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Eighteen Federal, state employees are now certified to teach archery at their field stations across the country. - - Unlike Longfellow's arrow (which fell to earth he knew not where) the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is successfully taking aim specifically at bowhunting as a means of getting more people into active outdoor recreation. - - Last week, the National Conservation Training Center's gymnasium was converted into a makeshift archery range as eighteen budding nimrods from across the country burnished their bowhunting skills in a first-ever pilot course on archery as a public outreach tool. The class drew participants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Missouri Department of Conservation, and a National Wildlife Refuge System volunteer program. - - In partnership with the Archery Trade Association and USA Archery, the governing body for the Olympic Archery Committee, NCTC launched the 2-day training session to acquaint students, many of them who staff national wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries, with the basics of archery and its equipment and how to set up safe archery training ranges at their work sites. Five instructors from the two associations and a Lancaster, Pennsylvania, archery shop acquainted students with gear, shooting techniques, safety precautions, and range construction in an intense 2 days of practice. - - The goal, according to course leader Werner Barz of NCTC's Division of Education Outreach, is to capitalize on the growing popularity of archery and to use bowhunting as a means of acquainting visitors, especially young people, with larger concepts of conservation, wildlife, and hunting as a management tool. Not simply a sport hunting program, 22 nature-based activities are woven into the archery curriculum, broadening the appeal of a pastime that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has made a priority tool for its public outreach programs. - - "I'm really excited to see this new emphasis on introducing our community to the sport of archery and, by extension, bowhunting and bowfishing," says class participant Sallie Gentry of the Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge complex in Corvallis, Oregon. "I can easily make the connection from archery to hunting, sportsmanship, ethics, wildlife observation, conservation and management, wildlife behavior, and natural history. Appealing to boys and girls of virtually any ability level or background, this is another great program I can put in my repertoire to get people outside and connected to nature." - - The course is expected to be offered again in spring 2012 and possibly expanded to a 3-day program. - -
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