Youngsters sit in blinds over looking prime habitat; they scan the skies in hopes of being the first to spot a prairie pintail. Members of a mentored group of young hunters, each youngster hunts with an adult and is the guest of the Youth Outdoor Education Foundation and landowner, Russell Smith, Jr.

Smith is the owner of Hickory Stick Farms. In addition to the hunt, all everyone attends a hunter safety and ethics refresher course, a seminar on how to clean the birds and a game dinner including the day’s harvest.  Other tasty delights, cooked in Dutch ovens, complete the meal.

In southern Illinois, there are a number of service groups.  They aid children in learning hunting and fishing skills and an appreciation of outdoor ethics. One of the more active ones is The Youth Outdoor Education Foundation.

With assistance from Carterville’s John A. Logan College, six people donate their time presenting programs involving hunting and fishing. About six years ago, the group got together to form a 501c3 corporation. Such a group is more commonly referred to as a tax-exempt charity.

Surviving on donations and donated work, they have established a group of volunteers that aid youth and senior citizens with the fall dove hunt on Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. There are no paid employees. In the spring, the volunteers also assist with the youth turkey hunt on the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge located near the campus. Another project includes the Kids Free Fishing Days in June on Crab Orchard Lake.

They are also involved in the Kids Fishing Derby on Arrowhead Lake in Johnston City and coop events with other community organizations.

One special project each year is the youth dove hunt for selected youth from the two hunter safety classes that the group holds in February and August. Six students selected by drawing from each class, get to hunt under adult supervision on Russell Smith’s privately established dove field. In addition, several invited special needs children are included. Mr. Smith allows the youth to hunt his fields prior to anyone else hunting the property. The kids get first crack at the doves.

Every participant must be between 12 and 15 years of age, have completed a hunter safety course and is accompanied by an adult with a Firearms Owners Identification card. Only the youth hunt; the adults are there to supervise. Each hunter is assigned a blind drawn at random. Volunteers construct the blinds the day prior to the hunt.

Following a day in the fields, all participants are involved in the preparation of the birds for grilling. Additionally they get a quick course in outdoor cooking involving game and traditional foods.

InIllinois, all hunters born after Feb. 2, 1980 applying for a general hunting license must have proof of having completed a Hunter Safety Course recognized by the Department of Natural Resources. Each year The Youth Outdoor Education Foundation conducts two of these courses.

The course is a two-day affair where students learn hunting safety and outdoor ethics. The class is a hands-on activity. An adult who must participate in the learning program accompanies each child. A popular addition to the program is a chance to interact with some retriever dogs and their handlers.

Expenses for these programs come from private donations, raffles at a September National Hunting & Fishing Days Celebration, the Spring Fishing and Boating Show sponsored in conjunction with Williamson County Tourism Bureau, and corporate donations from private foundations, individuals and businesses. The organization has no administrative expenses as they maintain no office and have no paid employees. One hundred percent of money raised goes to the children’s activities.

Who are these special people and how can you help your child or one of your acquaintances? The six names are Greg Legan, Tim Gibson, Russell Smith, Virgil Lukens, Dwight Hoffard and Kathy Gibson. To contact the organization one can write to The Youth Outdoor Education Foundation,PO Box 571,Carterville, Illinois 62918. Dwight Hoffard is available during business hours at 618-925-2851.



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  1. Pingback: Online Hunting Community | Blog | SOUTHERN ILLINOIS YOUTH DOVE HUNT

  2. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has established statewide Youth Only open seasons for deer, turkey, squirrel and, with cooperation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, waterfowl. The purpose of these Youth Only open seasons is to provide youth with an enjoyable and memorable outdoor experience and allow parents and mentors to introduce them to safe and responsible hunting. The Youth Only open seasons hunts are scheduled to occur at times when youth are out of school.

  3. Want to introduce a young person to hunting? The perfect place to start is with a STEP OUTSIDE youth dove hunt, sponsored by the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. In cooperation with landowners, local volunteers, businesses and organizations, these dove hunts are scheduled throughout the state.

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