LANDER - The sparkly pink and purple glittery prepared fish bait was absconded by fish and the learning anglers as fast as it was offered. The hooks, swivels, and split shot attached to the brand new donated fishing poles help make the Forever Wild Workshops more than just a workshop, but a community of families learning outdoor “how-to-skills.”
For several decades the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has offered a variety of outdoor and conservation experiences for individuals – kids and adults – but the entire family takes part in the Forever Wild program.
The department started the program in the Lander region this year. “In exchange for the families’ time,positive attitude, and willingness to learn, we’re offering hands-on opportunities focused on teaching fishing and hunting skills to those with little or no experience,” said Tasha Sorensen, hunter and angler recruitment coordinator for the department.
She adds the program would not be possible without the generous donations from Sierra Trading Post, Sinks Canyon Center, and North Platte Walleyes Unlimited.
Families are being offered the opportunity to learn a wide variety of skills such as, where to go fishing, what to bring, casting skills, bait, spinner and fly-fishing techniques, backpacking, recreating safely in bear country, hunter education, firearms skills, shotgun sports, where and how to hunt small and big game, processing and cooking wild game, ice fishing, and much more.
“Really, what makes this program unique is that parent participation is required,” said Sorensen, who coordinates the program. “The same families, until they graduate, will engage in a series of ‘how-to-skills’ based workshops over the next several seasons. The workshops will be tailored to fit the needs of the families, rather than a one-size fits all approach.”
She adds that keeping the same families together, through their passage to becoming lifelong anglers and hunters, allows social interactions and relationship building over time to nurture the family community and increase the likelihood of actually learning the skills, not just being exposed at a one-time event.
“There is no other program like it,” Sorensen said.
The Forever Wild Family Workshops have been chosen, on a state and national level, as a pilot test program for effectiveness. If agency and organization hunter recruitment and retention efforts are to affect the decline in hunting and shooting participation, recruitment and retention program administrators must have the process, planning, and tools in place to evaluate their program’s effectiveness in achieving stated goals and objectives. Additionally, both current and future programs must be designed to evaluate not just outputs – the number of participants and activities completed, etc. – but also outcomes, including increased license sales, greater avidity, etc. that are both meaningful and measurable. By adopting and practicing an “outcomes-based” program strategy to recruitment and retention, state agencies and organizations can begin collecting comparable data that may be compiled and networked on a regional or national scale.
There are 30 participants in the Forever Wild Class of 2012-2013 with 22 of those being children or young adults. With two workshops under their belts, June 30 at Worthen Meadows Reservoir and July 14 at Louis Lake, families have experienced different types of fishing, catching and cleaning fish, an introduction to recreating safely in bear country, spinner making, and canoeing among other activities.
Each participant is surveyed pre- and post-event with questions ranging from, “How many of your friends/peers hunt/fish?” to “How much did this event help you to develop the following skills?” The survey questions have been designed to hone in on identifying a participant’s future intentions or desires to participate in fishing and hunting related activities, as well as identifying any barriers. Tracking mechanisms are in place to measure success over time.
As one parent put it, “I feel like I am on a cruise, everything has been provided; my family and I are outdoors together, having the time of our lives.”
The next Forever Wild Workshop is scheduled for Sept. 29 and will introduce families to firearms safety, shot gunning skills, and archery. The families will also be enrolled in hunter safety certification.
For more information regarding Forever Wild Workshops or to become a sponsor/partner contact Sorensen at Tasha.Sorensen@wyo.gov or (307) 777-4536.
(Contact: Tasha Sorensen (307) 777-4536)