By Susan Hallock
Grahamsville Last Saturday, future hunters and anglers filled the Grahamsville Fairgrounds for the 12th annual Outdoor Youth Expo.
The expo, which is sponsored by the Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs of Sullivan County, The Sullivan County Friends of the NRA, The Fish and Wildlife Coalition for Youth of the Hudson Valley-Catskills and the Sullivan County Democrat, went off without a hitch.
The day’s events included a BB gun shoot, red dot laser gun shooting, archery, trapping, fly tying, fly casting, temporary tattoos, 4-H Cornell Cooperative Extension demonstrations, face painting, demonstrations by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and a petting zoo which included potbellied pigs and llamas.
Children also had the opportunity to catch their own fish in a trout pool. In addition, child identification program representatives were on hand to fingerprint children for their parents’ records.
One of the highlights of the day was a demonstration by the K-9 Unit of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Environmental Conservation Officer (ECO) Scott Steingart, assisted by his K-9 partner “Buck” and fellow ECO Rob Higgins, held the demonstration. Steingart told the youngsters about Buck, a black lab trained in numerous tactics for finding drugs, guns, stolen deer and bear meat and even gun casings.
Steingart noted that Buck has solved numerous cases, including a recent one where Buck found a wad from a shotgun shell from an incident where a turkey was shot illegally. A witness saw the hunter take the turkey illegally and notified the authorities. Soon after Buck found the wad from the shotgun shell, the hunter was caught and charged.
“Buck is trained in many tactical issues,” Steingart said. “He has managed to help find lost hunters and even was able to catch a guy who had loaded guns in his car as well as an illegal deer. He is truly a great dog and he truly earned his position.
“The best thing Buck does is that he teaches children the importance of natural resources and the many ways of prevention in regards to our resources,” Steingart continued. “Buck shows children what can happen if they commit a crime. He really is a great asset to us.”
Kay Danchak, a member of the Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs of Sullivan County and Chairperson of the Youth Outdoor Expo, was very pleased to see all the kids and their parents out and about.
“It is great to see the kids learning about the great outdoors and the importance of safety if they hunt and fish,” she said. “We have numerous lectures here today to also help educate the kids and there is always a question and answer period after each of the seminars so that also lets the kids learn even more.
“Also, each child that comes here today receives a free T-shirt and hat and a goody bag full of things from a frisbee to a hook and lure to even a water bottle,” Danchak added. “At the trout pond, we are having the largest fish caught up there mounted by Rod’s Taxidermy of Callicoon at no charge. So, there are really a lot of great things for the children to participate in here today.”
Christine Sisson and her son Nicholas attended the event and visited many of the exhibits, including the petting zoo.
“This is truly a great event and there are so many educational and hands-on things to do here,” Christine Sisson said. “It really is a great family day out as well as a great learning experience at the same time. Everyone here is very nice and they talk to the kids so they understand and that is important. We will be back next year.”
Randy Sheppard of the Forz or Mor Hunting Club also enjoyed the expo. His his late brother Jerry Sheppard started the Forz or Mor Hunting Club and loved teaching children about the great outdoors.
“This is our first year here and we are teaching kids about the importance of BB gun safety,” Randy Sheppard said. “My brother Jerry was big on teaching children safety and teaching them how to use guns and fishing poles properly and that is what we are here helping with today. It is important to teach safety and still have the kids feel comfortable holding a gun. We are thrilled to be a part of this today and it really is a great event and there are a lot of kids and parents here today.”
Besides teaching the safety of hunting and fishing, the Sullivan County Masonic Lodge helped parents keep their children safe in general. Members of the lodge were on hand to teach the importance of having updated records of children, including photos, fingerprints and even DNA.
“This is a great event here today and we also have to remember to keep our children safe,” said Donald Lare of the Sullivan County Masonic Lodge. “Parents can do that by keeping accurate and updated photos and records of their children in case anything was to happen to their child. Since we began photographing children and providing parents with records, we have done over 2,000 children and that information is so important.”
Rachel Elliott brought her 2- week-old son John to the event to get fingerprinted and was glad she did.
“This is my first time here and my dad said they offer fingerprinting here and that is important in today’s world,” she said. “No matter how old a child is, the parent should have updated records just in case. My dad, John, who is with me today, has taken all his grandchildren to get photographed and that is something he truly believes in.”
When the fingerprinting process was complete, each parent received a color printout with their child’s information as well as a mini CD that also housed the information.
Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs of Sullivan County President Jack Danchak also gave a presentation at the expo. He noted the importance of getting children outside and enjoying nature.
“In today’s world, kids are in front of the television or playing a video game and they are not outside,” Danchak said. “This event today will hopefully get kids involved in the outdoors and let them see how fun it can be fishing or hunting. It is nice to see the kids and their parents here today and that is what the expo is really all about.”