With last Saturday serving as the kick-off for Missouri’s 2013 deer season for firearms, several men, women, and children are enjoying quality time in the woods searching for the proverbial “thirty-point buck.”
Deer, however, represent a mere fraction of the game available for hunting in Missouri. In fact, on the Missouri Department of Conservation website, nearly 25 different types of land animals have designated seasons for hunting, trapping, or otherwise. Twenty types of fish are listed on the website as well.
One organization, Small Game America (SGA) is all about promoting small game hunting and getting youth interested in woods, fields, and wildlife at an early age.
“Small Game America is a full-fledged hunting club that is focused on events to introduce youth to the outdoors,” says Caleb Arnett, a Harrisonville resident and Missouri State Representative for SGA.
As opposed to the more popular big game hunting, small game hunting consists of tracking down anything that is not considered a trophy animal. Rabbit, squirrel, quail, dove, and duck are among several animals that fall into the “small game” category.
In 2011, when SGA co-founder and former Sedalia, Missouri resident Phil St. Germain was deployed to Afghanistan, the avid hunter was “daydreaming about what he would love to do” and came up with the idea of a small game hunting organization. As his thoughts were put into action, St. Germain started a Facebook page where small game hunters could submit their photos and stories of small game hunting. The group has now selected its own state representatives and has successfully networked over 8,000 Americans through social media.
“The local hunter will gain insights and connections into other types of hunting, fishing, and trapping as well as network with new friends,” said St. Germain.
“This affiliation helps to protect and conserve the American tradition of small game hunting.”
Currently, SGA has state representatives in Missouri, California, Indiana, Maine, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania, and is in talks with potential reps in Kentucky and Tennessee. The group’s ultimate goal is to reach non-profit status.
“Everything we’re looking at doing hinges upon us getting to the point of being non-profit,” Arnett said.
Once the group is able to become non-profit, they will then be eligible for grants and sponsorships from some of the bigger-name hunting stores like Bass Pro and Cabela’s. As SGA grows and develops local chapters, they desire to see active chapters in each state, keeping small game hunters connected and informed.
Attempting to gain assistance with the funds required to become a 501c3 non-profit, SGA has set up a gun raffle through their website. Those wanting to enter can go to smallgameamerica.com to purchase tickets at $5 apiece. Ticket-holders can win a Ruger 10/22, Rossi Trifecta, or a Stoeger Uplander. Once the group sells 1,000 tickets, SGA can finish the paperwork necessary to become an official non-profit.
According to statistics, small game hunting has taken a toll in recent years in regards to general participation. In 2011 it was recorded that out of 7,779 hunting trips by Missourians, only 936 of the trips were targeted toward small game as opposed to 5,747 toward big game such as deer (census.gov).
“Introducing kids to small game will eventually get them to that point,” Arnett in reference to big game.
SGA’s leaders believe that cultivating small game hunting in children’s lives before letting them hunt big game will let them gain an appreciation for hunting itself rather just the thrill of taking down a large buck. Using this model, the entire hunting process will benefit along with the children.
“We desire to see the numbers of small game hunters and trappers grow across the country,” St. Germain said.
“Through our conservation efforts we would like to see small game populations and hunting land increase.”
To find out more about Small Game America, visit their Facebook page or their website at smallgameamerica.com.