Youth Safari Day attracts over 4,000 kids and family members
By JIM MATTHEWS
The nine-year-old girl was tucked behind her mother’s leg peeking out at what was unfolding in front of her. There were nine other kids around the table playing with the clothes pins, rubber bands, and black electrical tape.
“Are you ready to make a quail call?” I asked the third group of the morning that had crowded around my table.
“What’s that?” one asked.
I had one of my pretty, home-made wood calls hanging around my neck, and I grabbed it and made the rally call of a valley quail. The little girl hiding behind her mother’s leg stepped out and started inching up to the table. Her eyes were now wide and bright. I blew the call a second time.
“Do you know those birds?” her mother leaned down to ask her. And she nodded her head, now fixated on my call.
“That’s a quail call,” I said to the group. “Real quail will call back and answer your call. If you get really good, you can talk to them just like your brother -- only the quail are smarter.” There was giggling. The little girl was smiling now, and I had been looking at her as I was talking, and pointed at her older brother fidgeting with a clothes pin. She inched up next to him and picked up her own clothes pin.
Within five minutes, this group of kids had happily made their own quail call and they were all tooting them; some making screeching sounds more like some little animal in agony, some using them like kazoos, and some actually trying to imitate the sound of a quail. The little girl came up to me with her call and blew it. She had the cadence of the quail call down perfectly.
“We have quail in our backyard,” she said politely. “Dad puts out seed for them. Thank-you for my call. I love it.”
I’m still smiling.
My “booth” was just one of dozens and dozens at yesterday’s (July 22) Youth Safari Day at Mike Raahauge Shooting Enterprises in Corona. The event has been held annually for 19 years. Conceived by Safari Club members from Orange County and Mike Raahauge, the event is designed to expose kids of all ages to traditional outdoor activities, to give them a connection with the Earth that is disappearing as we become ever-more insulated from anything natural and normal. This year’s event was attended by more than 4,000 kids and their adult families, a record number. At my little table, kids made over 300 simple quail calls before moving on to other activities.
The kids were able to watch Labrador retrievers leap off docks into the water to retrieve. They were able to try out a kayak and paddle around in a tule-lined pond. It was hot so getting wet was embraced. They did rock-climbing, caught bluegill and catfish, shot rubber-band guns and BB-guns. Some shot shotguns at moving clay targets. There were falconers with their hawks and ospreys, and a whole bunch of hunting dogs used in demonstrations were happy to get attention from kids. They shot slingshots and ate hamburgers, and watched a trick shooting exhibition or two. I even saw two little boys and a girl trying to catch a lizard behind one of the booths.
I remembered spending whole summers as a kid catching lizards and making captive ant farms in big jars. But that was back before cell phones, video games, and when color television was a new marvel, even if the reception and resolution was dismal.
But Youth Safari Day is about more than a retro experience for kids. It’s about exposing them to outdoor activities they can enjoy for a lifetime.
As the event was winding down, two 12-year-oldish boys walked past. No cell phones. They were pushing and jostling with each other. One was soaking wet head-to-toe and the other wet from the waist down. They were laughing.
“No, it was your fault it tipped over,” said one.
“Naa-uhhh,” laughed the other, breaking into a run as he pushed his buddy.
Information about next year’s 20th Anniversary event will be up on the website at youthsafariday.com soon (and you can find out more about this year’s event at the site now). Already there is talk about making it bigger with more things to do, like kite flying, bug-catching, teaching kids how to play marbles, and so much more. If you come, bring the kids or grandkids or neighbor kids by to see me, and we’ll make them each a quail call.
[Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 909-887-3444.]