June 2014
Youth Matters

4-H Extension Corner: Partnerships

Jackie Bushman, Buckmasters founder, left, and the Tallapoosa County Shotgun Team.  

Association with Extension and Buckmasters is providing exciting new opportunities for 4-H youth.

Many teenagers would not want to spend a bitterly cold afternoon with temperatures in the 20s perched in a deer stand. Others would think a day-long hike through woods and swamps was a chore. Those young people need to talk with Micah Oliver and Callie Littlefield. Oliver and Littlefield are just two of the Alabama 4-H club members who have enjoyed the benefits of a growing partnership between the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Buckmasters, the nation’s leading deer hunting association.

ACES and Buckmasters joined forces in 2013 with Extension professionals providing the latest information in wildlife and habitat information via Buckmasters’ magazines. Jackie Bushman, founder of Buckmasters, calls the partnership a great fit.

"The thing that excites me in our partnership is that Alabama Extension brings expertise we have never had on the wildlife biology and habitat side," Bushman said. "It allows us to provide solid educational content to our members and subscribers. We can teach the ‘how to’ of deer hunting, but having Extension teach the biological side of the outdoors is tremendous."

  4-H regional agents share information at the Skins and Skulls Station at the 2013 Buckmasters Expo.

ACES director Dr. Gary Lemme agrees with Bushman about the educational benefits of the partnership, but added the benefits to 4-H members, particularly those involved in Alabama 4-H Shooting Awareness, Fun and Education, are even more exciting.

"Our partnership with Buckmasters has brought exciting new opportunities for our youth, and we are looking forward to how our partnership will grow," Lemme said. "Alabama 4-H S.A.F.E. and our other natural resource programs are some of the most popular offerings we have in 4-H."

The Extension-Buckmasters partnership has benefited not only current 4-H club members but exposed thousands of young people to 4-H as well.

Children and parents visiting the Young Bucks area at the 2013 Buckmasters Expo in Montgomery were treated to 4-H stations with activities on animal tracks, skins and skulls. Alabama 4-H will return to the 2014 Buckmasters Expo August 15-17 at the Montgomery Convention Center with these activities and many more.

Also at the Expo, the 2013 State Champion Archery team from Etowah County got a chance to shoot on Buckmasters Championship Archery Range. The young people, who represented Alabama in the National Shooting Sports event in Nebraska, gave the audience, professional archers and members of the bow hunting industry a surprise with their accuracy on the range, which featured pop-up targets at a variety of distances.

Oliver, a member of the 4-H River Region Rifles Club, had the opportunity to bring in the New Year on a hunt for his first deer with a Buckmasters guide. The temperature was only in the 20s when he and his guide headed out to a hunting blind. Before the afternoon ended, Oliver was telling both Bushman and Lemme about his afternoon and how he had harvested his first deer.

"It was really exciting. I was surprised at how peaceful it was while we watched the field. It was a great opportunity to put the shooting and safety skills I have learned in 4-H into action," Oliver stated.

He said his years in 4-H S.A.F.E. were a key element in his successful first hunt.

"My time in the River Region Rifles Club has taught me so much that I felt really prepared for what I encountered on the hunt," he explained.

When Gamo Air Rifles and Buckmasters hosted the Squirrel Master Classic at Southern Sportsman Lodge in February, each team, composed primarily of hunting television show personalities and outdoor media, boasted an Alabama 4-H club member. Littlefield and five more River Region Rifles members got to hunt squirrels with Bushman, Jacob Landry of Swamp People, Michael Waddell and Travis Turner of Bone Collector, and Shawn Michaels of MRA Hunting.

"All the experienced hunters on my team were so gracious – helping me with my first hunt," Littlefield recalled. "They encouraged me and taught me techniques to improve my stalking and hunting skills. It was amazing to be able to use my 4-H training in a hunt."

Most recently, four members of the Tallapoosa County Champion 4-H Shotgun team joined Bushman and Lemme on a quail hunt.

"It was a great opportunity to quail hunt with these young men," Lemme said. "They were great ambassadors for 4-H and everyone bagged their limit."

Talking with Bushman, it is easy to hear his passion and excitement for the young people involved in Alabama 4-H.

"We are very excited about working with 4-H. 4-H youth and young people like them are our future. Hopefully, their excitement about fishing and hunting and enjoying the outdoors will spread to their friends and other young people," Lemme concluded.

Maggie Lawrence is a communications specialist with Alabama Cooperative Extension System.