Courier Staff Writer
The surprise isn’t that a student has started an outdoors club, but that the school didn’t have one already. At least one teacher agrees.
“Lots of kids come in and talk about hunting,” said Amy Shilhanek, an Ottumwa High School teacher. “There’s so much to do for outdoor activities, but there’s no organized club at the high school. I think in this area, it’s needed.”
Shilhanek, a member of the Isaac Walton League who enjoys shooting, was glad to meet student Sam Jacobs, an avid outdoorsman.
Sam, 16, said he’s not the only student who would like to have a club with fellow archery, hunting and fishing enthusiasts.
Shilhanek agreed to become the teacher advisor. Sam founded OBOS (pronounced like O-town but with bows) as Ottumwa Bulldogs Outdoor Sportsman.
Shilhanek had Sam bring his idea to the principal, who asked for a written proposal. That went to the superintendent of schools. The teacher advisor followed up on the paperwork, and Ottumwa High School’s newest club was born.
Of course, with bows, hunting knives, rifles and trapshooting shotguns, the club only wants responsible teens as members.
“Safety is the priority — hunting can be dangerous,” Sam said. “That’s a big thing in this club: safety.”
But the outdoors aren’t just a place for hunting; they need protection, which often comes from true hunters who want to protect the land, Sam and Shilhanek agreed.
And outdoor sports aren’t just limited to hunting, they said. Sam said he loves the outdoors. Archery, trapshooting, hiking, fishing, camping, bird watching and marksmanship are just a few of the activities students may try to pursue.
“To get kids involved with stuff like this,” Sam said. “If kids aren’t active, they’re more likely to get into trouble [like] drugs or dropping out of high school.”
Shilhanek said staff at OHS strongly encourages students to get involved in extra activities. Those are usually the kids who stay active and stay in school. OHS principals have been saying for years that the most involved students are typically the best students. And that kids who feel a sense of belonging are more likely to stick around.
“They don’t even have to be an outdoors maniac like Sam is,” said his mom, Selena Jacobs. “Maybe they’ll find some enjoyment in something they can do.”
There’s a different kind of strength involved, said Shilhanek. Someone who may not be a great linebacker might become a skilled archer, she said.
Besides, Shilhanek said, she puts faith in research that says just having one trusted adult in school can make a difference in a young person’s success. She wants everyone to find an activity that’s right for them.
One of the OBOS club goals is to find sponsors for either equipment or finances — or to contribute their expertise.
Outdoor sports enthusiasts can speak to the club or show them how to identify wildlife, set up fly fishing equipment or how to be a safer hunter.
“There’s a lot of stuff I don’t know,” Sam said. “A lot of stuff.”
One of their first speakers was the local game warden with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
“The DNR officer was talking about all the different pathways you could take if you want to work in the field,” said Shilhanek.
Sam said he is intent on someday working as a professional hunter or outdoorsman. If he does, he may not have to go far from home.
“The game warden said Iowa is a hunter’s dream,” explained Sam.