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Oklahoma Department of Wildlife making its mark in public schools

Many across the state are teaching hunter education, bowhunting and now fishing
by Ed Godfrey Modified: August 11, 2012 at 10:48 pm •  Published: August 11, 2012

photo - Kids fish off the pier at Lake Overholser in Oklahoma City earlier this summer. Last year the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation piloted a
Kids fish off the pier at Lake Overholser in Oklahoma City earlier this summer. Last year the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation piloted a "Fishing in the Schools" program in 40 public schools in the state. The agency is adding 100 more schools this year. It's similar to the "Archery in the Schools" program that the Wildlife Department started in state schools eight years ago. Photo By Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman

The Wildlife Department also is planning a pilot program for the shotgun sports separate from the FFA shooting programs that already exist.

It's not just rural Oklahoma schools using the Wildlife Department's curriculum. Berg said 40 percent of the schools are from urban areas. The courses are taught in elementary, middle and high school by teachers from various fields.

“It just depends on the school system,” Berg said. “Most of the time they are taught by physical education or FFA instructors.”

Henry was math instructor when he first introduced his students to archery.

“The kids loved it so I just kept doing it,” he said.

His wife, Cindy, teaches the same courses at Harding Charter Academy in Oklahoma City.

For the Wildlife Department, exposing kids to hunting and fishing is an attempt to ensure future generations of sportsmen.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation doesn't receive a financial appropriation from the state of Oklahoma like other state agencies. The Wildlife Department is funded almost entirely by sale of hunting and fishing licenses.

“Hunters and fishermen pay for wildlife management in Oklahoma,” Berg said.

This year also marks the 75th anniversary of the federal Wildlife Restoration Program, which provides an excise tax on fishing tackle, firearms and ammunition, archery and motorboat fuels. The money from that tax is used to fund wildlife conservation in every state.

“If we don't have hunters and fishermen in the future, we may not have wildlife in the future,” Berg said.

Students at Taft are not thinking about the future. The school year is just a few days old and Henry's students already want to know when they are going to get to pull the string on a bow.

“The things we are teaching them are things they can do for the rest of their lives,” Henry said.

by Ed Godfrey
Copy Editor, Outdoors Editor, Rodeo, River Sports Reporter
Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more...
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