As soon as he fired his bow, 7-year-old Dashel Smejkal knew it was his best shot.
Armed with four bows, Smejkal had little luck with the first three.
“The last arrow’s supposed to be lucky,” he said after his fourth arrow struck a foam fox in the chest. “I like archery.”
Smejkal, along with more than 120 other children ages 8-18, participated in the Armour Youth Outdoor Expo on Saturday at the Douglas County 4-H Grounds, learning various skills in the day-long event, like fishing, outdoor cooking, trapping, bird calling, archery and how to shoot a shotgun.
In its 11th year, the event focuses solely on giving youth the opportunity to immerse themselves in outdoor activities in the hopes of catering to all likes and skill levels.
“You never know what a certain kid will be interested in, so we try to offer as many different opportunities as possible,” said Larry Wold, owner of A Tail for Tales taxidermy shop in Armour and one of the event’s organizers. “This kind of gets people thinking about different outdoor activities and the kids say, ‘Hey, I want to do this more because I got to try it.’ It lets all of the kids have an opportunity.”
Each child or group of children had to be accompanied by a parent or guardian to participate, Wold said. The intention of the rule, Wold said, is to create a positive experience that families can share.
Often, if a parent couldn’t attend, a child was allowed to jump in with a friend whose parent was present, or the child could bring an older sibling or extended family member so everybody who wanted to participate was included.
“Sometimes, kids go home after attending an event and they talk about it, but they don’t really explain what happened,” Wold said. “This way, somebody else saw it and can understand the event and hopefully see how much they enjoyed it and make time to do it more on their own.”
At the end of the day, each participant was sent home with a prize relating to outdoor activities. Wold said more than $4,000 worth of prizes, ranging from hats to fishing and hunting gear to bikes and more, were donated by nearly 100 sponsors.
For Jeff Scherschligt, who brought his 8-year-old granddaughter and her friend to the expo, what really stood out was the volunteers’ ability to make each station interactive and fun for young children.
“For kids this age, it has to be fun, or it won’t stick,” Scherschligt said. “They’ve done a great job of making everything fun and interactive for them, and it’s been really fun to watch.”
An avid outdoorsman, Scherschligt said it was fun to have an outlet to share his passion with his granddaughter. Because children can’t teach themselves how to safely hunt or fish, or how to correctly bird call and cook, having experienced adults and professionals leading each group was an added bonus, Scherschligt said.
“It’s a good way to get kids training and excited from a young age,” he said. “The reason kids aren’t picking up a lot of these outdoor activities is because they’re not exposed to it. You have to give them an opportunity to see them and become part of it.”