Engaging Youth, Preserving Habitat, Funding Initiatives, Enjoying our Sport: Over the past seven years, Deep Run Hunt Club has hosted and organized a Junior Hound Camp. This program started with a conversation and blossomed into an annual anticipated attraction. In the next few paragraphs we will provide you with our experiences and offer you a template for your club to start a camp.
Campers Will Hyer and CJ Phillips with a Deep Run puppy. Photo courtesy of Catherine Fleischman.
This program has covered a lot of bases for our club and is like many labors of love, no easy undertaking. It is however an empowering, productive and mind opening experience for both the organizers and the participants. Prepare to change the world.
Hound Camp How To 101
In the beginning, there needs to be a need. Our club wanted to increase junior participation in hunting and awareness of conservation issues important to our sport. We also are always interested in raising funds for our kennel operation. We combined the practical and the idealistic. Hounds continue to provide the perfect conduit to meet our need. They nurture a friendship between human and animal and in turn offer an opportunity to experience the responsibility for protecting a habitat.
Start small and grow. Our camp began with six participants and six ponies. Once we opened it to bikes and closed it to horses, we also added younger age groups and our enrollment jumped to 20 plus. At this point we needed more volunteers and chaperones. We encouraged parents to join in. When the whole family is engaged there is added enthusiasm. We also allowed for the older campers to become counselors and mentors to the younger participants. They were given opportunities to lead during activities and have a more hands on role with the chores of the kennels.
Form a committee and delegate. Be sure to accommodate staff schedules and seek their input on every level. The idea is in part to help the staff get their job done and offer an opportunity to instill in youth a sense of gratefulness and accountability for the work involved in caring for hounds. Find expertise within your club and landowner base. Veterinarians, artists, teachers, and farmers have offered great hands on activities or discussions with real world advice for our youth. One important opportunity not to overlook is connecting generations in your camp. Over the years we have offered presentations from senior members and an activity for campers to interview senior members. In both instances this provided a great way to show how fixtures, etiquette, and country have evolved over time.
Seek activities and resources in your country and community.This idea helps make friends and spread good will. We established a relationship with the state Adopt a Highway program and have a very visible clean up effort. We also have reached out to the local 4-H and extension office, the local soil and water authority, county historical society, and the state departments of forestry and wildlife . There are many programs on environmental education that these organizations provide and cater to youth. We have engaged campers in water quality monitoring of streams and ponds and quarry habitat programs focused on mammalogy. We have also reached out to organizations who provide conservation easements.
Connect with the hounds.This is by no means the last step. Include activities that allow campers to take ownership of the hounds. Each day of our camp starts out with exercising the pack. On day one we assign a camper a hound.Over the course of the week they learn the personality of their hound through observation and asking the staff about the hound’s hunting traits. They look up the pedigree using the online MFHA format. They practice showing the hound and they practice drawing and painting the hound through art activities. We provide time for campers to journal at the end of each day to reinforce what they learned about their hound.
The final day of our camp includes a mock hunt where the campers use socks and pennies to become a hound. We also have a name game where three hounds are brought out at a time for campers to identify. We invite families to picnic and a hound show so campers can share what they have learned. We also include a time for thank-you notes to speakers and volunteers as one of the most important ways hunts survive is to be grateful for the land and traditions that are the heart of our sport.
We hope this information is helpful to your club and our sport.