May 5, 2021
Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
MAYFLOWER — Spending time in the outdoors is often its own reward, a recently added program from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission offers extra incentives to building your outdoor skills. Just ask Anthony Long-Irby of Mayflower. He’s collected nearly all the achievements the AGFC’s Outdoor Skills Patch Program has to offer at only 13 years old.
The patch program, which awards participants based on achieving certain landmark events in the outdoors, helps guide budding outdoors enthusiasts on their journey from novice to an advanced level, ready to introduce another person to their passion.
“We’ve always focused on helping a person get their first taste of the outdoors through fishing derbies, nature center programs and in-class experiences, but we wanted to do more than help them continue beyond that first step,” Eric Maynard, AGFC assistant chief of education, said. “We also needed a way to tie all of the many other programs we offer together so people can be more aware of all that’s available for them outdoors.“
Participants can earn patches for Beginner, Intermediate and Expert levels in up to 10 outdoor disciplines, and can even earn a bonus patch in each to achieve the mentor level.
So far, Long-Irby has completed eight of the disciplines.
“It’s actually easier to list the ones he has left to achieve at this point, he has so many,” Lori Monday, AGFC regional educator for central Arkansas, said. “He still has some work to do in the conservation patch and paddlesports patch skills. Other than that, he’s done it all.”
Monday first met Long-Irby when he was 11 years old and taking the AGFC’s Hunter Education course she was teaching.
“We had just started the patch program, and I told the class about it, he was really excited to keep going,” Monday said. “He’s worked super hard, and wouldn’t let COVID restrictions keep him from accomplishing what he’s done so far,” Monday said. “He had to go through a lot of his training with the AGFC’s Virtual Nature Center, and our guys out at the shooting range really worked hard to make sure he was able to complete any shooting portions of the program.”
Monday even purchased a blaze orange vest for him and his mother placed all his patches together on it to display.
The patch program isn’t just about lessons, many of Long-Irby’s accomplishments had to be completed out in the woods and waters of Arkansas. He has even put his newfound skills to good use during the last few years, achieving some notable accomplishments for any hunter regardless of age.
“So far, he’s gotten three triple-trophy awards for harvesting deer with archery, muzzleloader and modern gun in the same season,” Monday said. “This spring, his grandfather took him out and he was able to get his first gobbler. He’s had a lot of support from his family and I couldn’t be more proud of his progress. Now he’s even helping mentor his older brother on some of the skills he’s learned.”
Visit www.agfc.com/en/education/first-steps-outdoors/outdoors-skills to learn more about the AGFC’s Outdoors Skills patch program.