(AGFC) - Hunting is a way of life, for many it’s passed down from one generation to the next. But what if you don’t have anyone willing or able to be your mentor? The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is accepting applications from anyone wanting to learn more about hunting and the outdoors to participate in a special hands-on learning experience called the “Beginners Hunt Club.”
Anyone 6 or older is welcome to apply, but special preference will be given to those who have no outdoors experience. Children must have a parent or guardian attend all events with them. All equipment necessary will be provided; however, participants 16 and older will need to purchase an Arkansas hunting license before the two scheduled hunting trips. Applicants just need to visit www.AGFCHuntClub.com and fill out the free application to be considered for this great opportunity to get started in the outdoors.
Clifton Jackson, small game program coordinator for the AGFC, says many adults may feel sheepish about not knowing much about the outdoors, but trends indicate fewer people are exposed to hunting every year.
“I want to teach everyone how to hunt, adults as well as kids,” Jackson said. “If you don’t have a child to participate, don’t hesitate to apply, either. This is about taking that first step and learning something new.”
Participants in the club will be able to take hunting for a “test drive,” as they participate in a dove hunt, squirrel hunt and a wild-game cookout to wrap up their freshman year as a hunter. Jackson says small game hunting lets new hunters enjoy plenty of opportunities to shoot and allow for good conversation when the action slows.
“When you first start out, you want to get into the action quickly,” Jackson said. “Deer hunting can take much more patience, and doesn’t allow for as much teaching or group conversation while in the stand.”
The course begins with a safety training and introduction to firearms at the AGFC’s newly reopened shooting range in Mayflower.
“Learning to shoot accurately enough to kill a squirrel or two is not difficult and will help members of the club build some confidence,” Jackson said. “Dove are a bit trickier to hunt, so we’ll spend some time teaching shotgun skills at the range as well.”
The dove hunt will take place Oct. 14, on a private field that’s been leased by the AGFC for permit dove hunts during September. While most outdoors enthusiasts will have moved on from dove hunting, plenty of birds should still be available for program participants to enjoy a traditional dove hunt that many Arkansans consider the opening to their hunting season.
Two weeks later, members are invited to a special squirrel hunt on some of Arkansas’s best public land. They’ll be introduced to still hunting for squirrels as well as hunting behind trained squirrel dogs, a passion for many small game hunters in The Natural State.
“Squirrel hunting is a passion of mine, and it’s one of the best ways to introduce people into the sport,” Jackson said. “There are plenty of opportunities, and you don’t have to have a lot of money invested in leases or equipment. You can make it more in-depth if you want, but all you really need to shoot a few squirrels is some good boots, a shotgun, and a handful of shells.”
Jackson’s second-favorite part about introducing people to hunting is packed into the club’s last event – creating delicious meals from your wild game. Participants will be treated to a variety of treats, all taken from wild game harvested in Arkansas.
“There’s all this talk about local, organic foods being better for you and better for the environment, and I can’t think of anything more organic and local than wild game,” Jackson said. “I don’t know where that chicken patty was raised, if it was even raised at all. But I know everything that happened to that dove or squirrel from the time I harvested it until the time I placed it on the table for my family to enjoy.”