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.

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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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Bentley Pontoons and Suzuki donate pontoon boat and motor

Bentley Pontoons and Suzuki donate pontoon boat and motor

On May 31, 2019, Bentley Pontoons Corporation donated a 2019 Bentley Model 180 fish pontoon boat to the South Carolina Waterfowl Association. Suzuki also donated a 2019 40-hp 4-stroke outboard motor to power the boat. The boat and motor will be enjoyed by over 4,000 children who annually attend Camp Woodie (summer camp) and Camp Leopold (school year camp) at SCWA’s 978-acre Wildlife Education Center. While on the new boat, campers will enjoy fishing and wildlife viewing and will learn about boating safety from expert adult instructors.

According to Bentley CEO Ryan Marcott, “The Bentley Pontoons team is excited to provide this boat to help the SCWA Camp Woodie and Camp Leopold programs. Camp Woodie and Camp Leopold are dedicated to passing on the legacy of our outdoor heritage. All of us at Bentley Pontoons support this mission of reconnecting youth and their families to the outdoors, while developing a conservation ethic among our youth.”

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When Curt Bridges, Suzuki District Sales Manager, received a call from Ryan about the possible donation, Suzuki immediately committed their support by donating the motor. “Suzuki is proud to support the Camp Woodie and Camp Leopold programs, and we are excited about the positive impact both camps have on developing the next generation of conservationists.”

On behalf of the entire organization, we would like to extend our sincere appreciation to Bentley Pontoons and Suzuki for their support of SCWA’s education programs.

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Mike & Jennifer Smith fund waterfowl aviary for SCWA Wildlife Education Center

Mike & Jennifer Smith fund waterfowl aviary for SCWA Wildlife Education Center

The South Carolina Waterfowl Association (SCWA) is excited to announce we have received a very generous gift from Mike and Jennifer Smith. The donation will allow SCWA to construct a waterfowl aviary at the SCWA Wildlife Education Center, the home of Camp Woodie and Camp Leopold. SCWA broke ground on the new addition to the facility on May 8, 2019. The completion date goal for the project is September 1, 2019, just in time for the next Fall season of Camp Leopold.

The aviary will feature 40 species of ducks and geese living in an enclosed wetland habitat with observation deck and attached education room. The aviary will provide up close viewing of North American waterfowl species and hands-on waterfowl ecology classes to thousands of youth who annually attend Camp Woodie and Camp Leopold. According to SCWA Chief Executive Officer, David Wielicki, “This project will enhance the quality of our youth conservation education programs while becoming an education asset that will add momentum to the growth of both Camp Woodie and Camp Leopold.”

All of us at SCWA offer our sincere appreciation to Mike and Jennifer Smith for this tremendous donation. In honor of this gift and all of their past support, we will name this new addition the Mike and Jennifer Smith Waterfowl Aviary.

SCWA gains Chief Operations Officer, Val Elliott

SCWA gains Chief Operations Officer, Val Elliott

SCWA is excited to welcome Val Elliott as the Chief Operations Officer for the South Carolina Waterfowl Association. His duties include overseeing the day to day operations for SCWA, specifically SCWA’s youth education and habitat conservation programs.

Val Elliott began his career in the summer camp and outdoor education center field in 1989 as a camp counselor at Kanakuk-Kanakomo Kamps, one of the largest Christian sports camps in the world, located in Branson, Missouri. Val served there for two summers as a camp counselor and in the CIT director role. Upon graduating from The Citadel in 1991, Val took on the role of Program Director for Clemson University’s RM Cooper 4-H Leadership Center where he hired and trained staff and ran the day to day program operations. During this time, Val was also a part of a team who created the “Teaching KATE” outdoor education program. In 1995, Val moved into the Center Director role at RM Cooper where he oversaw all day to day operations, including summer camp, outdoor education, and conference groups.

In 2007, Val, his wife Elizabeth, and their five children (Emma, Lucas, Eliza, Ethan and Palmer) moved from RM Cooper to YMCA Camp Hanes, as Val became the Executive Director of YMCA Camp Hanes. YMCA Camp Hanes saw tremendous growth during his tenure, which included new summer camp partners, attendance growth in all programs, doubling the annual operating budget, quadrupling the annual giving campaign, and many site improvements, including a new retreat center, airnasium, shotgun range, equestrian center and a 5700 square-foot conference facility.

Val served on the American Camping Association Southeast section board and the SE Local Council of Leaders for over eight years. Val has been an accreditation standards visitor for over 20 years and is currently a standards instructor.

Val grew up locally in Summerton, fishing and hunting with his father on Lake Marion. According to SCWA Chief Executive Officer and Founder, David Wielicki, “The SCWA Board of Directors and I believe that Val’s connection to the area, as well as his passion for youth education and the outdoors will allow him to thrive in this organization. We believe that Val will be a vital part of growing and perfecting SCWA’s education and habitat conservation programs.”

First duck hunt at Boyd Camp proves a success

First duck hunt at Boyd Camp proves a success

Twelve groups of Camp Woodie parents and senior campers pulled up to the Boyd Camp site last night for a time of fun and fellowship around the fire pits before they settled down in their cabins for the night. This morning, the first duck hunt at Boyd Camp went off with a bang!

The hunters endured a rainy morning in the blinds and harvested several different species. Parents and campers came in with mallards, wood ducks, lesser scaup, and even a redhead! SCWA is thankful to be able to give parents and campers this opportunity to hunt alongside one another thanks to the Boyd Foundation. These parent/child hunts are creating moments for wildlife heritage to be passed on to the next generation.

Thank you so much to the parents, campers, hunt guides, and especially to the Boyd Foundation for making this opportunity possible.

Seven more Boyd Camp duck hunts are scheduled through the remainder of the season, and we look forward to seeing more parents and campers!

 

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SCWA Partners with Delta, UGA and USFWS on Ring-necked Research

SCWA Partners with Delta, UGA and USFWS on Ring-necked Research

The South Carolina Waterfowl Association has partnered with the Delta Waterfowl Foundation, the University of Georgia and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to study the annual movements of ring-necked ducks that winter in South Carolina. The research project is part of a larger study that is also focusing on ring-necked ducks that winter in South Georgia.

Lead investigator for the project, Mark McConnell, Assistant Professor of Wildlife Outreach at the University of Georgia, and graduate student Tori Mezebish have been working on this research project since the 2016-2017 waterfowl hunting season. As evidenced by their hard work last week, McConnell reiterated, “We have put a tremendous amount of time, effort and resources into getting these birds captured and marked. It’s a fun project and could not be done without the incredible skill and dedication of our wildlife veterinarians.”

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Ring-necks are very important to South Carolina duck hunters. They consistently rank number 2, 3 or 4 in the annual South Carolina waterfowl harvest. From November 27-30th, 28 hens and 2 drakes were collected from the SCWA Black Dog duck pond and surgically implanted with satellite or GPS transmitters , 10 of which were funded by generous SCWA members. These radios will last for up to 10 months and will provide information on the movements and habitat preferences of ring-necked ducks throughout their wintering, spring migration, breeding and brood rearing portions of their annual life cycle.

McConnell relayed, “This research is both novel and important. We are the first ones to ever put an internal transmitter into a ring-necked duck. It is also important because we know very little about ring-necked duck’s wintering habitat use and migration strategies. We are hoping to learn what types of wetlands they prefer during winter. Migration is a crucial time of year for migratory waterfowl, so understanding their routes and stopover sites can inform managers on how to better provide quality waterfowl habitat during migration.”

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An intensive 22-25 hours of surgery were performed by Michele Goodman, Director of Veterinary Services for the Elmwood Park Zoo in Pennsylvania. When asked about what this opportunity means to her, Goodman communicated, “I enjoy participating in these projects for a number of reasons – implanting satellite transmitters is one of the most reliable ways to get good information on waterfowl movement and behavior which can ultimately lead to more targeted conservation initiatives. These projects are also a huge collaboration – I like working with graduate students, biologists and conservation organizations. As someone who spends most of my time working with captive animals, it’s also a tremendous privilege to get to work with wild birds.”

You will be able to track the movements of the ring-necks by visiting the Delta Waterfowl Foundation website here, and we hope to put the weekly updated movements on the SCWA website as well.

If you harvest one of these ducks, please save the duck and contact SCWA at (803) 452-6001 or USFWS at (803) 478-2217. The duck will be banded and have a short wire antenna sticking out of its back. Researchers would like to examine the body condition of any birds that are harvested by hunters to analyze if the radios have any negative effect on the body condition of the duck.

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