Angler and hunter recruitment and retention programs are alive and well in the Northland. Thanks, in part, to a first-year program in Minnesota that goes by that exact name. And a Wisconsin event that, while its name doesn’t begin to tell its amazing story, could be the poster child for such efforts across the Northland.
The Musky Hunt isn’t really a hunt at all — although musky-chasers might appreciate that analogy. And even catching muskies isn’t at the heart of this feel-good event.
“We always have education wrapped around it (the fishing aspect),” Kevin Bushnick, founder of the Musky Hunt, said of the annual youth fishing outing each September on Moose Lake in northwestern Wisconsin. “We go way out of our way to teach kids these things. Catching fish is a big part of it, and it’s exciting, but it’s almost a side compartment.”
In a piece in the fall issue of Northland Outdoors magazine (subscribe for free for future magazines at www.northlandoutdoors.com/subscribe/), Bushnick shares the Musky Hunt story and how it grew out of a somewhat similar fishing gathering he experienced years before.
“After the event, we went around and asked kids what it (the event) meant to them, and they started talking about how cool it was to fish with their dads,” said Bushnick, also founder and chairman of the Youth Conservation Alliance, which sponsors the Musky Hunt. “They didn’t really talk about the fishing.”
According to the YCA, the organization is “a charity purpose built to teach youth environmental sciences through fishing programs.”
Very much along the lines of programs and projects identified in Minnesota’s Angler and Hunter Recruitment and Retention Grant Program.
On Monday, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced its first round of grant winners, with 12 of 35 applicants earning funding. According to the DNR, eligible projects should have a purpose that supports angler or hunter recruitment and retention, and types of activities could include fishing and hunting educational programs, clinics, workshops and camps, and funding for fishing and hunting equipment and transportation.
Grants range from $5,000 to $50,000 and require a dollar-for-dollar match of the state grant award amount or a match of the value of labor, materials or services of the state award.
The DNR said an additional $100,000-plus will be distributed in a second round of grants, and the deadline to apply is Oct. 13. (For more information, go to www.mndnr.gov/angler_hunter_grants.html.)
Grant-size wise, the biggest first-round winners were the Three Rivers Park District in Plymouth and its Grow and Foster Anglers and Hunters program, $41,670; Minnesota Trout Unlimited in Chanhassen and its Connecting Students and Families to Fishing and the Outdoors, $27,650; Douglas County Pheasants Forever out of Alexandria and its Youth Outdoor Activity Day, $24,220; and the Minnesota Waterfowl Association in Hopkins and its Advanced Woodie Camp, $20,780 (a complete list of first-round grant winners also may be found at www.mndnr.gov/angler_hunter_grants.html).
“What these groups shared was a commitment to getting people outdoors for these pursuits,” said Jeff Ledermann, DNR angler recruitment and retention supervisor.
“We give priority to programs that are new and innovative and have an ongoing impact.”
Among others, the Connecting Students and Families to Fishing and the Outdoors program certainly has that feel.
A Musky Hunt feel.
“What they like best is spending time with dad,” Bill Nuyttens, director/program marketing for the YCA, said in that Musky Hunt story in the fall magazine.
“This makes time to share with mom and dad.”