Editor’s note: This was sent to LSON by 16-year-old Wyatt Hohlt of Brenham. He just began his junior year at Brenham High School.
I have recently returned from a Texas Brigades camp in Santa Anna, where not only did I participate in a life-changing experience, I gained vast knowledge about the great outdoors, as well.
I now know, without a doubt, the outdoor life is the life for me.
The Texas Brigades is a nonprofit organization that oversees seven different, intense leadership and wildlife camps for youth, ages 13-17, located throughout the state of Texas. These seven camps are North and South Buckskin, North and South Bobwhite, Bass, Waterfowl and Ranch.
Last summer, I had the privilege of being a cadet at the South Texas Buckskin Brigades camp. At this camp, we learned all about white-tailed deer, wildlife habitats and quality conservation practices. We were engaged in hands-on activities such as locating and identifying vegetation for deer, dissecting deer to learn their anatomy, surveying the local habitat, managing a food plot, practicing archery and range shooting. The leaders also taught us a great deal about leadership and speaking, which made me more comfortable and no longer fearful about public speaking.
Because of my experience and interest in the Brigades, I volunteered to assist with four Texas Wildlife Association’s L.A.N.D.S. youth school days during this past school year. I led small groups of seventh graders in a quail necropsy and participated in their quail field day. I also volunteered to help with the eighth-grade deer lab and field days. In these four days, we all worked with more than 600 students. It was an incredible experience to pass on our knowledge to such a large number of students.
This summer I was a cadet at a second Brigades’ camp, the Bass Brigade. The skills and confidence I gained last summer at the South Texas Buckskin Brigades camp really helped me shine at Bass Brigade this year. We were surrounded by highly-educated experts from Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas Agriculture Extension Services, and others working in similar fields who volunteered their time to teach and guide us.
The Brigade Motto is, “Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.” This motto rang true as I was engaged in hands-on activities the entire week. The exercise I enjoyed the most was learning how to fly fish. Before the camp, I had always wanted to learn to fly fish but never could find anyone to teach me. My wish came true while I was at camp. We were taught how to cast and how to tie our own flies. We also had time to actually fish with a fly rod.
The leadership component of the training was quite intense. I am proud to say that I was the first in my group to volunteer to speak at a mock commission hearing. I was able to eloquently deliver a persuasive argument in regards to increasing the bag limit for alligator gar fishing. I give accolades to Texas Brigades for fostering my newfound courage and ability in public speaking.
The Bass Brigade camp taught me all the important aspects of conservation and how important it is to all types of life.
Cindy Loeffler, branch chief of Water Resources for Texas Parks and Wildlife, spoke with us, and she really grabbed my attention.
She told us to think about conserving habitats and natural resources and asked, “Why is it important?” and “Why should I care?” She said we should care because it is our habitat, too.
Loeffler also encouraged us by explaining how one person can make a difference. Because of these speakers and my time with Texas Brigades, I am now motivated to do my part. I learned that every piece of wildlife a person destroys or pollutes doesn’t just affect that person or area; it affects everything and everyone. This is why the practice of conservation is so important in the world today.
Not only do I intend to do my part for the environment, I want to share what I have learned and lead by example.
Texas Brigades camps have changed me.
I already had a great passion for hunting and fishing instilled in me by my grandparents. Now I have the knowledge and skills to make sure I can pass my love of the great outdoors to future generations.
With knowledge learned at this year’s camp, I am helping my grandfather on a project to restock an existing bass pond on land that has been in our family for more than 140 years. I feel that no matter which Texas Brigades camp I go to or how many times I attend, I will gain a vast knowledge of wildlife, an understanding of the environment and competence as a leader.
If you would like to learn how you can help support this program for future cadets or would like information on becoming a cadet, please check out the website at texasbrigades.org.