A few weeks ago I wrote about Green Mountain Conservation Camp – an absolutely amazing program that I was lucky enough to experience when I was 11. I wasn’t really planning a follow up post just yet, but a gentleman commented that they had attended too: “I attended Vermont’s Conservation Camp back in the 1970s – I’m glad to see it’s still being run with the same passion!” Craig Reise attended GMCC back in 1979, when he was 12 years old. I thought it would be fun to share his story about GMCC, and he was gracious enough to oblige.
When I asked where he’d seen the original post, he said “I think I saw your blog through a mention on Facebook, but I don’t remember if it was your post or one that someone else shared.” Unfortunately Craig doesn’t still have contact with anyone he attended camp with. He reminded me, “that was pre-email” and continued “I was never much of a letter writer.” Craig lives in Suburban Boston, “along the Route 128 belt, near Dedham these days.”
I asked Craig if he was sent to camp with the sole purpose of obtaining his hunter education certificate: “No, I think I was sent with the purpose of getting out of my parent’s hair for a couple weeks. I was 12, I have three younger sisters, and it was a very affordable summer camp at the time.” Personally, I think that the camp is still affordable today – you can send your child for a one-week program for $250.00. They also offer scholarships for the fees. You can view more details here on their site!
GMCC is not just solely for hunting & fishing education, even though that is a big part of their program. They educate campers in many aspects of the outdoors including biology, ecology, and basic first aid & survival. I asked Craig if he already had an interest in hunting & fishing before attending the camp: ”I did – I actually ended up taking hunter safety three times that year! My dad signed me up in the late winter/early spring for a hunter safety class, I went to the Conservation Camp over the summer, and then did it again through Boy Scouts in the fall. My dad would sometimes take me and my sisters fishing, either in onesie-twosies or all of us at once (probably to give Mom some downtime!) My dad had hunted when he was a kid but didn’t as an adult. My family used to camp in tents at some of the state parks, and I was in Boy Scouts up until about that time so being outdoors was a regular thing for me and my family. And it was Vermont in the 1970s, there were a lot of people who hunted, fished year-round, snowmobiled and people just did a lot of stuff outside.
I didn’t really stick with the hunting, I didn’t have any mentors who could get me out in the field enough to keep my interest up at that age, then tried college, went to work, and moved around. I stuck with the fishing longer, but even gave that up between school and then work. Fishing something I’m thinking of picking back up now that I have a little more time. Now living in eastern MA / suburban Boston it’s not easy to get (re)started in hunting.”
I also asked Craig what the best memory he had from the program was: “For some reason I remember how much fun the lesson on turkey hunting was – we got to try all the different types of calls, we learned about turkey behavior, their lifecycle, how they fit into the ecosystem. It was long enough ago that turkeys were not common in Vermont, it seems to me there was great excitement at the time about how well the turkey population was starting to do. The experience, knowledge, and excitement of the instructors was really contagious at that age and made a big impression.” This just further goes to show how the program has always been so committed in teaching these campers wildlife conservation, safe hunting practices, the history, and the ecology. A fun fact that Craig pointed out was that turkeys were actually only reintroduced into the state of Vermont in 1969 & 1970. 31 turkeys in total were introduced into the state, and today the estimated population is roughly 50,000 (VT Fish & Game).
He went on about other activities too: “I liked the variety of activities – I had shot .22 rifles before so the hunter safety and rifle introduction were old news to me, but hadn’t done a lot of the activities with people outside a relatively small group of family, friends, or scouting. In retrospect, learning how to do those things with a group of strangers was probably a great lesson at that time.”
What is the best lesson that you feel GMCC taught you? “Ooh, that’s a great question. Growing in in Vermont in the 1970s I would say that it reinforced that there are many terrific ways to enjoy the outdoors, whether you are hunting, fishing, canoeing, camping, doing archery, orienteering with a compass and map, hiking and swimming, whatever – and it taught how to do them responsibly. The hunting and archery programs were paired with hunter safety education and “First Aid to the Injured” courses. I remember the canoeing classes taught us what to do if we tipped over or swamped the canoe. Every single program focused on how to do that thing in a responsible way so that you and others could continue to enjoy it.” I loved hearing that the camp has stayed true to their commitment to teaching every camper as much as they can about the outdoors. More to that point, they have continued to teach kids how to do all of these things in a safe and responsible way. I think that doing this in a way that makes it fun gets kids more interested in doing outdoor activities! Let’s face it, these days all kids could benefit from more outdoor activities, and less screen time.
The last thing that I asked Craig was if he had any pictures. “Sorry, that was waaaay before digital cameras and no one was going to trust a 12 year old with a film camera at summer camp! Strangely enough I did remember seeing the cards and certificate in that box of old childhood stuff I have moved around for the last 40 years. Even if I can’t put my finger on what exactly it is, those things must mean something to me if they haven’t been tossed out after all this time.” Pictured below his certifications from GMCC issued in August of 1979.
“This was kind of a fun trip down memory lane, thanks for that inspiration!”
Thank YOU Craig for putting this together! I hope you all enjoy reading his GMCC story as much as I did.