January 14, 2011
As a Certified Huntmaster with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) I have the opportunity to work with the Youth Hunting Program and Gene Newman. He was in need of a cook for a youth hunt in Gilcrest County (Trenton) and I was the girl for the job. It had been nearly a year since I had received my Huntmaster Certification and I had yet to work on one of the hunts. I was very eager and even with a super cold weather forecast I wanted to do my part. I arrived before the hunters and got my kitchen area all set up. The Corbins, Ken and Kay, were extraordinary hosts! They moved equipment out of their pole barn so we had a place under cover to set up, they even had electric and water there for us! I had lots of warn hearty meals on the menu and got started cooking so the young hunters and their parents would have full tummies as it was going to be a cold night for tent camping. Soon 3 of the 4 registered attendees arrived and got checked in. After setting up camp it was time to head to the range, each of the kids had to show their hunter safety card showing they passed their training as well as qualify on the range by shooting a paper plate sized target at 100 years. This also made sure all the firearms were properly set up and nothing got jarred out of place on the trip up. All the kids came up from south Florida, this time they were all accompanied by their dads. Everyone shot well and soon had settled in to getting to know each other around the fire.
Gene Newman was able to get a FWC wildlife officer to come and speak to the kids and it was a very educational experience for all of us. He drilled them on many of the rules and regulations and made sure they all knew he was there to help them any time they needed! It is wonderful that the FWC is so willing to work with the youths and show them that these officers are there to protect them and their hunting heritage! Soon all were tucked into bed and sleeping, 4:30 am would come early!
Everyone was up early for a hot breakfast and headed out to where they would be hunting from, I went back to sleep when they left to hunt… At daylight we heard some shots and we were hoping one of the boys was successful. We brought them all back into camp about 10 am and had a great time listening to the stories of all the wild game they had seen and about the ones that got away. The kids saw turkeys, deer and coyotes and that was just for the morning hunt. After getting them lunch they enjoyed a fantastic archery class with local educator Patti Wilders. She took her time with each of them and they all came away shooting much better than when they started. Kay Corbin and I spoke about the history of the ranch in her family while watching the class. This land had been in her family for many generations and had been through droughts, floods hurricanes and tornadoes. Her stories of their life living off the land kept my attention all afternoon!
Soon the boys were heading back out for their afternoon hunt and we were all very excited for them. The fathers were all so patient and you could tell they had great relationships with their sons. That evening one of the boys got their first deer. When they all came in we were so proud of him. The Corbin’s came out in the chilly winter air to see his doe and then he was taught how to field dress his harvest. The youth hunters are educated in all aspects of the hunting experience and it was a blessing to watch each of them mature so much over the weekend. That evening we all sat around the fire and the guides and volunteers told our stories about why we participate in this program. The Corbin’s talked about why they offered up their ranch for the hunt and more on the history of hunting on that land. Mrs. Corbin is quite a hunter in her own right and Ken Corbin spends much of his free time as a professional bass fisherman. They also raise Angus Bulls and Replacement Heifers and are very well known and respected locally. We were introduced to their son, who brought with him a donation form a local business that donated chips and cookies for the group. Everyone around was excited to pass on their hunting heritage to the next generation!
The next morning was the last hunt, and the boys were eager to get out in the blinds! The weather was good and shortly after daybreak we heard shots, from 2 different directions! As the boys were brought back to camp we learned that all 3 were able to have harvested their first deer. Dads were beaming with pride and the boys were all just grinning from ear to ear. They all were taught how to clean their harvest and soon the meat was in the coolers. Everyone broke down camp and exchanged phone numbers and emails. The Corbin’s took photos with all the boys and we all said our goodbyes.
For me it was such an honor to be able to be there with these families and share this special moment with them. Our guides, Chris, Ricky and Darlene walked away really touched by these young men and their fathers. We all feel that it is important to pass on our hunting heritage to the next generation and we all look forward to the next time we have this opportunity!
For more information on the Youth Hunting Program in Florida visit: http://myfwc.com/Safety/Safety_hunt_safety_youth_hunter.htm
For information on Huntmaster Certification Program: http://myfwc.com/NEWSROOM/09/southwest/News_09_SW_Huntmasters.htm
For more photos visit: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=357348&id=123289366981&ref=mf