Program offers the chance to learn many different outdoors activities

Josh Cleveland
District Park Supervisor, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks

South Dakota has a rich tradition laden with the outdoors. A good portion of the population of baby boomers and generation X grew up in the outdoors – hunting, fishing, camping, and other outdoor activities of the likes. However, some of these traditions aren’t being passed on to the next generations.

It’s not easy for someone who isn’t raised with being taught the outdoors to learn it on their own. For example, I wasn’t raised turkey hunting. I don’t know how to scout for turkeys, I don’t know how to set up to hunt them, and I have no idea how to call them. I’ve tried it once with no real success. Because I knew I wasn’t doing it right and didn’t get one like they do on the TV shows all the time, I haven’t tried it again. I know there are many South Dakotans out there right now in this same boat. They weren’t taken duck hunting, they weren’t taken fishing, they weren’t introduced to our pastimes. And it shows! Every year, waterfowl and fishing license sales are dropping. Less people hunting and fishing and camping means less dollars created to protect those resources and the traditions that we love.

We are hosting a program this summer at Pelican Lake Recreation Area just outside of Watertown to try and help fix this problem. It is called Becoming an Outdoor Family. This program was started a few years ago and bounces around to a different state park every year. We are very excited to be hosting it this year. The gist of this program is exactly what it sounds like — we aim to help families learn to enjoy our outdoor traditions together. We will be hosting Becoming an Outdoor Family July 15-17, 2020. Families who sign up will be camping in our park and will be invited to a few different open sessions that include sunrise yoga and a potluck dinner with Dutch oven cooking dessert demonstrations.

Everyone attending will get a t-shirt and can sign up for four of our 10 education sessions. This isn’t just about hunting and fishing; we have several different classes to introduce people to outdoor activities. The classes we are offering this year are: Archery and Air Guns, Birding and Birdhouse Building, Deer Hunting 101, Fishing 101, Geocaching and Orienteering, Making Tracks Wildlife Hike, Outdoor Photography, Paddling, Plant and Tree ID, Trapping 101, and Waterfowl Hunting 101. To cover cost of expenses and camp sites, the cost is $90 per family. Those who sign up have the option to arrive sooner and stay through the weekend if they choose and can do so while registering for the additional cost of that campsite. More information on the program and how to register can be found online at gfp.sd.gov/outdoors-family. Registration is limited, so check it out before the program is full!

I would encourage you all to do two things. First, take a kid with you next time you go hunting or fishing.

Teach them how to hunt. Teach them how to have success. Teach them that it’s about being outside with friends and family and watching a sunrise and making memories.

Those are the real trophies, not bagging a big buck or gobbler or limit of ducks. Teach them the ethics of the sport.

And second, consider signing up for Becoming an Outdoor Family this summer.