Discover Outdoor Connecticut
“Join the Force for the Resource”
A Fun-Filled Family Event
Discover Outdoor Connecticut got its start in 2010 as “Hunting and Fishing Appreciation Day,” as a way to thank hunters and anglers for their roles as the key players in the conservation movement for more than 100 years.
Andrew Labonte, Discover Outdoor Connecticut chairman and wildlife biologist, said “The hunters and anglers showed their support by requesting taxes and special fees on hunting and fishing equipment to help pay for wildlife and fish management, habitat restoration, and other conservation programs through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration (WSFR) Program.”
The event was renamed “Discover Outdoor Connecticut: Join the Force for the Resource” to reflect the DEEP’s goal to expand the program’s offerings to include a wider variety of outdoor enthusiasts. Join the Connecticut Bureau of Natural Resources, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Wildlife Division and their guests on Sat., Sept. 22, 2018, at the Franklin Swamp Wildlife Management Area, 391 Route 32, North Franklin, CT for a fun-filled exploration of Connecticut’s fish and wildlife resources and the state’s legacy of outdoor traditions.
Andrew provides more details about the event in an exclusive joanmatsuitravelwriter.com interview.
What role do you have in Discover Outdoor Connecticut?
I am the chairman of the event, responsible for contacting potential vendors and attendees, organizing and running monthly meetings, activities, and events, creating maps and brochures, and making sure things run smoothly on the day of the event.
What brought about this event and how many years has your organization offered this free program?
It was our goal this year to expand the event to include a wider variety of outdoor enthusiasts, and therefore we renamed the event “Discover Outdoor Connecticut: Join the Force for the Resource.” Joining in the celebration of this year’s event are DEEP’s Air Management, Parks and Public Outreach, Wildlife, Fisheries, Habitat, Forestry, and the Environmental Conservation (EnCon) Police Divisions, as well as many others, such as private hunting and fishing clubs, environmental education centers, foundations, and conservancies.
What is the ultimate goal i.e. resource conservation and preservation?
The ultimate goal is to expose as many youths and adults as possible to some type of outdoor related activity and raise awareness about resource conservation and preservation. Hunters and anglers have been the primary source of funding for state fish and wildlife agencies to manage and conserve fish and wildlife populations and also purchase wildlife habitat for protection. The management efforts that benefit Connecticut’s natural resources not only include fish and wildlife, but the air, land, water, and woods in which those animals live. Funding to support our natural resources shouldn’t just come from hunters and anglers, but from all residents, particularly those who enjoy the outdoors. By introducing Connecticut residents to our state’s diverse natural areas and the fish and wildlife that live there, it is hoped they develop an appreciation and a sense of stewardship. Additionally, time spent outdoors benefits both our physical and mental health. Reconnecting people with nature is tremendously important.
What can attendees expect to find at the Franklin Swamp Wildlife Management Area?
The Franklin Swamp Wildlife Management Area consists of a 300-acre property open to all types of hunting including small game, waterfowl, pheasants and deer and includes a facility housing biologists with the Deer, Turkey, Migratory Bird, and Mosquito and Wetland Restoration Programs as well as a training area for conservation education programs. On September 22, the facility will hold the Discover Outdoor Connecticut event which will include activities such as dog and raptor demonstrations of various sorts, milling and trapping demonstrations, opportunities to try turkey and moose calling, locally made venison products, kayaking, fly tying and casting, archery and firearms shooting, bb and dart gun shooting, and opportunities to gain knowledge in hiking, backpacking, knot tying, water filtration, wild edibles, bees and insects, and much, much more.
What are a few of Connecticut’s most endangered species and/or resources and how do you address those issues at the program and throughout the year?
Connecticut’s most endangered species include meadowlarks, timber rattlesnake, cave-roosting bats like the little brown bat, and many other birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates like monarch butterflies, and fish like the Atlantic sturgeon. We provide a variety of information about both rare and common wildlife at the event. We will also have live raptor demonstrations, which will touch upon the threats these birds have faced as well as some conservation successes. Throughout the year, the Wildlife Division’s Wildlife Diversity Program biologists focus on the management and research of a large number of species of greatest conservation need which range from charismatic species such as bald eagles and box turtles to secretive species such as red bats and bog lemmings to critically endangered species such as barn owls and bog turtles, and more. The Division’s Outreach Program works to inform Connecticut residents about the plight of these species and what people can do to help.
Describe past programs and how they’ve helped to bring awareness to Connecticut’s natural resources.
Past events held by the Wildlife Division, whether they were public programs at our Sessions Woods Conservation Education Center or larger events like Hunting and Fishing Appreciation Day or the recent Bat Appreciation Day at Old New-Gate Prison, have engaged the public and offered information and hands-on experiences related to fish, wildlife, and our state’s natural resources. These programs have not only increased awareness of our agency’s role in caring for and managing wildlife and habitats, but they have helped build an understanding of the value and importance of wildlife, fish, and natural resources. They also highlight how effective we can be at conservation when we work together.
Who should attend the Discover Outdoor Connecticut event? What is the age range of attendees you’d like to see?
Anyone who has at least a passing interest in the environment around them should come to enjoy what the day has to offer. It’s not something you can experience virtually through your smartphone or tablet. Nothing can replace the first-hand experience in the outdoors—from newcomer to novice, young or old—Discover Outdoor Connecticut day has something for everyone. The sooner a person is exposed to the outdoors and all the amazing things it has to offer, the sooner they learn to appreciate where they live and how it should be respected. There simply are no apps for that.
How have your sponsors embraced the DEEP program? What will they bring to the Discover Outdoor Connecticut?
Since its inception, the event has had the tremendous support that has continued through the years. Local sportsman’s clubs and conservation groups have been long-time participants at the events bringing their support, local knowledge, and expertise. Local chapters of the Wild Turkey Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Trout Unlimited also support the event along with national retailers such as Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, L.L. Bean, Mossberg, and Home Depot, who not only bring volunteers with additional skills and knowledge, but also provide generous donations for door prizes that contribute greatly to the enjoyment of those who attend.
Typically, how many photo entries do you receive for the photo contest? What are some of THE MOST intriguing, creative, and captivating? How is the winner(s) recognized for his/her efforts?
This is our first year holding a photo contest and we have received over 300 entries. Ribbons and prizes (gift cards) were donated by the Friends of Sessions Woods, which has been instrumental in supporting many of our educational programs and exhibits. Anyone who wants to see the most intriguing, creative, and captivating photos should attend Discover Outdoor Connecticut Day, where they can sample some tasty venison samples prepared by Adolf’s Meats of East Hartford all while viewing the photos in person. Attendees will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite photo, which will be awarded as the “People’s Choice” during the event. The contest winners will be recognized in future outreach efforts such as Connecticut Wildlife magazine.
Do you require preregistration or are drop-ins welcome?
Preregistration is not required and we very much welcome folks to simply drop in and spend as much time outdoors with us as they can.
Do you have in-house instructors teaching the various activities?
All of the shooting activities would not be possible if it wasn’t for a large group of volunteer instructors with our Conservation Education and Firearms Safety program who teach both firearms and archery skills. In addition, staff and volunteers with expertise in fisheries, wildlife, trapping, forestry, boating safety, outdoor education, and with working dogs of various types, all play a critical role in sharing their knowledge about our environment.
Please name a few of the year-round outdoor activities available to Connecticut residents and visitors.
Visitors to the Wildlife Division’s Sessions Woods Wildlife Management Area and Conservation Education Center in Burlington can attend monthly educational programs and also tour the exhibit area and interpretive trails. The Division’s Conservation Education/Firearms Safety Program offers courses in firearms, archery, and trapping, as well as advanced hunter education seminars and events for junior hunters. The Fisheries Division’s CARE (Connecticut Aquatic Resources Education) Program offers free fishing classes, including ice fishing classes, as well as learn to fish events throughout the year. A number of our wildlife management areas also offer great opportunities for wildlife viewing and nature photography. We also partner with other DEEP Divisions offering programs such as “No Child Left Inside® Great Park Pursuit”, nature centers such as Kellogg and Meigs Point, and many other conservation partners to provide natural resource programs and activities statewide. The best way to learn about some of these activities and events is to check the DEEP website (www.ct.gov/deep), as well as the Wildlife (www.ct.gov/deep/wildlife) and Fisheries (www.ct.gov/deep/Fishing) sections of the website. Sign up to receive free monthly electronic newsletters: Wildlife Highlights (www.ct.gov/deep/WildlifeHighlights) and CT Fishin’ Tips (https://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2696&q=547000&deepNav_GID=1630) and follow us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/CTFishAndWildlife). You may even want to get a subscription to the official bi-monthly publication of the DEEP, Bureau of Natural Resources, “Connecticut Wildlife.”