Agents of Change – Summer 2012
Story and Photos by Adam Einck
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement Division agents have always known the significance of public outreach and getting children involved in the outdoors. These activities are even more important today as children are staying indoors with all of their electronic distractions.
The Enforcement Division is trying to do their part by teaching the free boating safety classes, going to schools to teach students about conservation and the importance of being active in the outdoors in events such as boat shows, National Hunting and Fishing Day and lately, participating with LDWF at their Summer Day Camps.
During the summer of 2011, LDWF initiated a Summer Day Camp for children ages 12 to 16 years old at the Waddill Outdoor Education Center in Baton Rouge. After the successful inaugural summer camp, LDWF decided to hold additional camps in June and July 2012.
The camp is open for five days, completely free of charge and allows participants to receive their official boater and hunter education certifications. The camp also offers a fish identification class, fishing and canoeing in the Waddill Outdoor Education Center ponds, skeet shooting and other outdoor related classes and activities.
The Enforcement Division participated during the camp by teaching the boater’s education portion, supervising the canoe course and providing an agent to answer questions the children might have. Agents also assisted with other camp activities.
“We are glad to help during these camps as we feel it is important to have an agent in uniform to be as visible as possible to the public and especially kids,” said LDWF Enforcement Division Chief Col. Winton Vidrine. “For a lot of these kids they have never held a shotgun, been in a boat or caught a fish. Teaching them the importance of safely enjoying the outdoors will stick with them forever.”
Agents taught the boating education course for the campers. The campers learned about choosing a boat, boat classification, hulls, motors, and legal equipment requirements. The course also covered many of the navigation rules and charts, trailering, sailboats, canoeing, personal watercraft and more. This course is mandatory for anyone born after Jan. 1, 1984, who will operate a boat with a motor larger than 10 horsepower, which gave many of the children a head start for future boating activities.
During the canoe instructions, agents taught the camp participants the significance of wearing a personal flotation device, the basic rules of navigation on the water, and how to steer and propel a canoe.
“We hope that these kids have so much fun during the week that they will bug their parents to take them fishing, hunting, hiking or boating when they are finished,” said Vidrine. “The more kids that we can get to become future hunters and anglers, nature lovers and out of the house will only benefit the future of conservation of species in Louisiana. Also, teaching kids how to enjoy the outdoors will lead to a domino effect in that they will probably teach their future family about the activities they learned at this camp.”
Other topics taught during the camp include hunter education and fishing techniques. LDWF hunter education staff taught the mandatory hunter education course for the students, which includes instructions on ethics and responsibility, wildlife management, firearms and ammunition, safety in the field, wildlife identification and wildlife conservation. The major objectives of the hunter education program is to reduce the number of hunting accidents, improve the image of hunting through ethical and responsible conduct and promote the shooting sports. The LDWF fisheries outreach staff conducted fishing demonstrations including how to set up a rod and reel, casting demonstrations and fish identifications.
Support for the summer camp came from several areas. The Louisiana Wildlife Agents Association and the Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana each donated two Lifetime Hunting and Fishing Licenses. The licenses were given to the four campers who finished with the highest classroom and field skill scores.
Other sponsors included the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation who provided a daily lunch free of charge, Cabela’s, from Gonzales, LA, donated rod and reel combo sets for each child to use during the camp and take home, and Academy Sports and Outdoors gave each child squirt bottles for water and sports drinks.
The main goal of these camps was to introduce and teach children about the outdoors. LDWF chose the children for each camp based on the child’s lack of experience with fishing, boating and hunting. During the June camp, 23 children started and finished the camp completing their boater and hunter education certification.
“These camps take the whole department in order to give these kids a week they will never forget,” said Vidrine. “I’m glad that our agents can play an integral role as we know the significance of getting children involved in the outdoors.”