High school students who are avid hunters have been unable to grow that interest within their school walls, but that is all changing this school year with Dyersburg High School becoming the first Tennessee high school to establish a high school chapter. Under the sponsorship of DHS teacher Tom Mathis, students will be able to share their passion for the outdoors and hunting with other students.
"Hunting is part of our culture here in northwest Tennessee," said Mathis. "This is going to be a great fit."
Already DHS has approximately 40 to 50 members with more interested in joining. Mathis is coordinating this chapter with the help of David Greer, who serves as the Dyer County Ducks Unlimited chairman. Greer says he heard about DU's push to establish high school and college chapters at a regional meeting in the spring. He was excited to be a part of it for two main reasons:
1. Kids that are not interested in the outdoors are engaged in outdoor activities for the first time.
2. Kids that grow up in the outdoors with a love of hunting normally pass it on to their kids.
"The biggest thing is that kids get exposed to the outdoor culture," said Brian Lee, sponsor for the DU chapter at Dyersburg Middle School.
Mathis, Greer and Lee, together established the first DU chapter at Dyersburg City Schools just beating out Munford High School by a week. The trio also collaborated to help kick off the chapter at Dyer County High School, which came in late October. Now that the chapters are established, the exhausting, but exciting work of creating logos, purchasing shirts and setting activities for students begins.
The first official meeting at DHS featured competitive duck caller Joseph Castellaw, a 2008 DHS graduate, who spoke to students about the commitment that is required to participate in competitive duck calling. Mathis says that other speakers will follow, as there are endless resources in the area. Greer adds that with the popularity DU is seeing at the high school level he would not be surprised to see regional conventions with other high school chapters.
"Some of these kids are not involved in sports or any other activity because they just enjoy hunting," noted Mathis. "This gives them an opportunity to be involved."
Greer added that the organization is working toward taking the students out on a hunt this school year, as well as offering students hunter-education training in order to teach them about gun safety and responsibility. Volunteer opportunities will also be available, as students will learn how to build a duck blind in conjunction with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA).
"We want to get kids involved and teach them to be volunteers," said Mathis. "Volunteering helps change their mindset to 'I'm doing this to help out.'"