From the Hood to the Woods

From the Hood to the Woods

Camp Compass directs youths on a straight path to self-esteem and purpose in life.

Did you ever wonder what your life would be like if your dad or some other relative or friend had not taken you hunting? I've been writing this column for many years and have never written solely on one book or on one person, but that is about to change. This column focuses on one man, John Annoni, his book From the Hood to the Woods, and his Camp Compass Academy. John Annoni's real father was not around when he grew up, so he knew exactly what it meant to have a dad who never took him to the outdoors.

John Annoni's Camp Compass Academy gives kids better self-esteem and plenty of reasons to smile. His book, From the Hood to the Woods, shares his story, and that of the Academy.

When I opened the book to page one, the first thing I read was a page full of praise about John.

"John Annoni is a wonderful man! He has made a difference in my life."

"John is a hero who truly knows the meaning of the word caring."

"He is one of the most influential, positive people I know. My children are better adults and parents because of him. He is truly a Godsend."

Reading those words, I found myself asking who is this guy and what is he doing to gain such high praise? John Annoni started and runs an organization for kids called Camp Compass Academy. Although Camp Compass may create hunters and help with the decline we are seeing in hunter numbers, that isn't its main mission. It's not about creating hunters; it's about taking disadvantaged inner-city kids outdoors via an intensive and extensive mentoring program that allows them to have experiences outside the city.

My dad did take me hunting, and I have been forever grateful. It was the best thing he ever did for me because it changed my life and guided me into careers in University education (wildlife professor) and outdoor writing. Getting to hunt as a kid changed my life for the better, and you know what the outdoors has done for you. Think about what it could do for inner-city kids by providing them educational materials and access to nature.

The above noted quotes from parents and kids who have participated in Camp Compass give you some idea of the importance of what Annoni and his friends are doing.

John and his volunteers mentor urban youth in hunting, fishing, archery, tutoring, social guidance, and other outdoor youth activities, all of which give kids self-esteem and teach them to be punctual and patient. Camp Compass gives their lives purpose. The whole premise of the year-round Academy is to give kids a positive experience, a "family-like" atmosphere, and a place where someone listens to them.

Centered in Allentown, Pennsylvania, the program has five educational goals: to build bridges between cultures, demonstrate conservation and environmental practices, promote a positive connection with the community, assist with employment opportunities, and be proactive about firearms safety and education. Camp Compass does all of these things through exposure, exploration, extension, application, and mentoring.

Through an educational and outdoor approach, kids are mentored for as long as they feel it helps them. The Academy utilizes a reward system through which students earn credits that allow them to go on fishing, hunting, hiking, and rafting trips. As a result, the kids develop self-esteem, and they do better in school and life.

If you want to learn more about John Annoni's award-winning Camp Compass Academy, go to www.campcompass.org. There you will learn about John's new book, From the Hood to the Woods, an easy read that gives you the background of John and how Camp Compass Academy came into being. For a personal word with one of the Academy's Educational Managers, call (610) 778-0576.

Studies Reveal New CWD Findings
On another front, research continues on the impacts of chronic wasting disease (CWD). Infectious protein has been found in the urine and saliva of CWD-infected deer.

Amounts were lower in the urine, but findings do raise concern about urine-based deer lures. CWD prions were also found in the velvet of elk, although levels were low.

Of course, the real question has been what the disease does to wild populations of deer and elk. One recent Colorado study, comparing survival of infected mule deer to those not infected, found that CWD-positive deer had much shorter life expectancies.

Interestingly, CWD-positive deer were four times more likely to be killed by mountain lions, perhaps because poor health made them more likely prey. This lower survival for CWD deer gives credence to the approach of state wildlife agencies' efforts to kill deer in hot-zone areas to slow the spread of this disease.

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