Something magic happens when you mix kids and the outdoors

Jim Freeman In The Open

May 3, 2014

This past week, Meigs County wildlife officer Chris Gilkey shared with me a letter he had received following last month’s kids’ outdoors day at the Meigs County Ikes. When he read it to me I knew I had to share it because it summed up so perfectly why I and others choose to introduce youngsters to the outdoors, so I paraphrase it here:

“My family and I attended a kid’s hunting/fishing/trapping education day at the Ikes’ Farm in the beginning of April.

“First I would like to say,” Thank you!” My kids have grown up in the country their whole lives. Hunting and fishing are not new concepts but trapping was new for the whole family, including myself. But the actually reason for my e-mail was my best friend’s biracial, 5-year-old son.

“This little boy lives in Columbus. At preschool he got in trouble for pretending to shoot a gun (finger gun), so mom and dad took all play toy guns away to try to eliminate the problem.

“His mother just happened to be on vacation and was coming to see my family the weekend of the Ikes Youth Day. She said that he would like the fishing part but was not sure about anything else, but it would be something new for him.

“Friday night, the night before, he fell down in my yard and literally vibrated because he had dirt on his hands. He instantly wanted hand sanitizer, which I did not have. My first thought was, “Dear Lord we are going to have fun tomorrow.” We were at the Ikes for five minutes and he is making funny faces at his mama, looking at the furs on a table and starts whining to go home. This lasts for about 10 minutes and his mother told him they can sit in the car or he can stop whining and have fun.

“We walked around to all the different events to see what all was going to be going on. The shotguns and bows caught his eye, and that’s when you gathered all the kids and started the event. When you released the children to go check things out Marcus was reluctant to do anything. We went to watch the kids shoot the bows and his interest started to grow. When his mom asked him if he would like to try, his eyes got huge. He looked at her like, “Am I allowed to?” He got in line and made his mom stand with him, holding his hand. When it was his turn he went up to the woman slowly with his mom’s encouragement.

“After she talked to him about the basics, he shot his first arrow, it hit the target. He instantly looked at his mom with the biggest smile on his face. He finished all five arrows and was on top of the world. I asked him if he wanted to shoot a real gun and the day was history. He shot a .22 for the very first time and he shot it a bunch. After that, the vibrating kid that hated to have dirty hands was petting animals from the creek and pond. He even held a newt and a tadpole.

“I got a text from his dad the very next day after they got home. He asked me what I did to him because he was a brand new kid. He said, “My boy is acting like a BOY!” I guess he asked for a bow and some arrows for his birthday.

“So thank you for offering things like this to help educate children; you touch more lives than what you know.”

That’s why we do it. If you spend much time outdoors at all, you know that something magical happens when you introduce a kid to fishing, hunting, camping and the great outdoors in general.

On Sunday (today) Meigs Active Conservationists Teaming Together (ACTT) is presenting its second Family Outdoor Day at Forked Run State Park, located at 63300 State Route 124, Reedsville.

Meigs ACTT is, for lack of a better description, an informal consortium of local sportsmen’s groups and chapters, and other organizations including Chester Bow Hunters, Meigs County Ikes, Pomeroy Gun Club, Friends of Forked Run, Forked Run Sportsman’s Club, Meigs County Fish and Game, Racine Gun Club, Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District, Meigs County Beagle Club, Shade River Coon Hunters, and NWTF Ohio River Valley Chapter.

Last year’s inaugural event was a big hit with hundreds of youngsters and their parents taking advantage of the free fun.

All events are free and activities will include the National Wild Turkey Federation’s BB gun range, National Archery in the Schools Program archery trailer, trapping, air evacuation helicopter, fish identification classes, outdoor archery and other outdoor fun. Lunch will also be provided, courtesy of the ACTT group and other sponsors.

People are also encouraged to bring their fishing pole and gear to take advantage of Ohio’s free fishing day, or borrow a loaner pole there. No fishing license is required for Ohio residents that day.

So make some memories and make a difference in the life of a youngster, pass along the outdoors tradition.

Jim Freeman is wildlife specialist for the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District and a long-time contributor to the Sunday Times-Sentinel. He can be contacted weekdays at 740-992-4282 or at