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Directions column— by Alvin Taylor

Alvin Taylor - photography by Michael Foster

During the past two years of penning "Directions," for South Carolina Wildlife, I've shared many of my experiences growing up in rural South Carolina. You have seen how my outdoor adventures shaped who I am today and the very significant part they played in my choosing the career that I enjoy now. In the "DNR Insider" feature in this issue (beginning on page 48), readers will get a glimpse into the fantastic work being done for our state's youth by the staff of our Hunter Education section and Take One Make One (TOMO) program.

Across our agency, we have a strong commitment to providing positive outdoor experiences for young people. I was blessed to have a dad who shared his love of the outdoors and instilled that love in me, but not every child is so lucky. In our hunter education classes, we endeavor to give each and every student a taste of what it means to be a sportsman, as well as an introduction to the ethical and wise use of our state's natural resources, and through the TOMO program, young people who might not otherwise be able to experience a hunt are provided hands-on opportunities to go hunting for the first time. This does not just happen. It takes many private landowners willing to share their land, mentors willing to share their time and DNR staff with a strong commitment to youth to provide these great - perhaps life-changing - outdoor experiences.

The DNR also supports more than 250 schools across the state with competitive archery programs through the Archery in the Schools program. Another great first step! And whether you are a student in an urban or a rural county, you still have this opportunity available to you. Each year during the Palmetto Sportsmen's Classic, the DNR hosts a state championship archery tournament, with trophies awarded by school and age group. This is an exciting event with hundreds of participants. Join us this year! Hats off to those school administrators who recognize the importance of this program for their students.

When I was growing up, I could hunt and fish almost anywhere. Sadly, it's not the same today. DNR property managers, technicians and other employees work hard to provide youth-only hunting days on many of our Wildlife Management Area properties, giving young people another opportunity to spend time in South Carolina's great outdoors. These folks spend many hours preparing fields, deer stands and waterfowl impoundments, and when the big day arrives, they are just as excited as the youth who come to hunt.

We ALL remember the first fish we caught (I find myself smiling now, just thinking about that fish), and DNR-organized Fishing Rodeos are introducing young people across the state to fishing. We could not provide these events without the support of local citizens in each community. Nearly four hundred youth participated recently in a Fishing Rodeo in Darlington County. This event was made possible because a local landowner, Allen Holloman, donated his time and his pond, and state legislators, led by Senator Gerald Malloy, partnered with DNR staff and Department of Natural Resources Board member Randy Lowe to provide a day of fishing and hot dogs. Fishing and hot dogs . . . it doesn't get any better than that, and at the end of the day, one young person's name was drawn to receive a lifetime fishing license. It was a good day, a great experience and a valuable investment in the future of our natural resources.

Alvin Taylor, Director
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

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