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.