A participant in the Milwaukee youth Learn to Hunt program shot his first pheasant.
Shaping a diverse hunting heritage
New communities join Wisconsin's great outdoors.
Scoot over folks! New local communities want to join in on Wisconsin's outdoor fun.
Milwaukee's Ron Johnson hosts a father/son extended camping weekend in the La Crosse area each September, where he and the other dads teach the boys fishing techniques, water safety, habitat conservation along the Mississippi, and civic responsibilities. Johnson writes in his Father/Son Retreat report of 2010 that, "the sheer ecological beauty of the area, with its high bluffs and soaring eagles, reminds us all of why we choose this particular location for our annual sojourn...leaving the concrete reservation [Milwaukee] behind." Later in the fall, Johnson takes about 15 of these boys and dads hunting. Last season, he joined with the Department of Natural Resources to run a Learn to Hunt pheasant program at the MacKenzie Environmental Education Center in Poynette. One of the boys, Amari, shot his first pheasant ever!
Passing the baton
Sheboygan hunter education instructors Cher Pao Vang and Sam Vang formed the Hmong American Sportsmen Club (HASC) last summer. Members include several generations of family and friends who absolutely love to hunt. HASC joined the Department of Natural Resources for a Learn to Hunt pheasant program last fall, and HASC member Addison Lee recently joined the Sheboygan County Conservation Association's board of directors as its newest member.
"It's really great to see diverse people and organizations working together towards the shared goal of passing on Wisconsin's conservation ethic and outdoor culture to future generations. We're really excited about it because in the end the conservation efforts of tomorrow depend on the youth of today," said Randy Stark, Chief Conservation Warden for the Department of Natural Resources.
Nowhere is the passing of the baton more evident than with the Milwaukee fishing clinics sponsored each summer by E.B. Garner. Garner, long-time Milwaukee resident and retired county worker, has taken kids to local lakes for over a decade to teach them how to fish. Parents, guardians and friends often accompany the youngsters, so that fishing traditions get passed to entire communities.
"Two things in life you'll never forget," Garner is known for saying, "the first person who took you driving...and the first person who took you fishing." Hundreds of kids in Milwaukee can now point to Garner as the first person who took them fishing.
Fishing clinics have also caught on in Madison. Susan Corrado, community parish and wellness center nurse, has worked with Allied Drive neighborhood residents and DNR fisheries and warden staffs for two years to teach casting techniques, review size and bag limits, and discuss ways to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.
During fall in south central Wisconsin, dove hunting has become the big draw. "Many folks who are familiar with dove hunting in Mexico are now finding that they can enjoy dove hunting here as well," says DNR Warden Gary Eddy. Eddy said in all his time of checking licenses he's never come across so many Spanish-speaking hunting groups as he has in the Edgerton and Evansville areas during dove season.
And thanks to DNR Warden Gervis Myles, hundreds of Milwaukee school youth have now grabbed a hold of archery. Myles earned his instructor certification in the National Archery in the Schools Program in 2006. Since then he has introduced over 700 Milwaukee students to the sport. He also has helped 32 other individuals earn their archery instructor credentials. For all his efforts, Myles was honored by the Wisconsin Bowhunters Association as Warden of the Year 2011.
Kou Xiong, the DNR's Hmong liaison stationed in Eau Claire since the early 1990s (currently on medical leave), organized and taught hunter education courses for the Hmong community all over Wisconsin. Xiong and many of the hunter education course participants are veterans of the Vietnam War. They fought alongside Americans in the jungles against the North Vietnamese and Laotian communists. Before the war, many were avid hunters. They now enjoy reconnecting with their hunting passion here in Wisconsin.
In fact, two new Hmong sportsclubs have sprung up in the last four years: the Hmong American Sportsmen Club of Sheboygan in August 2010; and the Hmong Conservation Club of Green Bay, which opened its doors in 2008.
Customer service is key
The Department of Natural Resources offers people even more to entice them into the outdoors. It expanded its customer service call center to include 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. phone and on-line chat services, along with Spanish and Hmong bilingual language representatives. That means more people gain access to where to hunt, fish, camp, boat and much more. The Department of Natural Resources translated hunting regulations and boating regulations into Spanish and Hmong. They are available at Department of Natural Resources and enter "hunting regulations" or "boating regulations" in the search box. Once on the page click "Spanish" or "Hmong."
The Department of Natural Resources began to run safety alerts and public service announcements over news media outlets. Last year, Madison's La Movida radio station translated into Spanish the popular "talking fish ad," which warns about the fish disease VHS.
Outdoors writer Paul Smith of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and freelancer Jerry Davis know firsthand about Wisconsin's newest outdoor participants, and have been writing about them for some time. Smith tagged along for the Milwaukee youth Learn to Hunt pheasant last fall. He quoted Milwaukee's Ron Johnson in his October 4, 2010 Journal Sentinel article that although, "guns and city kids are generally taboo, he thinks guns can be used safely – by all Wisconsinites, regardless of zip code – in the proper environment."
Johnson, who works with the Restorative Justice program at Marquette University on reducing gang violence in Milwaukee, is also an experienced deer hunter, who believes a healthy knowledge and respect for firearms and hunting can transform a boy's life away from crime and violence.
Some new communities still aren't quite sure how to get involved with hunting. Lupita Montoto, account executive and radio host for La Movida, Madison's Spanish radio station, asked her listeners if they dove hunted. She said several responded "no." "They used to hunt doves back home in Mexico or Central America, but not here," she said. She reported her listeners did not know how to go about doing it, didn't know how to get permits, didn't know where to go. DNR Warden Juan Gomez says, "Folks of Hispanic descent fish more than they hunt." He did note one exception—the men who work at a meat packing company in Norwalk. He noticed some of those men tried deer hunting because they saw local Wisconsinites deer hunting. But he said it's hard to get kids from the inner-city to hunt when they don't see it all the time or don't have someone to support them doing it.
But those kids lucky enough to get support through a mentor can begin hunting as young as 10 years old, thanks to Wisconsin's new mentored hunting law. Kids like 10-year-old Pli Vang, who joined the Black River Falls Learn to Hunt deer program last year.
Jerry Davis, freelance outdoors writer who has followed the DNR's Harmony in the Woods initiative for the last three years, wrote in the 2008 Wisconsin Outdoor Journal (no longer published), about the "need for groups of individuals who share the outdoors to better understand and respect each other." Who benefits most from better understanding and mutual respect? Wisconsin!
Wisconsin offers great outdoor adventures, from camping along the "mighty Mississippi," to deer and pheasant hunting, to the relaxation of fishing. Lots of folks already knew this. Now, many others are coming to know it too!
Eileen Hocker is the diversity outreach coordinator for the DNR Bureau of Law Enforcement.