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If we're going to see continued appreciation for outdoor activities, particularly hunting and fishing, we will need those sports to be embraced by our youth.
Bedford's James River Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation is certainly doing its part. Recently, the chapter hosted a JAKES youth event Saturday May 31. JAKES is an outreach program of the NWTF and stands for Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship.
Forty-five aspiring anglers, along with 40 parents and 20 volunteers gathered at a local pond that was stocked by the chapter just for this event. Along with the fishing, drinks and lunch were provided for all and each child received a door prize.
"This was the ninth JAKES event that I have been involved with over the past twelve years," noted local outdoors legend Barry Arrington. "Over those nine events, we have hosted a total of over 1,100 kids."
JAKES is open to boys and girls, 17 years old or younger. "If you like hunting, fishing, camping or just being outside with your family, JAKES is the program for you," according to Arrington.
JAKES was started in Virginia in the late 1980s with a goal of continuing to foster and develop our outdoor sporting heritage and to ensure continuity of outdoors' traditions. The program is noted for its emphasis on safety and ethics while teaching youth the value of our natural resources and how to help conserve them.
"We are always hearing the phrase 'Kids are our future'," noted Arrington. "Never has it been more accurate than when we look at our outdoor heritage and how it will be accepted by generations to come.
Arrington noted that JAKES events can be as simple as the day of fishing, earlier cited. The organization also offers a wide range of activities including some of these favorites: VDGIF's DART hunting simulator and fishing simulator, turkey trapping demonstration, retriever dog demos, mountain men, birds of prey, snake exhibition, taxidermy display, flint knapping, wilderness survival, turkey calling, hunter education, tree and plant identification and treestand placement and safety. Whew!
The day of fishing provided fun all around as anglers of all levels got a good taste of the thrill of the sport and the camaraderie that it engenders.
Arrington pointed to the critical role that the volunteers played in the event's (and JAKES's) success. "Our volunteers get a sense of fulfillment and pride after hosting these events," he said. "For some of these kids, our event may provide first time exposure to a particular activity."
The NWTF has a brand new program, Xtreme JAKES (ages 13-17). This program gives older kids exposure to responsible outdoorsmen and women with years of experience in the fields of fishing, hunting and camping. In essence, it provides opportunities and challenges more in line with the more seasoned teenagers.
The National Wild Turkey Federation has over 2,000 chapters across North America. Each chapter is encouraged to host an annual JAKES event. Kids can become members by being signed up at local NWTF banquets or by going online to www.nwtf.org and clicking on Outreach Programs. Also on this site you can also find a chapter in your area and contact them about their JAKES program.