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Wapiti Weekend is probably the youth event we are most known for.
This event is an anuual event and parents almost fight to get their children into this event each year.
June 15-16, 2013
Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area
Presented by the Arizona Elk Society and
sponsored by the Arizona Game and Fish Department
Registration is full, However you can download the Waiting List Application below.
Registration is first come-first serve.
Wapiti Weekend is a two-day educational camp for children and teens ages 8-16
- Archery*: Participants learn how to use a bow in a correct and safe manner.
- 22 Shoot*: Participants will live fire a .22 rifle and learn gun safety.
- Muzzle Loader*: Participants 12 years and older will have the opportunity to live fire a muzzle loader and to watch the loading process.
*All shooting events are taught and supervised by Certified Safety Instructors.
- Hunter Ethics Simulator: AZGFD teachers go over situations that the young outdoor sportsmen will encounter while hunting in Arizona. Participants will be presented with real life situations where ethical decisions need to be made.
- Game Calling: Participants receive an elk call and learn how to use various other game calls too.
- Wildlife Identification: Participants will learn about the many types of wildlife in Arizona. They will also learn what to look for when trying to identify wildlife.
- Tracking: Participants learn the importance of wildlife tracking and receive tracking tips.
- Make-’n’-Take: Each participant makes and takes home a model of a wild animal track.
- Predator Hunting Demonstration: Participants learn different techniques to attract predators in hunting situations. The campers learn to recognize different Arizona predators and their habits.
By Karen Warnick , The Pioneer Newspaper
Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area is the perfect setting for the annual Wapiti Weekend presented by the Arizona Elk Society and sponsored by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The two day event, held on June 20 and 21, 2008 brought in 116 kids, 8 to 16 years of age, from all over the state. The fee for the weekend was only $30 and included all activities and meals. The event sold out in four days and had a waiting list of children wanting to attend. Including family members, kids and volunteers, over 300 people showed up to camp out and share in this unique experience.
Wapiti Weekend is an educational camp, totally run by volunteers, that provides a fun, safe place for kids to learn about and participate in activities related to hunting, wildlife, hunting safety and wildlife conservation. After the 7 am check in on Saturday, breakfast and the camp meeting, the kids were put into groups according to age, assigned a group leader and headed off to the numerous activities on their schedules.
Although this was the first time many of the kids had come to the camp, most had come before and look forward to this weekend all year long. One 15-year girl has been coming for 6 years and is sad that next year is the last year she will be eligible. Each activity lasted for an hour and 20 minutes and a trailer loaded with hay bales hauled everyone from the farthest activity to the main area. Activities included Fly-fishing, field dressing, muzzle loader shooting, shotgun, .22 shooting, archery, first aid, hunting and hunting ethics simulator, micro-worlds, GPS navigating, air rifles, backyard bass fishing, predator/prey, track identification and making, and hiking. The favorite activities of most kids were the shooting events. Each activity was run by trained volunteers and stressed safety and personal responsibility.
On Saturday night, after dinner, the raffle was held and each youth received an item which included guns, tents, bows, fishing equipment and various other outdoor items. The AZ Game and Fish Department donated money through the Sportsman’s Grant program, as does Charlene Sipe, previous owner of the ranch. Bass Pro Shop’s, Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse, and other sponsors donated many of the items given out or gave discounts for anything bought. Basha’s donates money and food every year to help with the food expenses. The Arizona Elk Society funded the rest. It is estimated that the event cost between $8000 and $10,000.
When the kids check out on Sunday, they are given “checkout bags” that hold: coupons, bracelets, a “critter” book, pocket guide of Arizona, a t-shirt, a poster and other small items. Bass Pro donated disposable cameras for each kid and the AES provided lip balm.
For over 10 years, Shelly Hargis has been putting together youth camps. She has been with the AES since 2001 and organizes and directs the application process, sets up the activities, finds volunteers to run the activities, and generally helps out where she can. “There is nothing out there for kids to do outdoors”, she says. “I have a lot of help. I couldn’t do it alone.” Shelly said that the first few years were harder as the camp was out in the woods and tents were used for everything. Since the camp has been held at Sipe Wildlife Area, barns and buildings are available for the main functions. Brian Crawford has been the resident manager of the ranch for 12 years and supervises and manages four wildlife areas for the Game and Fish outside of Springerville; Sipe, Becker Lake, Wenima and Grasslands Wildlife Areas.
The Sipe Wildlife Area is 1,362 acres of beautiful hills, riparian areas, creeks and grassland. His responsibilities include maintaining the properties, fencing and trails, farming of wild grasses and alfalfa, maintaining the buildings and equipment and whatever else comes his way. “The goal of the Game and Fish Department is to protect and enhance wildlife habitat and to provide outdoor education and recreation opportunities”, says Brian. “The best part of this job is that I’m a country boy at heart and get to spend my time in this beautiful land.” Although the Sipe Wildlife Area hosts other smaller groups, the AES Wapiti Weekend is the biggest event held there, says Brian.
Sharon Eichelberger runs the camp kitchen and provides plenty of good food for all. She and her force of volunteers are up at the crack of dawn to get breakfast ready and make sure that no one goes hungry. It’s not an easy task providing three meals a day and snacks for 300 people in a camp setting, but everyone agrees that Sharon does a great job. The site has sinks, cabinets, stoves and a refrigerator set up in a barn, but everything else is brought in, including 7 gas grills and barbeques. The AES has a kitchen trailer that houses most of the equipment and goes to all of their outdoor events. Her husband Ron helped found the organization. He is an outfitter and guide and said the best thing about this is that “kids get introduced to the real outdoors and get hands on experience.”
Steve Clark is the President of AES and oversees every event they do. He is proud of what the Arizona Elk Society has accomplished and praised everyone involved in making this weekend a fun experience for kids. He is passionate about what he does and believes that providing kids with the opportunity to experience and learn about the outdoors and wildlife, will help them grow up to appreciate the land and animals that inhabit it. There has been so much demand for the youth camps that they have been asked to do more. Steve says that he would love to, but because everyone is a volunteer and has other responsibilities, it’s hard to find the time and enough people willing to do so much. What is clear is that there is a definite need for more of these kinds of opportunities for kids.
On a personal note, I have to say that I was highly impressed with everyone and everything involved with this weekend. My daughter and I camped out with the group and marveled at the efficiency, friendliness and dedication of all those who volunteered. The kids had fun and were well behaved, the activities were interesting and educational, the food was great, the weather was cooperative (except for a brief shower on Saturday), and the scenery was some of the most gorgeous in the state. In fact, I encourage anyone interested to become involved, by either volunteering or donating for this wonderful event.
Wapiti Weekend continues to be a rousing success. If you gauged the success by the number of smiles and laughing kids, then it was off the charts. Arizona Elk Society continues to host the event for around 120 kids each year who are interested in learning and experiencing more about the outdoors and hunting in Arizona. All of the volunteers should be very proud of this years’ camp. Many parents went out of their way to express their thanks for hosting an event that the kids loved.