Passing on the Tradition of the Outdoors | The Importance of Youth Hunting
When it comes to conserving, restoring and enhancing our countries natural resources, hunters have lead the way in supporting initiatives that helped keep our woods and waters full of game. The sport of hunting has a long history in the United States, and while the roots of hunting run deep, the numbers of hunters that make it to the woods or to the polls continue to drop each and every year. The hunting heritage has helped shape the lives of men and women all over the country, and today more than every hunters need to ensure that they take the time to expose the next generation to the joy and wonder of the outdoors.
The Importance of the Hunting Legacy
Not too long ago the topic of hunting would have never been considered a controversial one. In rural America especially, you wouldn’t have to look too far to find someone who hunted. The tradition of hunting and the outdoors was something that almost every youth would have the opportunity to be exposed to in some shape or form. Being outside helped connect young adults to the importance of nature, and develop an appreciation of wild places and wild things. Whether it was pitching a tent on a camping trip, or chasing down rabbits and quail, the outdoors inspired youth and helped to keep their imagination vibrant. Just being in the outdoors as a child can have almost the same impact as watching a magician or something of that sort, the feeling that there is still a part of this world unexplored, wild and untamed is a very magical feeling that every child should have the opportunity to experience.
For many of the uninformed, who have not had the ability to experience nature through the sport of hunting, feelings may sway to the opinion that all the hunters do is grab their Bear Bow with a Quiver full of Gold Tip Arrows and head off in search of game… Anyone who hunts, and the history books could argue this point. The sport of hunting provides an opportunity to teach young men and women many life skills that they will use for the rest of their life. Hunting teaches responsibility, trust, honesty, and respect. Hunting provides an excellent opportunity to teach and refine work ethic, as well as persistence and patients. It is probably a safe assumption that hunting has helped shape the lives of many across this great Nation.
If you take the time to think back, one to two key individuals will appear in your mind. These individuals were responsible for exposing you to the sport of hunting. Perhaps it was your father, mother, grandfather, uncle or possibly and a neighbor from down the road? The fact remains that someone in your life took the time to expose you as a youth hunter to the joys and wonders of the outdoors. When it comes to recruiting a young hunter, you can be certain it is for life, this one facet alone is critical. The percentage of hunter recruitment drops off steadily the older the hunter is to the point in which it is almost impossible to recruit a new hunter once they reach adulthood.
In today’s world of electronic entertainment and instant satisfaction, youth hunter recruitment is declining in most states. It may come to your surprise that it only takes one generational gap to go from a family of hunters to a family of non-hunters. While the tradition of the sport hunting is still strong across the country, it is more important than ever that hunters do their part to take time to expose today’s youth to the outdoors and the sport of hunting.
What is at Stake?
The opportunities and success that we enjoy as hunters can be traced back to the fact that hunters as a group are the largest group of conservationists in the country. Thanks largely in part to hunters standing together and speaking out, we have millions of acres of public land across the country that is available to us, with abundant game species for hunters to pursue. We have tax funding that finds its way back to the states that enable them to purchase and manage lands for fish and game and other non-game species. Thanks to the support of the hunter, we enjoy clean water and clean air. Lost on many that look at hunting as a negative, this sport has helped make our country better environmentally in many ways.
As the number of youth hunters recruited each and every year declines, so does the number of voices as the table when the time comes to rally around a cause such as the environment. So does the number of supporters of pro-hunting legislation. Most importantly, so does the number of youth that have the opportunity to develop an understanding an appreciation for the legacy and sport of hunting and what it truly means to be a hunter. That it’s not about the harvest of the animal, it’s about being and nature and appreciation the wild things that still remain in our world. Hunter recruitment is critical to securing the future of the sport and its legacy. As hunters we all have a responsibility to ensure we do our part to expose a youth to the outdoors whenever we have the chance.
Connecting Youth with Nature
Connecting a young hunter to the sport of hunting is very significant and there are many different ways to begin the process. Whether it is using Scent Crusher and twisting on a Rage broadhead in search of a big white-tail, or picking up a pair of Nikons to watch spot game on the mountain slopes, it is important to help develop the appreciation for nature in today’s youth that will last a lifetime.
If there is one tip or “trick” to help make this process more long lasting, it is simply to make it fun. Whether it is bringing along coloring books while they sit in the deer blind, a few extra snacks to munch on the trail, in the stand, or in the duck blind, it is vital to make sure they truly enjoy themselves. Remember that the successful harvesting of an animal is only the icing on the cake; it is about spending time in nature and sparking their interest and curiosity. They have to want to go, before they will want to truly participate in the sport. You don’t want to force the issue, just simply make it a fun experience. If you do that the rest will take care of itself.
Opportunities are Everywhere
Fortunately for youth hunters there are many different opportunities available for them to enjoy. Whether it is simply grabbing a can of worms and setting around a farm pond, or chasing small game like rabbits and squirrels, to simply taking a hike or camping trip, every state offers a wide range of opportunities to choose from. There are also several programs and camps available in the hunting community. Raised at Full Draw (Bowhunting Camps) is such a camp. It is a non-profit organization designed to promote archery, hunting and outdoor education. The goal of these camps is to pass knowledge and techniques on to the next generation, and allow them an opportunity to learn in a safe hands on environment. An environment where they get to practice immediately the skills they are being taught. In addition, there will be a focus on how to hunt responsibly, effectively and learn all of the other attributes of ethics morals and values they come along with spending time outdoors. We want the kids to exit camp as skilled archers, but more importantly we want them to leave with an appreciation for hunting and the outdoors as a whole.
As hunters, it can sometimes be difficult to find the time to hunt themselves let alone take someone new. In today’s competitive world of hunting, some hunters may even find that taking youth hunting is a hindrance that they would rather not bare. While this is unfortunate, the former is something that many states have taken into consideration. As a result, many states offer youth hunting seasons for many different game species such as waterfowl, deer, and turkey that occur prior to the “official” opening day. These youth seasons provide youth hunters the opportunity to chase game that have yet to feel the pressure of the full force hunting season. These youth season provides the opportunity to avoid conflict with hunters that do not want to sacrifice time in the woods themselves.
No matter where you look there are opportunities to expose a youth to the outdoors through many different sports like hunting. As hunters, conservationist and sportsmen it is our responsibility to ensure that the legacy and tradition of hunting in North America stays strong with the next generation. If we don’t teach it to them, who will? If the next generation doesn’t understand what hunting really means, how will they articulate it to the generation after them? The short answer is that they will not, and the wild things that make this country so great will inevitably suffer.
Hunting means many things to many different people, from spending time in the outdoors with friends and family to finding solace in being alone in nature. However, it all started with that very first trip afield, so many memories made that all started with one. Be sure to do your part instill those same values and provide those same opportunities in a youth hunter this year!