by Chris Smith
It seems everywhere in the sporting world, regardless of the innovations to every nuance of hunting and fishing, one constant message rings loudest: We need to get more kids involved. Do not be fooled – our sporting passion will be taken from us if hunter numbers continue to dwindle, and the young hunters, as they always have, represent the best avenue to keep our traditions going.
While many of us have good intentions of making our sons or daughters our hunting buddies, let’s face it, life is busy. Kids are into everything, as they always have been, but the modern grade-schooler is bombarded with more distractions than ever. It used to be you chose a sport and that was it, maybe two. Now it’s year-long baseball, soccer, lacrosse, martial arts, etc., and on the so-called “downtime,” kids have their noses in one of a host of electronic devices. If hunting is to become a part of their lives, starting early is the key. And I mean early.
Checklist for the Young Hunter
- Start off slowly with shooting lessons. Teach pointing rather than aiming – a .22 rifle with birdshot and breeze-blown balloons in an open field are a great introduction. When it’s time for a shotgun, do the best you can to get the gun to fit the youngster (a whole topic onto itself).
- If at all possible, never turn down the young hunter when he asks to go, and end the hunt when his attention starts to wane – just as you’d end a training session with a pup before it got bored.
- Encourage his interest in hunting, but don’t force it. Some days he may not want to go, and that’s fine.
- Show and teach respect for the game you collect, and let him or her help clean it and maybe even help prepare it for the table. We eat what we shoot.
- Don’t fixate on taking a limit; stress the enjoyment of just being out there.
- Bring plenty of snacks. Kids in a duck blind are bottomless pits.
“A Kid in the Boat” first ran in the October/November 2013 issue of The Retriever Journal. Purchase the back issue to read the complete article.