In many ways, our 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt, could easily be considered one of the most influential outdoor people of all time. He pioneered the path for the development and growth of organizations that focus on the preservation of hunting heritage, expansion of wildlife and habitat conservation and development of outdoor education, as he was always concerned about our future generations.

That legacy is carried on today.

“The Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) and the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) are two of our area’s non-government organizations that not only focus on the current events that are at the forefront of our outdoor society today, but they have an eye to the future by coordinating youth field day events that capture the interest of many of our area’s children,” said Bill Williams, northeast region information and education officer for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

“The Red Rock Chapter of the NWTF and the Mehoopany Creek Chapter jointly offer the JAKES program each year which is an event that is dedicated to educating and involving area youths in different outdoor activities along with teaching conservation and stewardship and ensuring that the children have fun,” said Dale Butler, president of the Red Rock chapter of the NWTF.

Butler explained the JAKES program, or Juniors Acquiring Knowledge Ethics and Sportsmanship, is an annual event that is held locally and divided into two groups for ages 5-12 and 13-17. All take part in different stations of age-related outdoor activities with each station overseen by an instructor.

The attendees go from station to station throughout the day and learn about different outdoor activities, with turkey calling being one of the keynote activities. Butler also explained parents are always invited to spend the day with their children so they can also learn and encourage their children throughout the year.

The North Mountain Branch of the QDMA sponsors a Youth Outdoor Skills Camp each year on the third Saturday in July for children ages 5 through 17. The camp also features stations that the attendees will rotate through during the morning and afternoon sessions.

Activities that are typically covered by specialized station instructors throughout the day are pellet gun shooting, archery, fishing, trapping, a shed-antler hunt, bird-dog handling, fox and coyote calling, bee keeping and much more.

“The goal is to introduce children to the outdoors,” said Chip Sorber, president of the North Mountain Branch. “Last year we had between 70 to 80 children attend our camp and expect about the same turnout this year. It is great way for children who are brought up in hunting families to broaden their skill sets and learn more about the outdoors. It is also offers children who have never been around hunting or the outdoors, but want to become involved, the ability to learn a new skill for the first time. Once a person gets involved, they have the ability to have a skill that will be there for the rest of their life and be passed on to future generations,” Sorber added.

“As a single mom, I was excited to see my son, RJ, develop an interest in hunting and the outdoors around the age of 13. I didn’t have the background to be able to help him learn about the sport,” said Greater Pittston area resident Stacey Cabelly. “I saw the QDMA sponsored Youth Outdoor Skills Camp advertised and signed him up and he has learned so much about hunting and the outdoors since that time. As a parent, I was also able to learn the skills to support my son so we can enjoy the outdoors together.”

Sorber explained that approximately 25% of the children attending the camp are learning about outdoors for the first time and it makes a big difference.

“It is a lot of fun and hunting and being in the outdoors is definitely something I will always want to do,” said RJ Cabelly, now 17. “I’ve learned so much and was even able to get my first buck during the last season.”

Contact the writer: