A note from Ken: Annie Adamson, a young Virginia woman, is nurturing a dream about sharing her love for the outdoors with other youngsters around the Old Dominion. She's doing just that with American Jake, a hunting and fishing program for Virginia teenagers she set up to help others learn the value of making new friends based on shared outdoor experiences and the joy to be derived by harvesting, cleaning and cooking wild game and fish for her family.
One of her young friends, 14-year-old Lillie Grace Clarke, wrote this commentary below. Check it out. Support the many programs in Virginia designed to get our young people outdoors. It is vital that we grow the next generations of conservationists. Hats off to Annie and the work she is doing.
By Lillie Grace Clarke
It still amazes me how that little cap of tannerite created such a tremendous explosion. I still remember the first time I shot a 12 gauge. It was a life changing moment.
My whole life I had wanted to hunt and truly get into the sport, but, like many other teenagers, I never had the chance. I then came across American Jake. Annie Adamson, founder and leader of American Jake, is one of my best friends. She is such an inspiration. She shares her passion and love for the sport with everyone she comes into contact with. Each and every person that comes to an American Jake event leaves with something, whether it's a new passion, a new friend, or just an amazing memory to hold onto, they are permanently affected for the better.
The program is based around a community of teens with shared interests and a common love for God’s beautiful earth. We learn that hunting is so much more than just killing. It’s about the feeling of accomplishment after waking up at 4 a.m. and hearing that first bird hit the water. It’s about the bonding moment between you and your buddy after getting your first buck of the season. It’s about watching the sunrise, caring for and respecting the land, and truly appreciating all that mother nature provides for us. Hunting is about feeling alive and connecting with something greater.
Everyone is at their best in nature. One of the best things about the program is where American Jake is located because there is no cell service. We are all quite literally forced to get to know each other because we don't have our phones to hide behind. By disconnecting from everything, we actually connect with each other and God’s world, building strong, healthy, bonds that last.
Most importantly, we learn how to properly enjoy firearms. Teenagers need to learn how to use guns correctly and respectfully, not to fear them. It’s about properly educating the person using the firearm. The first clinic I attended, we talked about what type of firearm you would use for different situations. We took apart shotgun shells to really understand what's going on inside the gun and the power it has. Fully enjoying firearms is not just about hunting, it's a skillset to master. For example, skeet shooting is like playing different holes in golf, except you are moving around to different stations shooting clays.
In the end, American Jake is an outstanding program. No matter what level you're on or what skills you've mastered, you will always learn something new there. The most magical part of American Jake for me, is when I witness another teen have that life changing moment after they shoot that bright orange target for the first time!