I’ve heard some say that most endangered species on the planet is the American hunter. This frightens me, because deep down, I fear it might be true.
Conservation groups have shown admirable progress in animal restoration and habitat improvement. It is hunters, themselves, however, that will ultimately determine the future of wildlife. The NWTF recognizes the truth of this and is pushing to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters of all ages. This task will require the help of everyone that cherishes the outdoor lifestyle of hunting, shooting and fishing.
One of the first steps for recruiting new hunters is to take a kid turkey hunting. This sounds easy enough. But with a few decades of taking youngsters hunting under my belt, and seeing a few less-than-ideal situations along the way, I’ve compiled a list of things to make a more favorable outcome of that first outing.
Before the hunt
- Find an appropriate gun: This means finding one that fits as well as possible while delivering as little recoil as possible. I’ve found there is usually a youth gun available for loan in most neighborhoods if you ask.
- Allow the youth to become familiar: Knowing the mechanics of the firearm, loading and unloading, as well as firing the gun are all important. Use light-load ammunition during practice. Above all, insist on absolute safe handling.
- Pre-scout the hunting area: Look for a place with the highest percentage of turkeys. It’s important to keep them involved.
- Install ground blinds or build natural blinds: Having something roomy enough for a wiggly kid and all their gear is a must. Equip with seats and shooting sticks.
- Pack a spare vest or backpack with tools of the trade: This doesn’t have to be your high-end gear, but they feel more like areal hunter with their own facemask, friction call, binoculars, pocket knife, etc. Encourage them to bring whatever they feel will keep them content during slow times, such as electronics, coloring books or even a doll.
- Have an extra camo cap and camo shirt ready: Not all kids have access to hunting clothes. A quick cover-up with a big shirt and cap works great. It’s always more fun when you feel dressed for the occasion.
On the hunt
- This ain’t about you, what a good hunter you are, or how many turkeys you’ve taken: it’s all about the kid. Show them how to use a call, how to focus binoculars or to identify various outdoor sights and sounds.
- Shooting a turkey is not nearly as important as having a positive experience: You can enhance the experience by being considerate of all aspects of the hunt.
- Make it fun: Sometimes taking a break to play in the creek, pick wildflowers, climb a tree or look for pretty rocks can be just the nudge a youngster needs to get back in the outdoors.
- Pack an extra dose of patience: Be quick to comment on the positives, such as whispering, sitting still or spotting a turkey. Make light of any negatives like a spooked bird or missed shot.
- Try very hard to see the world through their young eyes: Know the example you set on this hunt is the one that will be imprinted forever. Make safety and respect top priorities.
Mentoring new hunters is a huge part of the NWTF Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt initiative. It will take us all shouldering the responsibility if we are to succeed in rescuing the endangered species known as the American hunter.