By ALISSA WOOCKMAN | Yankton Press and Dakotan

YANKTON, S.D. (AP) — Kids and adults both take aim at a weekend full of bow fishing near Yankton. Participants had the opportunity to learn the unique art of bow fishing as part of a mentor program and in a competition.

“Having the Missouri River so close is such good access for kids,” said Nick Tramp, head of the Yankton Bow Fishing Mentor Program.

The youth involved in the mentor program had the opportunity to test their skills on bow fishing and hunting safety at the third annual Bow Fishing Slam held at Riverside Park last Saturday, the Yankton Press and Dakotan reported. Anyone from adults to youth could join teams.

“They usually have 10 to 15 teams in the past but now they have grown to 25 to 30 teams competing this year,” said Bow Fishers of America Association Nebraska Representative and volunteer Rich Porter.

Several youth participated alongside the more experiences adults to catch as many fish as they could in six hours. Each team had to have their catch counted and weighed by 3 p.m.

Winners were not available by press time.

The event is a fundraiser for Ducks Unlimited, which works to conserve, restore, and manage wetlands and associated habitats for North America’s waterfowl. There were prizes given for the three teams with the most fish caught and a grand prize for the biggest fish caught.

“It has really come a long way,” Porter said. “I believe it will continue to grow throughout the state.”

The weekend kicked off with training program earlier this month. The programs are held every Thursday during June where volunteers can teach kids how to bow fish. These events also incorporate knowledge about the different species of fish and how they relate to the area.

The training events included participants hunting their own fish while learning how to clean and skin their catch. There were 17 youth and 13 adults who participated.

“We really try to put the kids first,” Porter said.

The Yankton Bow Fishing Mentor Program began by teaching kids basic archery skills, but grew into a large outreach of volunteer hunters and instructors.

“This is an active sport where kids can get up and physically work to chase their fish instead of sitting in a boat all day,” Tramp said.

The Wynot native began teaching bow fishing and hunting safety in 2002. He wanted to begin a program in which he could teach kids and incorporate hunting safety. These events are all free for kids to participate, and all the equipment is gathered through donations and volunteer work.

The program also got a visit from Rick Wheatley and Jenny Nguyen, both from California. The couple writes a blog called “Food for Hunters” which teaches people how to prepare and cook wild game. They are currently working on a cook book called “Hunting for Food: Guide to Harvesting, Field Dressing and Cooking Wild Game,” which will be released next month.

“The kids were able to get real, hands-on knowledge about cooking their own catch,” Tramp said.

Wheatley and Nguyen let kids experiment with different breadings and sauces to get up close and personal with their food. Being a part of a “fast food” world, not many kids know where their food comes from.

“They get to have fun while learning and experiencing what it is like to actually hunt for their food,” Tramp said. “It’s all about the kids.”

The Yankton Bow Fishing Mentor Program continued with an event last Friday night at the Nebraska tailwaters area below Gavins Point Dam. Volunteers took about 12 boats on the water while kids were able to use their skills to nail fish.

“This was the capstone of a program that involved a lot of organizations and people stepping up to get people outside,” Tramp said.

The program has several sponsors including Bow Fishers of Nebraska, which brought all the boats; Nebraska Northeast Parks, which provided the facilities; and Big Game Conservation Association, which helped provide gear. Other donors include Muzzy Bow Fishing, Whitetails Unlimited Official and RPM Bow Fishing.

“It was a great day for fishing,” Tramp said.

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Information from: Yankton Press and Dakotan, http://www.yankton.net/