Agri-science teacher Jim Hall at the Alabama School for the Deaf (ASD) has never had a happier headache than the one induced recently by students practicing with elk, crow, deer and turkey calls from the school’s new “Explore Bowhunting” kit.
“They about wore me out with those calls,” Hall said with a laugh. “The kids absolutely love the entire Explore Bowhunting program. They love working with the camo, trail cameras, track IDs and everything else in the kit. The only thing the kit lacks is a bottle of Advil. With all the calls they were trying, they gave me a headache by the end of class.”
The ASD is located in Talladega, and provides traditional and nontraditional educational programs for 180 students ages 3 to 21 who are deaf or hard of hearing. The school accepts students statewide. They attend as day students or as residents who return home on weekends.
The school received its Explore Bowhunting kit in Autumn 2013 from the ATA and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Hall instructs grades 7 to 12 in a shop-like setting where he teaches mechanics, construction and anything else related to agricultural work. He also offers a hunter safety course each year.
Hall uses Explore Bowhunting in all six grades because students express such high interest in the program. The kids come from rural and urban areas, and their hearing loss ranges from slight to “profoundly deaf.”
He said they’ve have had “a blast” with the Explore Bowhunting curriculum since the kit arrived. His classes usually number six to eight students, and they take daily bus trips to a nearby school farm where they’ve planted and tended a half-acre food plot, watch deer and turkeys, set up and check game cameras, and learn to identify animals by their tracks.
So far, about 50 students have participated in Explore Bowhunting. Without a doubt, the game calls hold special fascination for them.
“The calls are a huge hit,” Hall said. “They take the different calls and hold them up to each other’s ears or against their cheeks so they can hear the sound or feel the vibration. The ones who can hear at some level practice hard to get the sound just right. ‘Is it too loud? Was that too soft? Did it sound too flat?’ They really work at it. Then they’ll face away from each other and see if they can identify calls each other makes.”
Hall said the entire concept of animal communication fascinates the students. “They want to know why animals make sounds, what the sounds mean, how turkeys communicate, why is the yelp different from the gobble; they’re always asking questions,” he said.
The students are also fascinated by each other’s knowledge – or lack thereof – regarding the woods and wildlife. “Some rural kids know a lot about tracks and what animals do or don’t do,” Hall said. “Some of them have already been hunting with family and friends. They were surprised to learn the downtown kids from bigger cities had no idea that turkeys roost in trees, or where deer go to bed down. This is enlightening to everyone, no matter where they’re from.”
The students also enjoy trying out Explore Bowhunting’s camouflage gear. Last fall they took a mannequin and created a display at the entrance to the career tech building. “They dressed it in full camo from boots to the hat and mask,” Hall said. “Everyone had their picture taken with our camo mannequin. The excitement we saw with Explore Bowhunting makes me encourage other teachers to get their kids outside and involved in the outdoors.”