SCWA hires new Camp Leopold Director

SCWA hires new Camp Leopold Director

SCWA is excited to welcome Abby Zabrodsky as the new director of Camp Leopold, SCWA’s school-year natural resource education program. Abby first joined the SCWA team back in Fall 2020 as a Camp Leopold instructor and had a large part in the success of the Camp Leopold +PLUS in-school program adapted due to the restrictions on field trips as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Abby was raised in Brookfield, IL, a suburb of Chicago. She grew up visiting family in Seattle, WA, which lead to exploring national parks, national forests, and long stretches of amazing wilderness. Abby recalls, “From a young age, I had a great affinity for the outdoors—I was always on the lookout for cool insects or interesting plants. I developed a deep love for all things outdoors and became dedicated to conserving nature all around me.”

Abby attended Iowa State University where she pursued a Forestry major and Spanish minor. She was also an active member of the ISU Forestry Club and timbersports team, competing in ax throwing, underhand cut, crosscut sawing, and log rolling.

Abby is excited to start her conservation education career at Camp Leopold. “I’m especially looking forward to meeting students and educators from across the state, further developing our curriculum, and learning more about the wonderful ecosystems South Carolina has to offer. Growing up, I had so many wonderful outdoor educators who helped foster my love and curiosity of the outdoors. I am so excited to give back to my community by fostering that same passion for the outdoors in students across the state of South Carolina!”

Camp Woodie shatters attendance record

Camp Woodie shatters attendance record

Camp Woodie has reached a new record attendance number with 1,148 campers registered for Summer 2021, shattering Summer 2018’s record number of 1,125, and still climbing! After a challenging 2020, including a pandemic and the cancellation of ten weeks of traditional summer camp, Camp Woodie is looking forward and working toward a full capacity summer at the Wildlife Education Center beginning next week. Camp Woodie Summer 2021 will kick off this Sunday, June 6th, and staff will spend the next ten weeks delivering hands-on, fun-filled outdoor education to a record number of campers, passing on our wildlife heritage to the next generation.

Thank you to all of the parents who have registered their child(ren) to participate in this record-breaking summer after a difficult year. Another thank you to those who have provided scholarship support for deserving campers and children of frontline medical personnel to attend Camp Woodie. We are so grateful for your continued support during these unprecedented times. To those who are not registered for Summer 2021, you don’t want to miss it! Multiple weeks are completely full, but there is still room for your child if you act now. Summer 2021 is going to be our best summer yet!

A Father Son Hunt to Remember

A Father Son Hunt to Remember

One of the most sought-after items on our Sportsman’s Ball Online Auction list this year was a parent/child turkey hunt at the SCWA Wildlife Education Center guided by Rob Keck, former longtime CEO of the National Wild Turkey Federation. Rob has been a driving force in the world of conservation for over three decades and now serves as the Director of Conservation at Bass Pro Shops. We appreciate Rob for being gracious enough to donate his time for this hunt and share his passion for conservation throughout this experience. Rob relayed, “The opportunity to take young people and introduce them to turkey hunting is really reloading our heritage. It’s important to me and so many people at SCWA that we introduce young people to a great hunting experience.”

Shad Rowe and his son Abel arrived at the Wildlife Education Center on March 19th to roost a turkey with Rob. This weekend being their first turkey hunting adventure, there was much for them to learn and much to experience. According to Shad, “Rob shared with us some of his hunting stories from a lifetime of turkey hunting, as well as hunting techniques and tips for beginners like ourselves.” The trio’s hunt on the 20th for the youth day lead to the harvest of Abel’s first turkey, a very proud moment for both his father, Shad, and Rob. The following day, Shad was able to harvest his first turkey as well.

Shad expressed many thanks for the experience provided by Rob and the South Carolina Waterfowl Association. “It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to hunt with Rob for my son’s first turkey, as well as my own. The SCWA and Rob truly have a passion for the outdoors, as well as wildlife conservation. It’s great what SCWA is doing with the youth to introduce them to the outdoors, hunting, and conservation.”

Rob enjoyed the hunt just as much as the hunters themselves. “To share it with a father and a son, I think made it even better, because the chance for repeat experience is going to be very high. It was quite moving to have the father watch that son take his first bird. And the following day, for the son to watch his dad take his first turkey.” This one-of-a-kind hunt experience has spurred a great interest in the sport of hunting and conservation for the father son duo. In the words of Shad Rowe, “We are now hooked and will be in the woods chasing turkeys for years to come.”

Duke Energy funds Bottomland Hardwood Restoration & Carbon Sequestration Project

Duke Energy funds Bottomland Hardwood Restoration & Carbon Sequestration Project

Nothing says spring is coming like planting a tree – or a few thousand of them. Last week at the South Carolina Waterfowl Association’s Wildlife Education Center, several thousand trees were planted as part of a Bottomland Hardwood Restoration and Carbon Sequestration Project sponsored by Duke Energy. The site will serve as a demonstration area at Camp Leopold for thousands of South Carolina students to learn about the process of carbon sequestration – the capturing and storing of carbon dioxide, which reduces the levels of the compound in the atmosphere.

The intricate process involved preparing and planting nearly 20 acres of bottomland habitat with cypress, tupelo, willow oak, and cherrybark oak. In addition to carbon sequestration, the planted hardwoods will provide mast for different wildlife species throughout the habitat. Students at Camp Leopold will play a prominent role in data collection on tree survival, growth, and carbon sequestration rates. The South Carolina Waterfowl Association is extremely grateful for the support of Duke Energy with this initiative.

Pintail Partners in a Pandemic

Pintail Partners in a Pandemic

On Saturday, February 7th, Camp Woodie hosted the 7th annual Pintail Partners hunt at the SCWA Wildlife Education Center. With this year’s Pintail Partners happening in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, this hunt was a little different than any other Pintail Partners hunts in years past. With the safety and health of all participants as the top priority, the quantity of hunters this year was a fraction of the mass of people who are normally gathered at the Wildlife Education Center on a Saturday in early February. Each attendee received a health screening upon arrival and enjoyed the day with socially distanced hunting and fellowship.

The Pintail Partners hunt is a partnership between the South Carolina Waterfowl Association, SCDNR, Delta Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited and the Harry Hampton Foundation to provide young people with an outstanding duck hunt on one of several stellar properties with the hope to get these youth involved in waterfowl and wetland conservation. Boys and girls of all different ages arrived on Saturday to participate in this much smaller, albeit much anticipated, youth hunt. These young hunters were bursting with excitement to get out to their hunting blind, and their parents were just as thrilled, if not more-so. The day was a success, with 65 ducks made up of 6 species harvested between the 26 hunters.

Parents had this to say about the Pintail Partners hunt.

“My hunter and I thoroughly enjoyed our experience Saturday. You guys did it right. Thank you.”

“This is the 3rd time my grandsons have attended, and this was the best and smoothest effort we’ve enjoyed. Really appreciate all the hard work involved.”

Pintail Partners would not be possible without the amazing organizations, land owners, staff members, guides, waterfowl hunting supporters, as well as parents and youth, who come together to make it happen. You are making a difference.

Thank you so much to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Delta Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited and the Harry Hampton Foundation for donating the funds and materials to make this hunt successful. Thank you to all of the organizations’ staff members who put forth their time and effort to help the event run efficiently. Thank you to the hunt guides who volunteered to spend their Saturday leading and educating these young hunters. Thank you to the landowners for allowing their properties to be used for this youth hunt. Thank you to the parents who registered their children for this hunt to get them involved in the outdoors.

The South Carolina Waterfowl Association hopes that through this hunt and more Pintail Partners hunts to come, we can instill a love and appreciation for waterfowl and wetlands conservation in the hearts of the youth, so they can perpetuate it for generations to come.

SCWA apprentice “graduates” to North Carolina hunt club

SCWA apprentice “graduates” to North Carolina hunt club

Hunter became a part of the Gary Dietrich Wildlife Management Apprenticeship Program at SCWA in May of 2019 and will be departing soon, as he has accepted an Assistant Habitat Manager position in North Carolina. Hunter tells all about his experience at SCWA in the letter below.

“My story about coming to and leaving SCWA is a very different story than that of the majority of my colleagues. To start, I wasn’t born in the South and knew absolutely no one in the state of South Carolina, let alone the organization. I grew up in Shawano, a small town in Wisconsin, and became obsessed with hunting and fishing. Once I was old enough to get a job, I started working in the agricultural field. It was through my work experiences back home that I realized I’d like to have a future in farming, but somehow incorporate it with my passion for hunting and fishing.

After high school, I went to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and received a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Management. It was there I learned everything I needed from a science perspective to apply to a career. A job listing of “Habitat Management Technician” in Pinewood, SC on the Texas A&M job board caught my eye. I did my interview in the cab of a tractor and was offered the job. I packed my friends’ enclosed goose trailer with almost everything I owned, and even sold my vehicle to get down to SCWA in an “all-in” effort to live out my dream.

Upon my arrival at SCWA, I was kind of out of my element. I knew how to do a lot of the technical work already coming in, but being in South Carolina was a culture shock. Things in the South are 100% different, and that took a lot of time to adjust to. While at SCWA, I honed all the skills that I had developed before into habitat management skills and could directly see the reward later on in the year when hunting season came around. I had the opportunity to guide an entire duck season at SCWA, which is a truly special experience in itself. I visited many different plantations, which allowed me to network with in-field professionals and even become great friends with some of these individuals. Picking their brains about how to make it a career and getting answers to every question under the sun from people who have made it their way of life was so beneficial.

These types of experiences were the ones that proved to me that this was the career path that I wanted to continue on. My time at SCWA really fast tracked my career. It gave me direct in-field experiences that other employers wanted to see coupled with my Bachelor of Science degree. After my first full year, I knew I was ready to make a step forward in my career and keep moving up the proverbial ladder to my end goal.

I am moving on from the Gary Dietrich Wildlife Management Apprenticeship Program to be the Assistant Habitat Manager at Jones Island Hunt Club in Bayboro, NC. This hunt club is home to 230 acres of saltwater impoundments, 110 acres of upland impoundments, and a 4,000-acre island to manage. The manager was a former waterfowl technician at SCWA. I know that is not the sole reason that I was chosen, but it proves how far the SCWA branch is spread in the world of wildlife. This is another stop on my journey to becoming a Wildlife Habitat Manager of my own plantation.

This was a positive, life altering, career kick starter experience. I grew as a person in ways only leaving all familiarities behind can do. One dream that I aspire to accomplish much later in my career is to bring the SCWA model to Wisconsin. I think waterfowl impoundments would be highly effective in the correct areas where I am from. I would also like to bring the Camp Woodie aspect to the north woods. There are no camps like that in the Wisconsin. I would have loved to attend a camp like that growing up. The hunting, fishing, and general love of the outdoors is a rich tradition in the Midwest just as it is in the South. Those are my plans and future aspirations, all of which truly started at SCWA. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you to the entire SCWA family for teaching and guiding me down this path I have chosen.”

SCWA Leads the Way: Thoughts from SCWA CEO, David Wielicki

SCWA Leads the Way: Thoughts from SCWA CEO, David Wielicki

SCWA leads the way in recruiting youth and adults to the conservation community

Hunting and fishing activities are a very important part of my family heritage.  My best memories are from times spent with family and friends in the outdoors hunting and fishing. This has been a major part of my quality of life and my relationship with God. I passed this on to my children, who also share this passion. It is my desire and the desire of the entire South Carolina Waterfowl Association (SCWA) family to pass this on to the next generation.

SCWA believes the key to successful recruitment programs is the development of a partnership with parents and guardians to provide them with quality outdoor education and outdoor activity opportunities on a repetitive basis. This will help them to develop hunting, fishing, shooting and other outdoor activities as a part of their family heritage. The culmination of these programs is the successful recruitment of youth and adults in to the conservation community.

The SCWA school-year Camp Leopold program introduces a broad spectrum of youth to the outdoors. Many of these children have never spent time in nature. Camp Leopold opens their eyes to God’s creation and sparks an interest in the environment. Camp Leopold gives them a desire to learn more about habitat, fishing, hunting, shooting and wildlife ecology.

Many of these children learn about Camp Woodie (SCWA’s summer camp) during their stay at Camp Leopold. A child can then attend Camp Woodie for up to 10 years to gain valuable outdoor skills. Their parents or guardians can attend weekend SCWA Outdoor Heritage Events with their child to learn more about wildlife conservation, hunting, fishing, archery, dog training and shooting skills. They also learn about outdoor opportunities provided by SCDNR, the South Carolina Wildlife Partnership, USFWS, and private landowners. In addition, they can attend annual SCWA parent child hunting and fishing events like this year’s Camp Woodie Plus program.

Campers who develop a desire to work in the conservation field can also attend our two-year Gary Dietrich Wildlife Management Apprentice Program, where they learn hands-on wildlife and fisheries management skills, equipping them to make a large-scale impact on habitat management. We are working to grow this program to 10 annual graduates. SCWA also assists in placing each graduate in a quality wildlife conservation job.

I believe SCWA has the best conservation education and outdoor recruitment program in the country. We are expanding our campus with new facilities and land that will allow us to increase annual Camp Woodie attendance from 1,100 to 2,200 youth, annual Camp Leopold attendance from 8,500 to 30,000 camper days, and annual outdoor heritage event attendance from 3,400 to over 7,000 participants.

In February, we received a donation of 257 acres of additional land, bringing our campus up to 1,235 acres. Since 2017, SCWA has received $9,976,000 in donations and pledges to fund our six-year SCWA Wildlife Education Center Expansion goal of $13,681,000. We are also developing a $20 million endowment to help fund program excellence.

expansion

During this Covid-19 period, our staff has developed innovative education programs like Camp Woodie Plus and Camp Leopold Plus, allowing us to continue to safely deliver quality outdoor education programs. We are also focusing on maintenance and construction projects at the Wildlife Education Center, including a new 300-person dining hall funded by the Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Foundation, 12-station sporting clays course, the Flight of the Canvasback dual zip line, 100-yard rifle range, new .22 range, waterfowl aviary landscaping, and an exciting new swimming hole with a water slide, rope swing, and blob.

I greatly appreciate the past support of all SCWA supporters, and I hope you and your family are experiencing good health and are seeing an improvement in your personal finances. All SCWA staff and board members appreciate the opportunity to continue to partner with you to help SCWA take our conservation and education programs to the next level. As the economy continues to improve, we look forward to implementing our summer, fall and winter fundraising programs to help accomplish SCWA’s mission to enhance and perpetuate South Carolina’s wildlife heritage through education and habitat conservation.

Best Wishes,

David J. Wielicki

Chief Executive Officer

SCWA relocates habitat operations

SCWA relocates habitat operations

In December 1986, the South Carolina Waterfowl Association was founded with a mission “to enhance and perpetuate South Carolina’s wildlife heritage through education and habitat conservation.” In 1995, SCWA started its summer wildlife education camp, Camp Woodie, and later in 2012, a school year outdoor education program, Camp Leopold. More recently, SCWA saw the need to expand our education outreach by creating the Gary Dietrich Wildlife Management Apprentice Program.

The Gary Dietrich Wildlife Management Apprentice Program is a two-year graduate program with a goal of improving wildlife management through the Southeast. The program focuses on providing hands-on natural resource management training. Through the implementation of a quality curriculum, expert instructors, and a host of industry and landowner partners, we are equipping apprentices with the training and on-the-job experience needed to provide quality wildlife management on public and private lands.

To improve the apprentice program and ensure a safe environment for SCWA camp programs, all of the farming and operations equipment have been relocated away from the Wildlife Education Center camp property to a new location dubbed the SCWA Wildlife Habitat Center. The project of moving the farming center to create a new hub for the habitat department eliminates the concern of heavy equipment being operated on the camp facility during camp sessions.

The SCWA Wildlife Habitat Center serves as the perfect place for habitat apprentices to learn heavy equipment maintenance, welding, and many other practical agriculture and land management skills. We would like to thank Chris Hawkins, as well as the rest of the Hawkins and Kolb team, for their excellent work on the construction of this new facility. We would also like to thank Blanchard Machinery Company for providing heavy equipment to grade the site. Since 1995, Blanchard Machinery Company has provided Cat heavy equipment to help complete all infrastructure and wildlife habitat projects at the Wildlife Education Center. We greatly appreciate the support of Joe Blanchard and his outstanding team members.

SCWA COVID-19 Update from CEO, David Wielicki

SCWA COVID-19 Update from CEO, David Wielicki

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges. Like you, we are working to ensure the health and safety of family, friends and coworkers. SCWA is following all public health safety guidelines. Our Spring 2020 Camp Leopold programs have been cancelled, and we are working to reschedule schools for the fall. Some banquets are being rescheduled for the late summer and early fall. I am cautiously optimistic that Camp Woodie will be open for Summer 2020.

This is SCWA’s 34th year of operation, and thanks to your support, SCWA will weather this storm. The SCWA Team has worked hard to cut operating costs in order to keep all of our team members employed during this crisis. During this time, staff are working hard to improve the quality of our education and habitat conservation programs. We are using this time to make SCWA a stronger and more efficient organization.

I am amazed at the dedication of our frontline medical professionals. As a thank-you for their efforts, SCWA will be awarding 200 Camp Woodie scholarships to children of frontline medical professionals. These scholarships will be distributed by our 28 chapters across South Carolina.

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Let us all work together to create a bright future for our families and our country.

 

Godspeed,

David Wielicki

Chief Executive Officer

SCWA hires new Camp Woodie Director

SCWA hires new Camp Woodie Director

SCWA is excited to welcome Steve Maynard as the director for Camp Woodie, SCWA’s summer camp program. According to David Wielicki, SCWA’s Chief Executive Officer, “Steve is a proven leader with decades of successful camping and management experience, and Camp Woodie is experiencing tremendous growth. SCWA looks forward to working with Steve to take the Camp Woodie program to the next level of excellence for campers and parents.”

Steve Maynard began his camping career in 1974 at YMCA Camp Mataucha in Watertown, Connecticut, where he attended for eight years as a camper and five years as a counselor, CIT (Counselor in Training) Director and Assistant Director. After spending two years at the University of Florida, Steve finished his degree in Park & Recreation Management at the University of Connecticut, culminating with an internship at YMCA Camp Jewell, where he oversaw the CIT program, worked with school and corporate leadership groups, and assisted with new construction.

In 1991, Steve accepted the position of Group and Conference Director at YMCA Camp Tecumseh in Brookston, Indiana. At Tecumseh, he oversaw the operations of Tecumseh’s large retreat and conference program, increasing bookings and revenue through innovative programming and scheduling. After spending five memorable years with Tecumseh, Steve moved to Stratton Mountain, Vermont as the Ski Resort’s Guest Services Manager. There, he oversaw the day to day guest experience for the resort’s 6,000+ skiers and snowboarders, including ticket & season pass sales, and creating family activities like the Tyrolean Triathlon. While in Vermont, Steve also served as an EMT on the Londonderry Volunteer Rescue Squad, on the South Londonderry Volunteer Fire Department, and as a lector and Sunday School instructor for his church.

Steve’s most recent adventure took him to the Ozark Mountains of Missouri as the Executive Director for YMCA Camp Wakonda. Over the course of six years, Steve and his family were able to transform the camp. With the help of the Board of Managers, association and national support, private volunteers and donors, and divine assistance, Wakonda experienced a 120% increase in enrollment, and a 240% increase in revenue. Under Steve’s leadership, camper retention rose from 33% to 68%, with staff retention following the same trend. Multiple construction projects including cabin renovations, water system upgrades, bathroom construction, roads, landscaping and the vision and completion of a five-acre lake were all achieved during his tenure.

An avid outdoorsman, hunter and fisherman, Steve is excited to join the SCWA team and looks forward to continuing and growing the Camp Woodie legacy.

 

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