool.  A well studied map and compass should always be kept near by.
  • Besides, some of my other favorite related sites include: Waymarking, which builds a "geocaching" database of virtual sites such as historical markers, landmarks, interesting scenic views, etc.  My other favorite, but not as popular is the Degree Confluence Project which has snapshots of every corner of the globe, and has just celebrated its 15th anniversary.

Keep up the great work and be sure to interact with your colleagues in class and those you meet in Extension.  Throughout the US and Florida, teachers are utilizing GPS receivers and geocaching to teach all of the core subjects, while at the same time inspiring their students to increase their knowledge of science, math and of course - outdoor education!
Mr. Gus

Friday, September 9, 2011

National 4-H Shooting Sports Invitational Results

I had the great privilege to escort the Florida 4-H Shooting Sports team to the National 4-H Invitational this year in San Antonio.  What a great event it was!  Florida had the best coaches and shooters we could ever hope for.  Below are the results, but I also wanted to include a few notes on "lessons learned".

Muzzle Loaders Joe and Jake Menendez
Lesson I learned:
  • Make sure the youth are prepared with their equipment, skills and mind for the rigors of long distance shooting, all day.  It can be a grueling process and many times the shooters don't have equipment that will hold up, or meet the requirements of the tournament.
  • Keep continuity of administrative staff and coaches.  Having new people attend this event every year can be disheartening.  Participants miss out on opportunities that new people are not aware of.  I propose having a head coach and an assistant.  The head coach will have attended Nationals at least one time before.
  • Make sure all the participants know how much this event costs.  It is very possible an individual will have to invest up to $1600 for this event.  Some of that is reimbursed, but done so after we all return home.
  • Continue to encourage the National Shooting Sports Committee to train the volunteers to run the match as written to the rules.  Many times the line officials did not run the match to the letter of the rules, and the shooters need to be held to a same consistent standard.
Again, I want to say what a great event this was!  It could have not been done without the tireless help of the parents, coaches, youth leaders, sponsors and the FL 4-H Shooting Sports Committee and the FL 4-H Foundation.

Day 1
Air Rifle – 2nd place, Alexandria Mohs; 7th place, Robin Dolliver
Archery, Compound – 5th place, Kevin Dukes
Archery, Recurve – 6th place, Stephen Gables; 5th place team, Stephen Gables, Cody Ptachik, Ryan Metcalf, Kristel Stiegler
Muzzle Loading – 10th place, Joe Menendez
Shotgun –
Small Bore –

Day 3
Air Rifle – 3rd place, Robin Dolliver; 10th place, Alexandria Mohs; 4th place team, Alexandria Mohs, Robin Dolliver, Wayne Friesul
Archery, Compound – 5th place, Kevin Dukes
Archery, Recurve –
Muzzle Loading –
Shotgun –
Small Bore –

Day 3
Air Rifle –
Archery, Compound – 4th place, Kevin Dukes
Archery, Recurve –
Muzzle Loading –
Shotgun –
Small Bore –

Air Rifle - 4th place, Kevin Dukes
Archery, Recurve – 5th place team, Stephen Gables, Cody Ptachik, Ryan Metcalf, Kristel Stiegler

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fishing Knots...Part 5 of 6, The Blood Knot

The blood knot is a knot used for attaching two pieces of monofilament together, primarily for rebuilding tapered leaders. This is an extremely strong knot when formed properly and should be tied with monofilament close in diameter. Best use is for monofilament 10 lbs. and up.

Step 1. Lay both sections of monofilament across one another. Wrap one section 5-6 times around the other bringing the end back down through the loop formed by both.

Step 2. Wrap the other line 5-6 times around the remaining portion of the first line and pass it's free end up through the formed loop. (See illustration 2)

Step 3. Moisten the knot with your mouth, and while holding the long ends pull the knot tight. Clip the short ends close and the knot is complete.

Many thanks to The Fly Fishing Connection for their great resources!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Teaching Hunter Safety - Something Every 4-H Agent (& Parent!) Should Do!

As an Extension Agent for the University of Florida and Brevard County, it is not my responsibility to teach the Florida Hunter Education course as put forth by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).  I do it as a volunteer, and gladly so because of all of the benefits it has to me and my programs.

Here are just a few...
I get to meet some of the best people in the world at the gun range where it's taught.  All of my colleagues in Hunter Education are there because they want to be.  None of us get paid.  Their one and only concern is making sure those who take the class will leave and carry the message of safety and wise outdoor stewardship by word and deed, into the woods.

Sidebar - Did you know that unlike a drivers license, a Hunter Safety Certification card never expires?  That is a point I bring up to my students, that once they leave the classroom, they are free to carry a firearm in the woods for the rest of their life!  What a privilege and a responsibility!

Out of all of these people I meet, a bunch of them are kids and their parents.  I've found about equal amounts of Moms and Dads in the class.  As agreed upon by my Supervisor, one of the benefits I have as a 4-H Agent teaching this class is I get to "plug" the 4-H program.  I have recruited some of the best families in the FWC Hunter Safety Program in to 4-H.

Lastly I'll mention how Hunter Safety helps me hone my skills, and gets my name out there in the community to gain credibility.  People care how much you know, and this allows them to get to know me.  My safety, shooting  and teaching skills are reinforced.  In firearms training, the skills we learn are perishable and they need to be practiced and hopefully constantly improved.

I'm grateful for this opportunity to teach, and recommend it to all of my professional and volunteer colleagues.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fishing Knots...Part 4 of 6, The Nail Knot

Step 1. Place a nail between the fly line and leader. Wrap the leader back towards the end of your fly line about 6 times.

Nail Knot (Leader to Fly Line)

The Nail knot is one of the most important knots that every fly fisherman should learn. There are a few variations in the way this knot is tied. The angler can use a tube or a needle in replacement of the nail. With a little practice, this knot can be tied very quickly. Most common area for use is attaching the leader to the fly line. It can also be used to attach the fly line to the backing.

Step 2. Pass the end of your leader back through the loops you just made. After the leader is through, pull on both ends of the fly line and leader trying not to have the loops cross each other. Holding with fingers, remove nail.

Step 3. Moisten and snug down by pulling both ends away from each other. Clip excess line and leader close to the formed knot.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

National Shooting Sports Invitational 2011, San Antonio Texas

I decided to put up this page to help myself, family members and colleagues by building a one-stop-shop for information we may need for the big trip.



The Group Hotel
Days Inn San Antonio Northwest/SeaWorld

6010 NW Loop 410
San Antonio, TX 78238

Phone: 210-522-1995
Fax: 210-522-1106

Monday, May 2, 2011

Springtime A Flurry of Shooting Competions

Brevard County Fair FITA Match
My writing has been kind of slow this spring because of my involvement in all of the shooting matches our local kids have been involved with.  But man, was it fun!

The State 4-H Matches - Locally we had about 50 kids participating in the Florida 4-H State Matches giving kids the opportunity to show their skills in archery, trap, skeet, rifle and black powder.  The state riffle match was held first, and Francis D. came in 6th place state wide in three-position air rifle, Intermediate Division.  Next was the state archery match at the new Easton-Newberry Sports Complex near Gainesville.  20 of our top archers competed in FITA, Field and 3-D competitions with most of our club placing or doing extremely well.  Our club is especially proud of Paul T., a 4-H Senior, who qualified for the National 4-H Invitational in June in the Sighted Compound Bow Division.  Our shotgunners did well in trap and skeet over in Bartow, Florida.  In this match, a child does not even place with a score less than 90 usually (of 100) broken clay targets!

Christina learning to
break both targets with one ball! 
I almost forgot to mention our muzzleloaders!  The season's local shooting culminated in the 4th Annual Brevard County Fair Archery Match.  63 shooters, shoulder to shoulder, competing against their peers for big, beautiful rosettes.  Our local club the Sharp-Eye Shooters took most of the awards, but all of the kids representing 11 different Florida counties did very well.

Noah and his Dad shooting together at
the state muzzle loading match.
What pleased me most with all of these events, was the level of safety, volunteer participation and sportsmanship displayed.  It was amazing.

Thanks to all who participated and to our commercial sponsors as well such as, but not limited to Brevard Archers, Action Gun and Archery, Hodgdon Powder, our local gun clubs in Mims and Palm Bay and the Florida 4-H Shooting Sports Program.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fly Tying Adventure, Guest Post - Rodney Smith

A story by good friend, author, publisher and conservationist Caption Rodney Smith of Coastal Angler Magazine -

Rodney kissing his prize catch!
Looking back some twenty years ago to the first fly I tied brings back fond, humbling memories. My first fly was an extremely weird looking thing that didn’t resemble anything I’d seen before or since! It was a colorful combination of deer hair and meager chicken feathers wrapped around the shank of a silver hook. It was loosely wrapped with of a wad of yellow sewing thread.

I can still recall my pride afterwards. Even though I had a long ways to go before I’d show anyone my flies, I knew I was on to something much bigger.

I attended a fly tying class that was being offered by a local fly fishing club, Melbourne’s Backcountry Fishing Association. Not long afterward, under the supervision of master fly tier Tom Lentz, I started getting the hang of it.
In class, we tied simple and effective fly patterns. We learned classics like the Clouser’s deep water minnow, foam spiders, ants, and Lefty’s Deceiver. In no time, I was catching redfish and spotted seatrout in saltwater, and  bream and bass in freshwater on my creations. Learning to tie flies and catch fish with those flies lead me down a more copasetic path with nature with my fishing experience.

Learning to tie and catch fish with my own flies has been very rewarding and fulfilling. Besides learning new skills, first-time tiers become acquainted with the aquatic ecosystem. This brings awareness of important conservation and environmental issues.
Capt. Gabe Nybald with a silver salmon
caught on the Goodnews River in Alaska

Kids who want to learn fly tying need to become familiar with a few basic tools and materials. They’ll need an inexpensive fly tying vise, a bobbin with thread, scissors, hooks, and tying materials. These can be purchased in a beginner’s kit or separately at a retail sporting goods store, fly shop or on-line.

Today learning to tie a fly has become as easy as turning on one’s computer and googling fly tying. But, if you are fortunate enough to have a local fly club in your community contact them to see if they offer classes for beginners. These classes can be a wonderful gateway to an extraordinary adventure.
About Rodney - A Florida native, conservation advocate, and lifetime angler with an in-depth understanding of the economical and environmental impacts of Florida's recreational fishery.

Married thirty years, father of four, and community leader, for fifteen years Rodney has been the publisher of Coastal Angler Magazine, which focuses on fishing, boating and conservation.

Rodney's also a member of the South Atlantic Marine Fisheries Council's Grouper /Snapper Advisory Panel.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Practice Does NOT Make Perfect

Practicing is the act of rehearsing a skill or behavior over and over, or engaging in an activity again and again, for the purpose of improving or mastering it.  How many times have we heard, "Practice Makes Perfect"?  What if you are repeating behavior incorrectly over and over, does practice still make perfect?  I think not.  This might just be the most major piece of misinformation I was ever taught in school!
Used by permission from the creator, Mark Stivers.

If you have ever taken formal archery lessons, you'll know that there are certain steps to shooting an arrow out of a bow to make it not only fly true to hits its mark, but to have a safe and rewarding experience.  The physics of archery show us that if you execute each shot following each of the steps perfectly (or near), the arrow will go in the nearly exact same spot every time.  If you introduce a variable such as wind, or lose concentration so as to not take the shot perfectly,  the arrow will miss.  In the photo below, 100 students line up shoulder to shoulder at the 2009 National Archery In The Schools Program (NASP) World Tournament in Orlando, Florida.  In NASP, all of the equipment is identical except for color.  The difference measured in competition is the ability of the shooter, and how they have learned to follow each of the steps as near to perfect as possible in order to hit the 10 ring or bulls-eye at 10 or 15 meters. Perhaps we should say, "Perfect Practice Makes Perfect"?

I see my young archers and other shooting sports kids week after week practicing their skills, and while some are taking short cuts, not working on each step to perfection, others are following the steps, and their coaches advice, and it shows! 

Acknowledgements: Even though this article used archery as the main activity, almost any other activity could have been substituted of course.  Thanks Mark for the cartoon, and NASP for dedication to teaching archery to kids world wide! - Mr. Gus

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Winderness Grace, Perfect for PC Gatherings

From about 1967 to about '73 I spent my summers at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, NM.  I could tell you about the activities, treks and adventures I had, but I'll save that until another time.

One of the things that sticks out most in my mind is that when I was a Cub Scout, and my parents were training, we always ate lunch in the dining hall.  Just before we always said grace, which was printed on the wall.  This was very odd to me at first, because this particular mealtime prayer was something very different to me - not the praying part, but the prayer itself.  To this day, forty-four years later, I still remember it.  It is called the Wilderness or Philmont Grace, and it goes...

For food, for raiment (meaning clothing),
For life, for opportunities
For friends and this fellowship,
We thank Thee, O Lord. Amen

A few months ago I attended a conference of the Extension Professionals Association of Florida.  As the FANREP (FL Assn. of Natural Resource Agents) president I was slated to emcee a luncheon that hosted about 350 guests.  I was told by my colleague who was in a supervisory role, to make everyone feel welcome, but not to say a blessing for the food.  I knew why, because after all, we're a government organization, 'church and state", and that rationale.  I can understand the concept, but at the time I didn't feel right.   Midway through the lunch, I interjected a comment of apology to the audience for not saying grace, because after all we have a lot to be thankful for, and in lean budget and economic times, we need all the divine help we can get.  After the luncheon five or six people told me I handled it well.

Photo Credit: Ministry To The Military Itnl.
Since then I have noticed that my County Commissioners say an invocation before each board meeting, Congress prays at the state and national houses, and we still have "in God we trust" printed on our money.  A million people have argued for and against this practice at public gatherings.  We've all heard them, so I won't go on.  When you consider the Wilderness Grace above, it says all we need to say and should not be particularly offensive to any person or one particular denomination, except for the "Lord word", referring to Jesus Christ.  The word God could be substituted to also include Allah, Yahweh, Jehovah or Higher Power for some.  I challenge my readers to continue this practice of giving thanks to our God, however you picture God to be, and to ask for His blessings to us all.  Heaven knows we need them and have a lot to be thankful for.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wanna be writer or have a story to share?

Are you a blogger, expert or have something to share that relates to kids, families and educators in the outdoors? Perhaps you're teenager with an aspiration to write?? I would love to host a story of yours!

Starting in January, I introduced my Guest Blogger series of experts in their field to share their insight. If you would like to participate in this, or give a recommendation please let me know by leaving a comment or sending me a message.

It needs to be about 250-300 words, include a nice picture or two, have a snappy title and be an interesting topic on one discussion point. This blog is geared to the youth 6th grade and up, their parents, and folks like me who are somewhat of a nature freak - short, interesting, humorous and to the point. I’ll also need a short bio to introduce you.

I have invited one guest blogger recently to write a story on “God said I can only take 1 fly with me to Heaven” (about fly fishing). This article highlights the single most useful (or 2-3) freshwater flies. Another colleague is writing a blog on the fascinating stories of the Louis and Clark journals.

Hope to hear from you! - Mr. Gus

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The 3 Always of Gun Safety could have prevented a local tragedy

Charges pondered in shooting death of 13-year-old in Cocoa (Florida)
Florida Today, Feb. 15, 2010, written by: John A. Torres

"It is uncertain whether a 25-year-old man who police said accidentally shot and killed a 13-year-old girl during the weekend will face charges.

Investigators with the Brevard County Sheriff's Office said Dustin Adkins accidentally fired his handgun Saturday evening through his bedroom door during a family barbecue.

Neighbor Kasey Canada, 13, was in the kitchen when the bullet struck her in the back. The Clearlake Middle student was taken to the hospital where she later died."  For the entire story click here.

This is a tragic story that could have been prevented.  The National Rifle Association teaches us that the three fundamental rules for safe gun handling are:
1. ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
2. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

In order for someone to be accidently shot, all three, not just one of these rules below need to be broken. Please do your part in following them, and teaching this responsibility to others.  Also see: A Parents Guide To Gun Safety, and visit the site of The Eddie Eagle Safety Program.  Thanks to all instructors, leaders and parents who are taking proactive steps in teaching others how to prevent firearms accidents.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Why we never say the "W Word" in recreational shooting sports.

If you have ever participated in a shooting education class hosted by Scouts, 4-H, the NRA or similar orgaizations, you might have heard someone getting scolded for using "the W-Word" or Weapon (oops, I said it!).  Sorry.  I've heard the wrath of an instructor several times, because I'm in that line of work, I've been chewed out myself in the early days and I've had to call a few others out in my own classes.  This is why...

The word weapon defined is any instrument or device for use in attack or defense in combat, fighting, or war, as a sword, rifle, or cannon; or anything used against an opponent, adversary, or victim.

Is that why we are teaching youth and youth volunteers shooting sports?  I think not.  We are teaching kids and the community safe, recreational shooting to build marksmanship skills, discipline and responsibility in the use of a firearm.  We leave weapon training to law enforcement and our military service members - where that word is appropriate.  It also has perfectly reasonable context in conversations about home and self protection.

The next time you're in a training situation, either as the coach or the student, I encourage each of us to call the firearm just that, a firearm or even better call it by its name.  Use the specific terms for them such as rifle, pistol, handgun, shotgun, etc.  That's more appropriate, and it won't leave images in the mind of your students of taking someone's life.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Florida 4-H State Muzzle Loading Rifle Tournament, 2011

February is a beautiful month in central Florida, and on this particular day, (Feb.5) the conditions were perfect, about 70 degrees, for a day at the range shooting "black powder guns".  I quote those words because I believe all of the shooters were using synthetic black powder that day.  This was an important day for six shooters and their coaches because it was the Florida 4-H State Muzzle Loading Tournament.  Other than just testing the shooters skill for pride and bragging rights, this particular match determines which senior 4-H'ers will be selected to go to the National Invitational this year in San Antonio, Texas.

The participants included two shooters from Brevard County, two from Indian River County, and two from Okeechobee County.  They all did very very well at each of the 5 events which were 50 yard bulls-eye, off-hand and bench rest, 50 yard silhouette, two 25 yard novelty targets and the knowledge test "Skill-A-Thon".  There was a total possible score of 50 points per target and 130 points for the academic portion.  If you've never participated in a Muzzle Loading Skill-A-Thon, you've missed a challenging and fun opportunity.  Laid out on the table are at least one firearm, and the contents of a Possibles Bag such as ball starter, capping tool and spare flint.  On our table were about 30 different items and the youth were under a three minute time limit to properly label all of the components.

After the shooting we went straight to the awards ceremony, which was a good one!  Not only did we have ribbons for each shooter and a few plaques, but the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association gave copies of their Muzzle Blast magazine and a pin for all, the black powder shooters at the Titusville Rifle and Pistol Club (TRPC) gave shooting gifts to each of the kids and the Brevard County 4-H, Mosquito Lagoon 4-H Muzzleloaders, an NMLRA chartered club, gave old fashioned fixed grain finger chargers to each shooter from Track of The Wolf.

Many thanks to all the parents and coaches who helped prepare and put on this event such as Sylvain Roberge, Lars Lutton and Don Richards for running the line.  Lori Menendez for administrative help.  TRPC for hosting us.  The NMLRA for the gifts and Chris Hodgdon of Hodgdon Powder Company for their donations of powder for the shooters.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

County Extension Teaches Hunter Safety

The University of FL / IFAS / Brevard County Extension in partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will be teaching local Hunter Safety Classes, monthly, at the Titusville Rifle and Pistol Club in Mims, FL.

Extension has a rich history teaching and consulting in agriculture, family and consumer science, horticulture, and natural resource management for the home owner and industry. The Brevard 4-H program has had youth shooting sports since the early 1990’s, so reaching out to the community with Hunter Safety education is a natural progression.

The Hunter Safety curriculum being used is written by FWC. The primarily taught Internet-based Hunter Safety Course allows the student to learn a majority of the knowledge portion of the course via distance learning. The remainder of the course is covered in a 4-hour classroom setting, written test and a 3-hour range test. Extension’s involvement with Hunter Safety Education allows students to learn of similar programs currently taught by Extension, and provides additional opportunities for families to participate in 4-H shooting sports and to hone their skills as safe outdoors men and women, while promoting home firearm safety. For more information and dates and times, please call Gus Koerner at 321-633-1702 x229.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fishing Knots...Part 3 of 6, The Albright Knot

The Albright knot is used in situations where you need to join two lines of greatly unequal diameter or of different material. Mostly used in saltwater situations, I prefer this knot for joining of fly line to backing material.

Step 1. Loop the heavier line (wider diameter) and place it between your thumb and index finger of your left hand. Pass the lighter line through the formed loop leaving yourself about 8 inches. Pinch the lighter line in with the line already in your left hand.
Step 2. Make approximately 10 wraps with the lighter line wrapping away from you and working from left to right. With each wrap, work your thumb and index finger along holding these wraps in place, trying not to let up any pressure on your left hand. On the 10th wrap, come around and then through the remaining loop. Taking the standing line in your right hand, and pull gently as you push the wraps with your left hand towards the closed loop.  Alternate between the end of the lighter line, and on the standing part until the wraps are against the tag end. Make sure the wraps do not go over each other and that you don't push them to far. Pull the tag tight then pull on the standing part of both lines until the knot is secure.
Step 3. Finally, clip the two short pieces close to the knot.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Springtime Is A Perfect Time to Scope Out Summer Activities in 4-H

The 4-H Extension Agents in Brevard County, which include Vanessa Spero-Swingle and Gus Koerner are planning a bunch of fun learning opportunities for kids this summer! Some of the activities are open primarily to those enrolled in 4-H, but there are also a bunch open to anyone in the community. One of the 4-H mottos is Learn By Doing, and we are firm believers, that kids and young adults, learn the most and have the greatest amount of enjoyment by jumping in and getting their hands dirty! (Photo caption: Planting today for something beautiful tomorrow at the Budding Gardener’s Camp 2009)

The best place to learn about these camps is on the County Extension web page. Another great place is the semiannual Extension insert in the Florida Today, which is published in March – watch for it! Did you know we’re also on Facebook?? Search for Brevard County 4-H!

Some of the fun activities include: in April – The Brevard County Fair in Melbourne, in May – Youth Fly Fishing Clinic in Cocoa, in June – Outdoor Adventure Camp and Budding Gardner’s Camp in Palm Bay, 4-H Legislature in Tallahassee in July – 4-H Congress in Gainesville, 4-H Shooting Sports Camp in Lake Placid, and in August – 4-H Summer Camp at Ocala in Altoona.

From customer feedback we know the kids and volunteers leaders have fun at these events, and learn so much! Another common comment from the parents and kids who attend these activities is that they are some of the most reasonably priced in all of central Florida. So check some of them out, and come join us in the fun! For more information with dates and times, please call Ms. Vanessa or Mr. Gus Koerner at 321-633-1702.