Over 240 kids learned about great outdoors at free event

They came from all over and went home tired, happy, and carrying all kinds of goodies that are of use in the great outdoors.

The seventh annual Youth Outdoors Day was on Sept. 13. The rain held off and kids from Listowel to Orangeville were on hand to learn about falconry, retrievers, pointers, black powder and bird banding through demonstrations, and then could spend the afternoon learning archery, hunting, bird house building, butterfly banding from experts who volunteered their time.

And there were some major draw prizes with free entry. MNR Conservation Officer Joel Pegg, who covers Wellington County and Waterloo Region, said the grand prizes, 22 of them, in­cluded  a Blackberry, a cross­bow, com­pound bows, a tree stand, out­door wear, gift certificates for archery lessons, fly tying lessons, and a guided canoe trip on the Grand River.

Kids got to see a falcon dive and hit a lure – explosively. They had the chance to shoot a gun or a bow, or build a birdhouse or help band and set free a butterfly or a bird, or both.

Bird bander David Lamble had a number of captured birds for youths aged 11 to 17 to identify. He taught them how to prepare a band, told them what it helps humans do when birds are banded, and then taught them the proper way to hold a wild bird to calm it down before its release into the wild.

Lamble, who banded nearly 7,000 birds in the past year and 100,000 since 1981, explained how it takes eight years of training to band birds.

Students also saw a dem­onstration of the Ministry of Natural Resources Canine squad, with a dog so well train­ed it can find a spend rifle shell in long grass, or hang onto a perpetrator who threatens the dog’s Conservation Officer boss.

Youths had the chance to not only learn about retriever dogs, but why they are taught the way they are. Experts ex­plained that conservation is one reason dogs are trained to not lose any ducks or other fowl that has been killed or injured. The dogs appeared to love jump­ing into a pond to retrieve decoys, some hidden, that were in the area or across the pond.

Youths also had a chance to see pointers demonstrate their unique hunting and flushing abilities.

An MNR display of con­fiscated equipment was on site to encourage lawful outdoor use, including this year, a fish grabber that looks like a rake and was incredibly powerful.

John Power said he and the youths let go over 150 butter­flies. He noted that Monarchs “always have cycles” and there is no fear of them disappearing.

He explained in an inter­view that while they travel as far as Mexico in the fall for their winter home, they do not so much fly as travel on the wind. He noted that a couple of years ago, a butterfly banded in Ohio was found the next day in Oakville, having been blown back up north by Hurricane Katrina, and having to re-travel the 500 miles it lost in a single night.

Pegg acted as the host for the day, and said he was pleased with the results. The place was packed with kids despite the iffy weather. He noted that the event attracts all kinds of youths. This year that included a group of Mennonite girls as well as three busloads of Girl Guides.

Pegg saluted all the spon­sors who make the event possible. They donated thousands of dollars of prizes, and everything but one raffle for adults was free to all the youths. The dozens of cor­porate donors provided draw priz­es, a loot bag for each child, free water bottles, and free draws, not to mention a free lunch of 800 hamburgers and plenty of juice boxes.

The event is completely free and this is the seventh year it has run.

While there is no cost, children under 16 must be accompanied throughout the day by an adult (16 or older) who agrees in writing to take responsibility for their safety and welfare. Adults, too, enjoyed the free lunch.

“It’s been an amazing day,” Pegg concluded.