“I’ve always been interested in learning to hunt, but never found the time due to many other interests,” says Stephen DeFlorio. Luckily, the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge in Sudbury, Massachusetts, has partnered with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, or MassWildlife to offer year-round introductory classes to novice hunters and anglers. Inspired by his son who participates in hunting, DeFlorio thought the basic education course would be a great opportunity to learn tools and techniques from seasoned outdoorsmen and women.
Last summer, in addition to hunter education courses, novice anglers had the opportunity to pick up a rod and reel for the first time. Participants learned how to bait a hook, cast and reel, and how to remove a fish from the hook during the children’s fishing clinic for youth under 18, and through the introduction to fishing course for adults. “Seeing the excitement that fishing brings to new anglers every year is what I enjoy most about teaching these classes,” says Jim Lagacy, MassWildlife Angler Education Program Coordinator.
Later in the year, participants in the winter beginner fly tying course were hoping to enhance their skills and become more independent in learning how to tie their own flies, like husband and wife team Van and Krista Berube who were preparing for a fly-fishing trip to Montana. Fishing since she was a young adult, Krista finds fishing to be a fun and relaxing wildlife-dependent activity, but felt she never had the time to learn new angling skills. With course length ranging from afternoon clinics to multi-day classes, there is opportunity for everyone to learn new angling skills.
These classes also foster an appreciation for the natural world and national wildlife refuges. “The more people that are involved in any outside activity, the more likely they are to support efforts to preserve the space and resources needed to continue their outdoor activities, like fishing,” says Van Berube. MassWildlife’s Jim Lagacy adds, “if you enjoy fishing, you’ll learn to respect the resource…and appreciate the outdoors.”
“Partnering with MassWildlife on programs related to fishing and hunter education makes perfect sense, since they have long-established programs and the dedicated resources to implement them,” says Refuge Manager Tom Eagle. “By offering the Refuge as a location to hold these classes, we can educate participants about the Service, the National Wildlife Refuge System, and the many outdoor recreational opportunities that we offer on the refuges in their neighborhoods.” Hunting and fishing are only two of the refuge’s “Big Six” wildlife dependent recreational opportunities, the other four being wildlife observation, wildlife photography, environmental education, and environmental interpretation.
For more information on the “Big Six” at Assabet River NWR, click here.