Oklahoma Wildlife Youth Camp

Youth interested in attending the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s annual Wildlife Youth Camp still have time to apply, and those that attend may just discover a future career.

Held at Oklahom University’s Biological Station near Lake Texoma, the camp is open to Oklahoma youths ages 14 to 16 and is designed to increase awareness of protecting and managing Oklahoma’s wildlife resources, but participants over the years have even found the camp beneficial in helping choose a wildlife-related career for their future. Prime examples include Spencer Grace and Robin Pugh, both game wardens for the Wildlife Department who also attended the very first Department Youth Camp as teenagers 10 years ago.

The free camp is slated this year for June 2-6 and offers teenagers a unique glimpse of what it is like to be a wildlife professional, but perhaps the most appealing part is the experience they get in a number of activities ranging from rifle and shotgun training to wildlife identification, wildlife law enforcement, wildlife and fisheries biology, wildlife management, self-defense, ropes and rappelling. Just ask Grace or Pugh, and they will tell you the same thing. In fact, when asked what their favorite part of the camp was 10 years ago, they both said it was the hands-on learning opportunities and time spent with game wardens. Not only that, but attending the camp helped confirm their already growing interest in wildlife-related professions.

“Getting hands-on experience in the field helped solidify my desire for a career in law enforcement,” Pugh said.

Pugh, who currently is stationed in Tillman County, had already spent the majority of her life around the outdoors and was leaning toward pursuing a career as a game warden, but getting to work with professionals in resolving various staged outdoor scenarios and being encouraged to discuss how situations should be handled in a day in the life of a game warden helped her choose a career path.

Grace, now stationed in Osage County, agrees, saying the Youth Camp “creates a desire to want to learn more” about various careers the Wildlife Department offers, and if nothing else, it’s just plain fun to participate in all the activities available at the camp, whether it is shooting or another outdoor activity. “What kid would not enjoy that?” Grace asked.

Pugh, who learned about the Youth Camp when her parents read about it in the newspaper, said the weeklong event has a way of opening the eyes of youth to how diverse the game warden position can be, and it also lets participants see just how many other job options there are in wildlife fields. She said if a youth is at all interested in wildlife, the camp is for them.

“It’s free, and you are going to find out exactly what’s out there,” she said. “It’s a fun week out of the summer.”

The camp will be limited to 35 youth. Applicants should be interested in fish and wildlife management or law enforcement and must submit a 75-word essay explaining why they want to attend the camp, why they believe they should be selected and what they expect to learn while attending. They must also submit a letter of recommendation from a person of their choice other than a family member and a photograph of a recent outdoor-related event or activity.

Applications will be accepted until April 18, and applicants must turn 14 prior to June 2, 2008. Tell a youth they can get an application by logging on to the Wildlife Department’s Website.

They simply need to print off the application, fill it out and mail it in with the essay, letter of recommendation and photograph to: Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Law Enforcement Division Youth Camp, P.O. Box 53465 Oklahoma City, OK 73152.

For Pugh and Grace, the Youth Camp was fun, but it helped them gain a better understanding of conservation and a clearer vision for their futures. And for Pugh, the experience has come full circle, as she is signed up to help with this year’s youth camp for her first time. She expects the camp to be very rewarding, and who knows, she might be just the right person to inspire a future wildlife professional.

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