By Stephanie Brown
.. November 14 in Michigan for many hunters is often compared to Christmas Eve for a child. The excitement and anticipation of heading to deer camp with friends and family, the pending deer stories, buck poles, and the fellowship of hunters creates a buzz in the air. In addition, many local schools close for the opening day of Michigan’s much anticipated whitetail deer gun season. For the past three years, 4th grade teachers, David Gould and Jason Koch who teach at Clare Primary School, celebrated Deer Day Eve with a special Deer Camp event for the entire fourth grade student body. Over 105 students engaged in a day of camaraderie, food, guest speakers, and of course, hunters orange or camo attire.
According to Koch, the event was designed for the students to celebrate the stewardship and rich tradition thousands of hunters share. The morning started with a delicious hunting camp breakfast prepared by an army of parent volunteers. The menu included pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage, juice, and delicious cookies. The entire 4th grade classes communed in the cafeteria to enjoy a big breakfast with friends. The morning continued with special guest, Rep. Joel Johnson, followed by Carolyn Bay who discussed the stewardship and traditions at W.C. Cornwall Ranch. The day was much more than just dressing as a hunter, it was also about education. Jeff Goyt, retired Clare County Sheriff, presented information to the students about early hunting traditions that took place in Clare County. The morning sessions concluded with Tom Dillard, professional bagpiper, who played for the students and played an amazing song in recognition of the camaraderie of our tradition.
Additional presentations were given by Bill and Stephanie Brown regarding deer aging and hunter’s safety. Through a series of deer photography, body aging from six months old to 4 1/2 year old whitetails, students could see the size differences in deer. Brown’s presentation enabled the kids to see and touch real jaw bones while Brown explained how to age deer by the teeth. Brown asked “How many of you have deer hunted?” Nearly half of the students raised their hand, while half of those hands remained raised when Brown asked, “how many of them had already shot a deer.” The Hunting Heritage Bill instituted two years ago surely is an advantage for our youth allowing them to experience conservation at a young age. The afternoon events concluded with a special presentation by Katie Keen, Biologist, of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources division. She provided students with more information regarding regulations and being a steward to Michigan’s wildlife heritage. The day concluded with a presentation by SGT. Jon Wood, Conservation Officer, for the MI DNR. Beyond talking ethically sportmanship and laws, he also spent time sharing a fabulous fur collection with the children.
From seeing the excitement in the kid’s eyes as they devoured a wonderful breakfast to seeing a gamet of local whitetail deer portraits, the event was much more than just a celebration of deer season, it was an event that educated and helped the kids to understand stewardship and the common bond that many of us share as we anticipate Michigan’s hunting seasons. Koch, Gould, and the additional 4th grade teachers need to be commended for allowing the students to celebrate one of Michigan’s greatest assets‑its wildlife and natural beauty‑while creating an educational setting embracing our local culture and traditions. Their initiative in this one day event helps to develop the future of our hunting heritage. The kids are the future of hunting and with continued positive influences; these students will continue and carry on our rich tradition.