There’s no doubt that conservationists teaming together can accomplish great things.
On Feb. 20 about two dozen sportsmen representing all nine sportsmen’s clubs in Meigs County met at the Pomeroy Gun Club at the bequest of state Wildlife Officer Chris Gilkey to seek common ground and plan some combined activities.
Chris, who started as Meigs County’s wildlife officer last May, had among his goals these three things: create an coalition of local sportsmen’s clubs, get together with all of the hunter and trapper education instructors in the county to coordinate classes and meet the demand for classes, and put together a first-rate outdoors/conservation booth at the annual Meigs County Fair.
On that night these club members, and representatives of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources-Division of Wildlife and the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District, held what was essentially the first meeting of the Meigs County ACTT (Active Conservationists Teaming Together), the idea being to get these clubs to communicate and support each other’s activities, and to combine resources for an outdoor youth day at Forked Run State Park – tentatively slated for the afternoon of May 5, which also happens to be one of Ohio’s free fishing days.
Some of the clubs in the county are getting more involved in the community and holding events. A search through Friday’s The Daily Sentinel showed club activities involving the Shade River Coon Hunters Club (a coyote hunt) and a youth day planned by the Meigs County Ikes set for April 13. Also, the Chester Bowhunters is starting its league shoots with six classes: male and female bowhunter, youth hunter, NASP, recurve and crossbow. The Ohio River Valley Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation is holding an NWTF banquet on April 5.
To the best of my recollection this is the first time the clubs have pulled together. Probably the closest they did come to forming any form of alliance was in 1998 in opposition to the Mourning Dove ballot issue which Ohioans, led by a coalition of sportsmen, soundly defeated by a 60-40 percent margin.
Incidentally the anti-hunters failed to carry a single county in the state, which reinforces my earlier statement that it is amazing what Ohio’s outdoorsmen and women can accomplish when they work together.
For Wildlife Officer Gilkey, being assigned to Meigs County was a homecoming. He is a 2000 graduate of Meigs High School and a 2002 graduate of Hocking College. Since then he has been gaining experience first as an at-large wildlife officer and then as wildlife officer in Adams County before returning home.
“When I was first out of the (wildlife officer) academy I was at-large and didn’t have a county,” he explained. “I went to a meeting one time called the Hancock County ACTT, and what I witnessed there was all of these groups coming together. They had a good time; they had a good time and it was a positive thing for our community and for our sport. So I stored that in my head.”
Gilkey said he has been collecting these good ideas and bringing them back with him to Meigs County, and that having several years’ experience has given him an advantage. In 2010 was named the Ohio Bowhunters Association Wildlife Officer of the Year.
“I’m comfortable in the job,” he said. “I am at the point where I can bite off a little more since I already know the job.
“It has increased my workload, but it is a positive thing.
“I might have brought these ideas to Meigs County but without the men and women of these nine clubs that’s all they would be… just ideas.”
He also said he has received nothing but support since returning to Meigs County.
“I feel like I have gotten 100 percent support from the hometown crowd,” he said. “I was concerned a bit – had some reserves, but my main focus was coming back for family reasons.
“I have been blessed with support; support from friends and people have made things easier for me.
“I think the community likes the fact of having one of their own (as wildlife officer).”
Gilkey also made an immediate impression with the sheriff’s deputies shortly after taking over as wildlife officer when he chased a suspect from Second Street in Pomeroy down to the levee and went into the water to find and apprehend him.
Like I mentioned earlier, he has more things planned, but that will have to wait for another column.
Jim Freeman is wildlife specialist for the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District and long-time contributor to the Sunday Times-Sentinel. His column generally appears every other Sunday. He can be contacted weekdays at 740-992-4282 or at firstname.lastname@example.org