You could not erase the smile from my 12-year-old daughter’s face at the fine shot she just pulled off. We rattled in the river-bottom buck to within 60 yards and the memory is as vivid today as then. My daughter’s college studies and new friends take up much of her spare time, so hunting is on the backburner now. Nevertheless, she understands the need for wildlife management via hunting and embraces the bounty of organic protein found in the field.
That awareness was the result of immersing her and my son in the outdoors before they could even crawl. It is up to you to kickstart the next generation of hunters.
NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT
There is no time like the present for outdoor immersion, regardless of the age of your children. Kids that grow up in a household where hunting and outdoor recreation are a consistent routine tend to view these activities as the norm. Take them hiking, camping, to the beach, biking, zoo trips and anything that has an outdoor influence. My wife and I nearly wore our baby backpack out toting our kids along on outdoor adventures. They may not remember the exact memory, but “the outdoors” is a part of everyday routines.
If you feel they are mentally ready to handle hunting, bring them along. As they grow older and they show interest, involve them in preparing hunting gear, scouting and even cleaning game for the table.
The important thing to remember is attention span and burnout. Children do not have the same patience level as you so plan brief excursions. An hour or two in the woods is plenty for youngsters in elementary school and younger. And too much, too soon and too can often lead to activity fatigue. Mix outdoor outings with other activities to keep a fun balance of goings-on.
Finally, if your children have flown the coop, become a mentor. Participate in a state or local organization to teach interested youth hunting, and outdoor skills. You do not need to mentor in an official program either. Single-parent children or the neighbor kid next door are great candidates waiting in the wings to learn. Alps OutdooZ Brands is so concerned they created a Facebook page, Save The Lifestyle, to share and connect for hunt mentors.
IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE HUNTING
As a hunter, you hope your children will join you in the field or at least support the sport. That is why it is important to occupy children with a variety of outdoor activities. Activities can have a hunting theme even without shooting.
My children routinely joined me on shed antler hunts, scouting missions, trail camera checkups, treestand setup and even boiling skulls for European mounts. But expand on those to include hikes for morel mushrooms, bird watching, snowshoeing, fishing, camp cooking and anything that gives them appreciation for wildlife, and wild lands. Not everyone will become a hunter, but all can become potential voters. The more they understand wildlife management teamed with an appreciation for the outdoors, the better we all fair in a political environment changing at hyper speed.
I understand many of you have hectic schedules and may be trapped in an urban jungle. To keep the outdoor enthusiasm flowing you can enroll your youth in programs that keep the interests ongoing between outings.
Organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America provide youth with a well-rounded immersion in the outdoors including shooting. A leading shooting organization for youth is 4-H Shooting Sports that provides local, scheduled practice and even competitive matches.
Organizations like yours truly, NWTF, have youth programs like JAKES with chapters that coordinate youth involvement in conservation programs. Also look into the Mule Deer Foundation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and other conservation organizations that promote hunting as conservation with a youth emphasis.
You can never start too early to craft the next generation of hunters. A little goes a long way, but could add up quickly to fill future ranks.
Boy Scouts of America
4-H Shoot Sports Program
Mule Deer Foundation
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Alps OutdoorZ Brands Save the Lifestyle Facebook