Do you know how to start a fire using a soda can and a bar of chocolate? How about using frayed shoelaces to catch gar, or dog fennel to repel mosquitoes? These are just a few of the survival tips that were shared with a group of budding Greenwing members on Oct. 6 at a day-long program organized by the Manatee Chapter of Ducks Unlimited.
The event was free of charge to attendees, who ranged in age from 7 to 11, thanks to the generosity of local sponsors Mosaic and Lynne Horne, co-owner of Anna Maria Oyster Bar. Ducks Unlimited member Susan Tambone hosted the event at her east Manatee County property, also home to Prospect Riding Center, a Therapeutic and Recreational Riding Center.
The day’s focus was survival and outdoor safety, with an emphasis on what children should do if they ever become lost in the woods.
“Kids need to understand the fundamentals of outdoor safety and be able to handle the different situations that can possibly arise when they’re out in the woods before they can become wetlands conservationists,” said Richie Evers, the event’s organizer.
The day was organized into two sessions: morning and afternoon. Upon arriving at 9 a.m., participants signed in and received a signature Ducks Unlimited backpack, their choice of a Ducks Unlimited pocket knife or Leatherman tool, a colorful waterfowl poster and a subscription to either Puddler or Ducks Unlimited magazine.
Groups of three to four children then rotated between five training stations where they gained insight into wilderness first aid from an actual EMT; mastered survival strategies, such as how to construct a lean-to for shelter; learned the significance of the universal SOS signal and how to recreate the signal using logs which would be visible to emergency search helicopters; practiced knot-tying techniques; and compared various methods of building fires. As session one came to a close, participants put their newly learned skills to the test as they ventured into the surrounding woods for a brief hike, then returned for hot dogs and an opportunity to feed the ducks, chickens and horses at the center.
Session two featured a search dog demonstration by Fish and Wildlife Officer Jeff Babauta and “Mack.” The kids were mesmerized as they watched Mack carefully track scents as instructed, and they learned the importance of staying in one location when lost. Additional hands-on instruction was given in archery, casting, and BB gun shooting.
At the end of the day, the hardworking participants gathered in the barn to receive their official Greenwing certificates. The group members were congratulated on their accomplishments, and invited to gather again in the spring with Ducks Unlimited members to build duck nesting boxes.
The young participants were tired and dirty, but at the end of the day the smiles were proof that a good time was had by all, and more importantly, valuable survival lessons were learned.
by Pauline Barnes
Join us; 35th Annual Manatee Ducks Unlimited Dinner, Thursday Nov. 1 at the Manatee Fairgrounds, Palmetto.