Now a national youth hunting program with 350 clubs in 20 states, Student Outdoor Experience (“SOE”) got its start right here in Owensboro.
Before relocating to Dallas, John and Genie Stamper started SOE while they lived in Owensboro by piloting a club at Apollo High School.
“Our kids were both born and raised in Owensboro, so it was important to us to start it in our hometown where our support system was,” Genie explained. “We had the opportunity to pilot our first club there on campus at Apollo.”
They used that experience to form a program that other people could then start in their own hometowns.
Soon, clubs began at College View Middle School and Daviess County High School.
“Our connection with Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops really helped us grow,” Stamper said. “Bass Pro gave us the opportunity to be in 28 cities in three years by providing activities for kids during tournaments.”
Clubs are primarily formed in public high schools and middle schools, with a few in 4th and 5th grade elementary schools. There are also some home school chapters and several clubs that meet in Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shop stores.
“In our school clubs, we follow a curriculum that uses an emphasis on the outdoors to teach leadership,” Stamper explained. “What better way to teach than through an experience in the outdoors? We just use hunting, fishing or shooting sports as context.”
Apollo High School SOE volunteer leader Benji Dewitt agrees. “What we really are doing is developing character in kids through outdoor experiences. It’s really about life lessons. It’s an amazing thing to be a part of.”
Once a month, clubs have a hands-on activity like an archery lesson, casting practice, or a demonstration on calling or rattling.
Then, of course, there are chances to use those skills in the field. Every year, SOE takes students hunting during youth hunt weekend, which falls on October 10 this year. Along with SOE club leaders, parents, family and friends are invited to join the members. SOE also participates in youth weekend hunts in Alabama and Texas.
Here in Owensboro, SOE is partnering with Mentor Kids to bring in professional hunters to help guide the members. “Those youth hunt weekends are an awesome thing. If one of our members harvests a deer, we’ll take it to McLean County Processing, and then divide the meat between all the members.”
Student Outdoor Experience (SOE) is a nonprofit organization that educates and empowers the next generation to lead the way in preserving our heritage and sport. Through education, mentorship, and outreach, we use our expertise and passion to teach students lessons related to leadership and comprehensive hunting, shooting and practical how-tos. These lessons create an environment for our experiential learners to understand how to become ALL they were created to be.