MTSU Outdoor Claimed Reels in $70,000 TWRA Grant for Fishing Program

Middle Tennessee State University students enjoy a fishing expedition as part of the university’s new fishing program at Long Hunter State Park in Hermitage, Tenn. , on March 26, 2022. Standing, from left, are Govind Prasad Al, Zacharias Doohen, Hannah Dyson, Jacob Dillard, Priscilla Hammermeister, Elizabeth Burgess, Yu Ting Chen and Megan Jarrell. (Photo by MTSU by Blake Osborne)

Murfreesboro, Tennessee — MTSU’s Blake Osborne, the Middle Tennessee outdoor pursuits coordinator, knew True Blue students were interested in a college hunting program, and a slowdown during the pandemic allowed him to pursue it.

“We have also begun a collaboration with the Abundant Life Adventure Club, which is designed for black professionals and entrepreneurs to recreate overseas,” Osborne said. “They urged me to consider offering activities that would attract more diverse students…. Most of the students who were going to ask about hunting were students of color, so the idea of ​​adding hunting to our program was kindled because we want to serve the diverse student body at MTSU.”

Osborne reached out to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, or TWRA, about hunting licenses and gear, and his talks led to the discovery of grant money. Osborne applied and received $70,000 of that money for a new hunting program — the state’s first college outdoor recreational program to do so.

An MTSU graduate and local from Franklin, Tennessee, Osborne quickly used the money that arrived at the end of 2021 to stock the MTOP with poles, tackle, kayaks, paddleboards, cargo trailers, camping gear, fly fishing gear and more.

“With our new gear, we now offer free fishing pole rentals, additional fishing gear rentals at a discount, free fishing trips and free fishing clinics,” Osborne said. “All of these perks are available to both students and faculty, and all equipment is available for rent to the broader Murfreesboro community.”

The only requirement to take advantage of MTSU’s new hunting program is to show proof of a state hunting license, available for purchase online here at $9 for a one-day license and $38 for an annual license. MTOP will also offer a $30 rental credit to annual license holders.

College-aged residents represent the lowest demographic for license holders, so partnering with the university made sense for TWRA.

“We get students excited about hunting, we offer multiple trips and rentals at no additional cost, and TWRA can increase licensing sales with our participants,” Osborne said.

Zacharias Douhin, a flight student and fishing guide at MTOP, has spent his whole life looking forward to sharing rewarding pastime with his peers.

“We have a unique opportunity to create a large fishing program,” Doohen said. “In the future, we can expand our team and teach and offer small water resources education classes, whether it’s conservation, entomology, fly-tying classes or charitable events.”

Even MTSU’s fishing program is making waves off the Blue Raider campus.

“I am helping other outdoor entertainment programs in Tennessee obtain a similar grant,” Osborne said. “Tennessee Tech plans to work with TWRA in the next fiscal year, and I’ve also linked the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and Chattanooga campuses and Austin Peay State University with TWRA as well.”

Osborne said the evolution of the hunting program from a small idea to such a generous grant was amazing.

“These resources can be game-changers for programs both large and small, allowing more people to enjoy the outdoors and fishing!” He said. “Equipment is usually expensive, and not many people know what to buy, where to go and how to fish than putting a worm and hook on a rope. But programs like MTOP put a lot of energy into education, safety and conservation, so this scholarship at MTSU and other universities has The ability to safely take out thousands of Tennessee residents.”

To learn more about the university’s hunting program, visit the MTOP website here or email Osborne at [email protected]

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