Create a Hunter for Life
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Squirrels are a great way to introduce young people to hunting. They provide lots of action and require less stealth than deer, allowing more opportunities for less-skilled hunters to be successful.
However, when taking a young person hunting, it's not about being successful, or even hunting — it's about fun. If the youngster doesn't have fun, he or she will not want to go a second time and the opportunity to make a lifelong hunter and conservationist might be lost.
"Young people are the future of hunting and conservation," said James Earl Kennamer, Ph.D., NWTF's Chief Conservation Officer. "We have to get them involved, but we can't force the issue. With so many activities out there for young people to enjoy, hunters need to make excursions fun, so they'll want to go back again and again."
Squirrels share habitat with many other wildlife species, including deer and wild turkeys, so in addition to being able to teach them hunting skills, squirrel hunting is great for early lessons about wildlife sign such as tracks, rubs, scrapes, trails and food sources, as well as firearm and hunting safety.
Squirrel hunting is great for getting youngsters outside to enjoy America's woods, waters and wildlife, but mentors must plan to keep their smaller partners comfortable and interested. Many young hunters don't have the patience to sit completely still for hours. They get cold, uncomfortable and bored if nothing is happening. So before heading out into the wilds with your sidekick, figure out what you need to make the trip a memorable one.
It's their hunt — This hunt is about them having fun, not limiting out on bushytails. Carry a firearm that they are comfortable shooting and leave yours at home.
Comfort — Make sure they dress comfortably in light layers that can be taken off as the day warms up, and don't forget their feet. Squirrel hunting requires walking and blisters can cut short a fun day. Find clothes and boots to fit them at Bass Pro Shops or Cabela's.
Keep them refreshed — Always take water and snacks they like. If they're hungry and thirsty, they're not going to have fun.
Keep them protected - Mosquitoes are often still out in early fall, so be sure to carry repellant or invest in a ThermaCell. Also, carry a first-aid kit; you're not planning on getting any injuries, but then no one ever does.
Learning experience — Don't just have them follow you around. Get them involved by pointing out wildlife sign and explaining why certain areas are good or why you do it that way. Give them a squirrel call and let them see if they can get one to respond. Learning is fun to them, even if they mess up a little.
Don't force it — Hunting is fun and should always be so. If they get tired, bored or just ready to go, take them home. After a rest, they might want to head out again.