The Mule Deer Foundation (MDF), a non-profit wildlife conservation organization committed to recruitment and retention of youth into the shooting sports and conservation, is on track to reach 20,000 young people in 2013.

Already this year, over 3,500 children had the opportunity to attend and participate in shooting and conservation-related activities at the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo (WHCE) in late February. These numbers were achieved through two specific youth events, as well as the general public attendance of families and kids throughout the four-day Expo.

On the first day of the WHCE, MDF organized the “Youth Wildlife Conservation Experience,” a program sponsored by MidwayUSA’s Larry and Brenda Potterfield. Nearly 400 elementary and middle school kids were bused to the event at the Salt Palace to enjoy educational activities with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Tongass National Forest and USA Olympic Shooting Team. The older kids were escorted through the WHCE exhibit hall by members of Brigham Young University’s ROTC Shooting Team, where they learned more about conservation and had opportunities to shoot archery, air guns and more. The highlight for many of the boys and girls was meeting USA Olympic Shooting team gold-medalists Matt Emmons and Jamie Gray. The Olympians brought their medals for the kids to see and hold, gave out pictures and autographs, and spoke about motivation, setting goals and dedication.

On the third day of the Expo, MDF helped host the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) Utah State tournament, and 670 young archers from 28 different schools were given family discount passes to attend the WHCE. MDF’s Youth Programs Coordinator Jon Zinnel and outdoor television personality Tred Barta participated in the NASP awards presentation and spoke to the young competitors. Barta led the crowd in the pledge of allegiance and prayer and had a special message for the kids. He talked of trust, honor, integrity and patience. He said, “Do your best every day and don’t give up.”

Zinnel said MDF’s Youth Program, M.U.L.E.Y. (Mindful, Understanding, Legal and Ethical Youth), has grown every year since its national inception in 2011. He said, “Our mission is to safely introduce youth to shooting sports, ensuring the sport’s continued growth. Plain and simple, we want to get kids introduced to firearm safety, experience shooting a gun, drawing back a bow and learning about wildlife conservation along the way.”

Several MDF chapters will hold M.U.L.E.Y. events in coming months. At least six are scheduled for this summer that will include appearances by USA Olympic Shooting teamathletes. To find an event in your area, contact Jon Zinnel at or 801-973-3940.

Image courtesy Mule Deer Foundation

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