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Youth academy teaches hunting, outdoor skills

March 03, 2013 at 08:27 PM

The Associated Press

OWENSBURG, Ind. (AP) — Paul Anderson and Steve Calvert were hunting for ducks in Morgantown when they brainstormed the idea of starting a program that teaches kids more than just team sports and academics.

Six years later, Anderson and Calvert lead the staff at Backwater Legacies, with Anderson as chairman and Calvert as the vice chairman and firearms director. The nonprofit, which started as an annual hunting clinic six years ago on a friend's 100-acre property in Greene County, now offers a four-year academy that runs once a week each summer at the Craig Family Camp in Owensburg. The academy teaches youth a variety of outdoor and hunting skills and techniques, and outgrew the facilities it used for several years at the Presnell Plantation near Morgantown.

"We kind of dreamt of this hands-on education that would go further than just the main three types of hunting that we see today, which is deer hunting, turkey hunting and even waterfowl hunting," said Anderson, whose day job is with Cook Polymer Technology in Bloomington.

Each summer, Backwater's eight staff members host a one-week Youth Hunter's Academy of beginning and advanced classes for sporting clays, archery, coon hunting, bow fishing, outdoor survival skills and more, The Herald-Times reported ( ).

The "cadets" — who must pass written exams to earn badges in specific hunting and shooting categories — receive an Indiana Hunter Education certificate, which is required in Indiana for anyone who wants to hunt and is born after 1986. If cadets return for a fifth year, they can work as counselors-in-training for the summer.

Backwater still has its annual, one-day clinic, called the Youth Hunting Clinic, that also takes place at the Craig Family Camp, and which has been a popular feature since the group's inception. At the hunting clinics, professionals give kids and family a chance to learn a variety of hunting sports, and last for one day.

Backwater's slogan, according to its website, "contains three major goals: to inspire, encourage, achieve," which is a leadership message given to all cadets through their training courses.

"We also wanted to expand not just on general knowledge of hunting, but also teach the kids leadership skills, to give them inspiration," Anderson said. "We wanted the organization to have a greater purpose, and that's where the scholarships came into play."

The one-week stay at the academy costs $350, but Anderson said scholarships are available depending on financial need. The newest scholarship, the $1,000 Bradyn Fox Memorial Scholarship, will be rewarded to a qualifying cadet for the first time at Backwater's Second Annual Sportsman's Benefit Dinner this March.

Bradyn, who was 8 years old, died of an all-terrain vehicle accident in fall 2011, just before he was going to attend a Backwater hunting clinic. Anderson said he told Bradyn's mother that the organization would take steps to raise ATV awareness and began offering an ATV safety course soon afterward.

With the subject of guns being controversial right now, Calvert, who's a certified range safety officer with the National Rifle Association, said it's important to teach kids how to safely use guns.

"It's kind of a thankless job," he said. "It's like teaching someone how to swim. If they swim (without knowing how) and nobody saves their lives, they drown. So we feel it's very important to educate, especially kids."

Five staff members are certified Indiana Hunter Education instructors. Although a Hunter Education certificate is earned through an online exam with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Backwater Legacies has incorporated a shooting component into its course, which they offer in a variety of locations as well as at the Academy.

Conservation officer Angela Goldman said it was important for some of the Backwater staff to be certified instructors. She said it's not uncommon for certified Indiana Hunter Education instructors to work at archery or bow shops.

"Backwater Legacies is a whole step above that," she said. "They're teaching classes all over this area."

Anderson said kids from as far away as Iowa have attended the academy, and nearly one-third of the students are female. With days starting around 5:30 a.m., much of the kids' time at the academy is spent outdoors doing simulated hunts one-on-one with instructors or learning other forms of shooting in the field. Anderson said he expects there to be about 100 kids in the academy next year.

"It's all driven to make them better, to encourage them to reach their goals, to hopefully make them a better part of society and their communities as they grow older," he said.


Information from: The Herald Times,

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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