Get the kids involved well ahead of the actual youth hunts
One of the benefits of living tight to the New York-Pennsylvania border is that I get to hunt both states with regularity – and I can take a kid out hunting during the popular youth deer seasons in both states.
Now is the time to start lining up your kid, which for me is more of a challenge since Paula and I don’t have any of our own. It’s a bit tougher in New York state, since hunting regulations squeeze the pool of potential youths, limiting my candidates to hunters 14 and 15 years of age, as opposed to Pennsylvania’s 12-16.
I can’t stress enough that it’s something all hunters should do. Take a kid afield. Some of my greatest hunting memories have been made with youngsters harvesting their first gobbler or whitetail. And don’t limit pairing up with a youth during those special seasons; you can take them out during the regular seasons as well, and that’s also a great time to take a newbie adult hunter afield who is looking for the experience.
But again, now is the time to start planning and preparing for the youth seasons. Don’t just grab the youngster on the opening day of those special hunts; get them involved in the entire planning and preparation. Take them to the shooting range. Take them scouting. Get to know them a bit and build their anticipation ahead of the hunt.
For the past couple years, I’ve taken things a step further by trying to locate and youngster who doesn’t have a pathway to hunting. Maybe his father isn’t in the picture or he’s part of a family of non-hunters but wants to take up the sport. The kids are out there and admittedly it takes a bit of searching, but if we’re truly interested in growing our ranks this is the way to do just that.
Think about it. The special, organized youth deer, pheasant and waterfowl hunts are enjoyable and memorable, but let’s be honest – in almost all cases those kids taking part are going to be hunters anyway, Typically, they are the sons and daughters of hunters, were born into hunting families, and are simply enjoying the special hunt.
That’s now how we grow the ranks of hunters and anglers. We do that by looking around and seeing what youths and adults are out there, wanting to see what hunting and fishing is all about but not quite sure how to go about it. We can help. And we should.
So this year make a special effort to locate those folks and introduce them to hunting and fishing. And keep in mind, it’s not a one-time, one-outing detail. Studies have shown it can be a two- or three-year process before the youth or adult is ready to go it alone.
The memories you make in the field or on the water will be among your biggest. And chances are you will develop a lifelong friendship as you help grow our ranks and create a future legion of conservationists.