Conservation group’s fun day a hit

Posted June 21, 2009, at 8:45 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — Rachael Graves had never used a bow and arrow, but she looked like an old pro Saturday afternoon as she aimed for a pink balloon on a target a few dozen feet away.

The 12-year-old Brewer resident shot her first four arrows in a tight group, but still missed the balloon. Her fifth and final arrow hit the mark, however, with a loud pop. She smiled.

“I like trying new stuff,” said Graves, who has fished before but has never hunted. “I figured that I should hold [the bow] off to the right a little bit since when I was [aiming straight] the arrow would go to the left. It felt awesome when [the balloon] popped.”

Other children also had a chance to try something new during the first Outdoor Family Fun Day, held by the Penobscot County Conservation Association at the group’s headquarters on North Main Street. The daylong activities, with the exception of a chicken barbecue, were free.

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Several other local organizations, including the Penobscot River Keepers, Maine Audubon, Penobscot Fly Fishers, Safari Club International, the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and Maine Bowhunters Association, were at tables and stations for children to try different activities.

There were canoe trips on the Penobscot River and opportunities to touch pelts, bones and antlers and to see insect life and tadpoles from PCCA’s nearby pond. There also were demonstrations and trials in fly-tying, fly-casting, archery, air rifle and woodblock printing.

Organizer Woody Higgins, the second vice president of PCCA, said the goal of the day’s activities was to encourage children to try new activities.

“They seem to be excited,” Higgins said. “They’re coming and saying, ‘I shot an arrow’ or ‘Look at the fly I tied.’”

PCCA, he said, tends to give money to other organizations that run children’s activities, and also offers scholarships for local university students.

“We’ve been talking for a while about doing something ourselves for kids and putting on something like this,” Higgins said. “It was a matter of getting organizations to come do what they do, and we provide the facility.”

Higgins said he was “tickled” that there already had been about 150 kids and adults by early afternoon, despite Saturday’s rain and the fact that this was the first time the event had been held.

Brewer resident Julian Sirois, 11, said he comes from a family of frequent hunters. He was inexperienced in geocaching, however, and had fun on a hike during which GPS coordinates were used to find boxes containing small trinkets.

“It was wicked easy for me. I found three [boxes],” Sirois said after he tried making woodblock prints of different animals with help from local artist Sally Gilbert. “We found marbles, some coins and pennies.”

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