There were many changes at this year’s Sheep Show in Reno, Nevada, including the location of the Youth Wildlife Conservation Experience (YWCE), the youth component of the Sheep Show. With the Ladies Luncheon moving into the past location of the YWCE, a blessing in disguise presented itself. The youth area grew in size as it was moved into the F-Meeting Rooms. With the increased space, learning stations that were not possible in the past could now materialize.
Twenty-six different learning stations were available at the YWCE, thanks to the many different organizations and individual volunteers that helped make it possible. Some of the more popular stations we were unable to have in the past. The 28-foot tall rock-climbing wall never saw a time where the line was less than twenty kids. Ten fly fishing poles constantly whipped in the air as kids used Velcro hooks to catch fish made out of material. Five different archery stations were scattered about, including: hover archery, trap archery, a new tic-tac-toe Velcro archery challenge, and two hover archery ranges. The live raptors and the duck calling are always highlights. This year we doubled the amount of duck calls we ordered and still gave out 1,200 duck calls to the 1,200 youth who were taught how to use them! As always, the pellet gun and BB gun ranges are a draw. However, the nature craft stations really saw in increase in participation. Youth wrapped copper wire around rock arrowheads and then added replica bear claws and beads to make attractive necklaces. Other stations included: Laser Shots, hands-on hides/skulls, making survival bracelets, wildlife conservation, Operation Game Thief, fly tying and more.
The youth area was open for three days, with the first two being a private event for school groups in the area. Four hundred forty-four students from upper elementary through high school were bused in over two days. During their five-hour experience, they heard keynote speakers on bighorn sheep and the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. They also attended three career sessions, hearing about careers associated with wildlife and the outdoors. Kelli Poole, with the Montana State University Student Chapter of WSF, gave the lunchtime keynote presentation. The afternoon was then filled with touring the exhibit hall floor and participating in the learning stations.
Saturday of Sheep Show the YWCE was open to the public and it drew in 956 kids on that day alone. One of the first learning opportunities to be had upon entering the event was a large setup put on by the Wyoming Wild Sheep Foundation. Not only were youth educated about bighorn sheep, but their parents were as well. It was wonderful to see so many families walking down the halls between the exhibit hall and the YWCE. It was comic to watch kids leave, wearing cardboard sheep horns on their heads and blowing duck calls at the same time.
For those youth 12 to 17, the TRACKS Program was an additional activity. This allowed participants to learn from various organizations in the Sheep Show expo and have a card punched as they completed each station. The cards were turned in for some fantastic raffle prizes. The grand prize was donated by the title sponsor, Leica, being an 8x42 Trinovid HD binocular (valued at $950). Other participating organizations, also donated prizes including: Northern Nevada SCI, NV Dept. of Wildlife, Kenetrek Boots, Wilbur D. May Center, Sitka Gear, Nevada Rifle Team, Stone Glacier, and Dewey Wildlife Studio.
A huge thank you goes out to all those who helped run components of this year’s event. As always, the Nevada Department of Wildlife came in strong, easily pushing our number of volunteers to exceed the 100 mark. There is no way this event could be possible without all the highly qualified volunteers and the many different organizations that participated.
This year’s Youth Wildlife Conservation Experience not only creeped ahead of any prior year’s Saturday total, but also had over a 12% increase in total participants over last year, setting a YWCE record of exactly 1,400 youth.