In October 2015, it’s a safe bet Kansas City firefighter John Mesh was looking forward to another duck hunting season shared with family — especially with his four daughters who shared his own passion for the outdoors. Then, the unthinkable happened: Mesh, 39, was killed in a building collapse while he fought a multi-alarm fire.
Determined to see John’s passion for the outdoors carried forward, his brother Jim and fellow firefighter John Sirna established the John V. Mesh Foundation. The non-profit foundation holds an annual clay bird shoot to support the John Mesh Memorial Scholarship. All money raised is dedicated to outdoor learning opportunities for children, and to scholarships for students interested in conservation careers.
In 2019, the Foundation generously supported the Delta Waterfowl University Hunting Program at the University of Missouri. The required course work and final mentored hunt for 10 Mizzou wildlife management students took place in November. Mitch Weegman, assistant professor at the U of M School of Natural Resources, oversaw the program.
“I went to a Delta banquet here in KC and heard about all Delta does to expose kids to hunting,” Jim Mesh said. “Then, I learned of Delta’s new focus on college-age and millennials and the program planned at Mizzou. My brother, John, and I come from a family of eight kids who grew up in the outdoors with our mom and dad. This kind of program is important to all of us, and we knew getting behind it would be a great way to continue my brother’s legacy.”
The Delta University Hunting Program was created to directly address a looming crisis in wetland and waterfowl conservation. Delta discovered that an alarming percentage of wildlife management students — the future leaders in waterfowl conservation — have little or no exposure to hunting, nor first-hand knowledge of hunting’s role in North American wildlife management.
“Thanks to the support of the John V. Mesh Foundation and others, interest in Delta’s University Hunting Program is skyrocketing,” said Joel Brice, vice president of waterfowl and hunter recruitment for Delta Waterfowl. “During the 2019-2020 season, we held hunts with 24 universities across North America. Dozens more are reaching out to learn how they can participate. How quickly we can grow the program will depend on the funding we can gather, but we see it as a critical initiative for Delta to secure the future of waterfowl conservation and hunting.”
The 2020 John V. Mesh Memorial Sporting Clays Shoot is set for Sept. 12 at Powder Creek Shooting Park in Lenexa, Kansas. Individual shooters and teams are welcome to sign up. See www.johnvmesh.org for details. — Bill Miller