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St. Lawrence County’s sportsmen’s clubs see an increase in youth participation

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Storm McDonald has been helping to train other people’s hunting dogs at St. Lawrence Valley Sportsman’s Club since June. And now he wants to train a dog of his own.

“It’s something I have always wanted to do,” the 15-year-old Lisbon resident said Tuesday. “Every day that [the club] is open, I try to go. It gets you away from the normal stuff.”

Storm is just one of many St. Lawrence County youth who have begun participating in sportsmen’s clubs this year in what club members see as a growing trend of youth participation in hunting and fishing.

Storm said a big draw is that he is treated like an adult by other members.

“They let [younger members] vote, and help make decisions,” Storm said.

The St. Lawrence

Sportsman’s Club President Kenneth J. Tynon said making kids members of the club not only ensures the club’s longevity, but also makes sure the sport is passed on.

“I make a point to talk to [the kids] and keep them interested and on the right track with training,” Mr. Tynon said. “The adults accept them and try hard to teach them the right ways.”

Youth participation in waterfowl hunting has almost doubled in the last several years, Mr. Tynon said.

“There is a lot more action, and the kids are never bored,” Mr. Tynon said. “They like to learn the training the right way and they want to get the most out of their dog. They are just glad to be part of the club.”

The St. Lawrence Sportsman’s Club regularly hosts fall pheasant hunts for youth, women and soldiers. Over 40 kids participated in this year’s hunt. Sometimes, Mr. Tynon said, there is a waiting list.

Meetings for the sportsman’s club are held at 7 p.m. on the first Monday of the month, and new members are always welcome to attend, Mr. Tynon said.

St. Lawrence County Trappers Association President Ethan J. Reynolds said he has also seen a rise in youth participation.

“I’d say in the last several years we’ve jumped a third in membership than we had before,” he said.

Currently, about 65 youth from across the county participate in the Trappers Association.

“Usually we are catching them between the ages of 16 and 19,” Mr. Reynolds said.

Those numbers are also up across the state, he said.

“On a much larger scale, the state Trapper’s Association says they have increased by about 50 percent, and those were largely youth ages 12 to 20,” he said. “Of 80 new members, about 40 were youth.”

The group annually sponsors three or four children ages 11 to 17 to attend state Department of Environmental Conservation summer camps.

The camps provide kids the opportunity to explore the landscape, learn about natural resources, wildlife and environmental issues, and meet new people, Mr. Reynolds said.

“It’s something we have done for 20 to 25 years,” Mr. Reynolds said. “We probably send the most kids in the area.”

Children can sign up for camp until Jan. 7, he said.

Mr. Reynolds believes the club has been able to increase its membership through an online presence and attendance at sportsmen’s expos in Massena and Ogdensburg.

“I believe parents don’t know that these activities are here for kids,” Mr. Reynolds said. “I think kids are willing to go out and try something different. That’s why we have made a push to advertise on the radio and we’ve started sending out media packets to every guidance counselor about what we offer during winter break.”

Encouraging more kids to discover the “treasurers of the outdoors” is part of the FishCap campaign, campaign coordinator Donald R. Meissner said. This past year, FishCap partnered with Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County and DEC to hold a three-week program to teach children about local rivers and streams – from fish biology and invasive species to fishing methods.

“The program was so successful that Cornell has offered us a grant to expand the program to more schools next year,” Mr. Meissner said.

FishCap is also looking to expand on that idea by hosting an “adventure school” this summer.

“It would allow kids to orient themselves with the outdoor with activities from camping and hiking and learning about archery. It’s all about finding ways to get kids to enjoy and explore outdoors all 12 months of the year.”

The program would be facilitated by graduate students or wounded warriors and veterans, Mr. Meissner said.

“Kids are fascinated by the unknown possibilities of nature,” he said. “And we have the resources here that are unlike any other in the country.”

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