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