Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Midway Progress Report - 4-H Fly Fishing Clinic

We're about midway through our 12 week 4-H Fly Fishing program, and it is going incredibly well.  I attribute our success to the overwhelming support of our volunteer experts from local fly fishing clubs, and the sharp, willing to learn young students.  The weather in Melbourne (Florida) this past weekend couldn't have been any better, although the fish weren't biting!  In spite of that, it will be a weekend to remember for a long time.  I am including below, a program summary for those interested in starting a similar program.

Photo credit: Kristen Sanderson
The University of Florida / Brevard County Extension 4-H Program has a goal to attract and teach one of the most challenging clientele bases for the program, the teenager.  It is also a programmatic desire to overlap with other Extension program areas, bring in subject matter experts and additional sources of funding. Partnering with a local fishing enthusiast group, small businesses, and Brevard County’s Marine Science Extension Agent, a 4-H program in Fly Fishing was developed.  Extension’s primary role was to capture the vision of the group and bring them together as a unified team. This six-month twelve session program involves seventeen boys ranging from age 12 to 17 and 13 adult volunteers.  Of the nearly 30 people involved in this program, only 5 have had previous experience in 4-H.  Learning the techniques of fly fishing is only one piece of the curriculum. Youth are also taught knot tying, the artistic form of creating your own flies to imitate insects and marine prey, wildlife conservation, and building lifelong friendships with fellow fly fishers. An evaluation process is in place to report on and expand this program.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Get outside to boost your happiness.

Recently my wife and I have been walking the new Max Brewer Bridge in town. Its a 1.6 mile walk over and back, and I'm always surprised how much better I feel when we're done.

In a University of Rochester study, 90 percent of subjects got a boost in energy and had their outlook brightened by spending time outdoors around trees, grass, and living creatures. Meaning get outside and get some fresh air. Take a quick walk around the block to take in the outdoors. Who knows what you’ll see? Every time you go outside, there’s something new to see; it’s never the same. From Ten Thoughts On Happiness.

Photo credit: cfnews13.com

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Keep your family safe by locking your guns.

Most people I know who have a gun in their home do so for the primary reason to keep their families safe.  It is unfortunate that sometimes the home becomes less safe because of that firearm.  What I mean is, that the home owner has the sense of security that they can protect themselves from an intruder, which may or may not happen.  On the other hand, that same home owner puts their family at risk by storing the gun in an unsafe manner that may be accessible to kids.

Moms and Dads, lock your guns and keep the ammunition locked separate.  For those of you who want to have the security against an intruder, ask yourself, "Am I really ready to shoot and kill another human being?".  After seriously considering all of this I concluded that most people would probably be better off by installing or upgrading a security system, leaving outdoor lighting on, buying a dog that will alert you to prowlers or all three.

Securing your firearm is not just a safe thing to do.  It's the law.  If you do not know how to lock your firearm, call any law enforcement officer or agency, gun shop or visit the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Project ChildSafe website.

Friday, January 13, 2012

New UF article on catching that pesky Armadillo.

You know the scientists at the University of Florida / Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) do the best job at studying and reporting on issues that concern us all.  When I was a young man we used to trap and BBQ these critters, and now as a Florida home owner they're continually digging in my yard, driving the dog into a barking frenzy!  Here is a good article I'd like to share that was just announced.

Baiting the Nine-banded Armadillo - What is the tastiest treat to tempt an armadillo? Armadillos are one of the most significant nuisance pests in Florida and much of the Southeast. There are no repellents, toxicants, or fumigants registered for use with them. They are good at both burrowing beneath and climbing over fences. There are also no effective methods for baiting them into traps. So the authors of this 3-page fact sheet set up a test to determine which materials have the greatest potential to serve as bait. Written by Holly K. Ober, Lucas W. DeGroote, and Russell F. Mizell III, and published by the UF Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, December 2011.

An excerpt, Armadillo feeding activity causes damage in a wide range of locations such as lawns, flower and vegetable gardens, golf courses, sports fields, cemeteries, nurseries, and orange groves. Armadillos have been blamed for reducing bobwhite quail and sea turtle numbers because of their fondness for quail and turtle eggs. Armadillos are also blamed for causing structural instabilities when they dig burrows around and under buildings. In sum, they are one of the most significant nuisance pests in Florida and much of the Southeast.  For the entire article click here.

Soon I'll post some recipes for your enjoyment.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Colleges with active shooting sports programs.

One of the things we talk about in 4-H Shooting Sports is that archery, rifle and shotgun are all competitive Olympic events and some colleges offer scholarships to shooters.  But when we're asked for more information, we're usually "stumped".  As instructors we should know how to lead these kids to the next level.

Recently the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) awarded almost $300,000 in grants to 41 colleges with shooting sports programs through its Collegiate Shooting Sports Initiative.

"Throughout the country, we are seeing a surge in college students interested in the shooting sports," said Zach Snow, NSSF's manager of shooting promotions. "These clubs are filling a need on campus by providing opportunities to target shoot, and their members are building positive reputations for the shooting sports both on campus and in surrounding communities."

In the article it lists the colleges who received grant money.  Young shooters who are interested in pursuing a scholarship in shooting, or interested in it as an intermural sport  should start to check into these programs.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Partnering for Success in Youth Programs

Our success has really been based on partnerships from the very beginning.
- Bill Gates

In our community we are right in the middle of holding a six-month fly fishing clinic for kids. This clinic is a partnership program between University of Florida IFAS/Extension 4-H program, our local Board of County Commissioners, community fly fishing experts and local businesses. So far it has been a big success with 17 kids and about 15 adult volunteers participating.
Why is it working so well? It's working because each of the entities are doing what they do best, with a common goal. Extension is in the business of teaching, marketing and gathering kids together, not fly fishing. The local fly fishing clubs are the experts who have a love of sharing their sport, and local business also love the sport but need to stay afloat.

This is how it came together. After a some initial brain storming sessions representatives from each of the groups sat down and suggested that we each do what we do best. With some coordination, natural enthusiasm from what the possibilities may look like, and hand shakes from the committed individuals we were able to come up with a plan. The plan was that the 4-H program would announce the clinic through its normal channels, and provide the classroom teaching facilities and the groups liability insurance.
Back Country Fly Fishing Association (BCCA) was the lead "enthusiast" organization providing the expert volunteers. In addition to BCCA, the Florida Flyrod Club and the Florida Fly Fishing Association. Local business such as Captain Frank Catino pulled together some special deals from his distributors on fly rods, reels and tying equipment. Harry Goode's Outdoor Shop in Melbourne has donated supplies and promoted the event, and so has The Fly Fisherman in Titusville. Most importantly (in my honest opinion) is the fact that all of the "pros" and businesses interacting with the youth have treated the kids like young adults, by encouraging, praising successes, and politely correcting their mistakes.

I very excited to see how this clinic continues, and if it can be replicated locally and regionally with the same success. Look for future reports! 

Even though this post is related to starting a fly fishing program, the exact same model and process has been used with great success with the majority of our county outdoors programs.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Just an air rifle?

How many kids and families do you know that got an air rifle for Christmas or have one in the house??

Those of us who teach firearms safety stress some version of the National Rifle Association, 3 Always of Guns Safety, namely 1) keep your gun pointed in a safe direction, 2) keep your gun unloaded until your ready to shoot, and 3) keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target. In order for a firearms accident to occur, all three of these rules have to be broken, at the same time!

A tragic story was reported in England today:

Boy, 10, Killed With His Father's Air Gun While Playing Cowboys and Indians with His Friends
Thursday, Jan 05 2012, Swansea, England, UK
By JULIE MOULT, DailyMail.co.uk

A BOY of ten was shot dead in a game of cowboys and indians as he and a friend played with his father's airgun. Rhys Johnson was fatally wounded when the weapon went off, blasting pellets into his chest. Full story.

Photo: Rhys Johnson is pictured here with his older sister Ashleigh. By http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

Parents please keep in mind that although BB guns and Air Rifles are less powerful than their high-power counterparts, they are still not toys and can cause serious property damage and personal harm, as shown in this story.  Air rifles can be a great tool to teach young people safe handling of firearms and marksmanship with a gun that is void of recoil and designed to fit kids 6 and up, BUT they are guns.  Make sure they are treated with the same respect as any other firearm.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

How familiar are you with the Bobwhite Quail?

In my Florida Hunter Safety class we talk about the Northern Bobwhite Quail all the time, but usually only in the context of it being Florida's one of two resident game birds. Florida Wild Turkey being the only other. When I was a kid growing up on the outskirts of Fort Worth, Texas we would routinely hunt this cute little critter, and they were in great abundance. One of my buddies had a dog and after school we would grab our shotguns and head for the rolling grasslands out past Chapin Road until it got dark. Most days we didn't shoot anything, but just being out in the field letting the dogs find and point these beautiful birds was worth it. Those were the days.

Photo Credit: Dave Baker: From the album Kentucky Dept. of Fish & Wildlife Resources.

The Northern bobwhite is a medium-sized, round-bodied bird with a short tail and neck. Plumage is reddish brown with streaking on the sides. Males have a black-and-white face pattern; in females it is black-and-buff.
They occur throughout Florida in appropriate habitat. In addition to mature upland forests, the best habitats include fallow agricultural fields dominated by such species as ragweed, and the edges of cultivated grain fields.  More about the Northern Bobwhite Quail in Florida.

Now let's fast forward the clock from 1970's to present.  Central Florida, like so many other parts of the country have seen a steady decline in quail populations.  The primary cause is loss of habitat, with other secondary factors being increased number of predators such as feral cats and raccoons which raid nesting sites.

The status and future of quail in Florida is not completely bleak.  Wildlife biologists are working with the agriculture industry to set aside habitat for this wonderful bird, and keep open some areas for managed hunts.  Thanks to industry groups such as the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative who works with the various game commissions, we will hopefully see increased numbers down the road.