The future of our sport and tradition lies within our youth. As sportsmen/women we take for granted our “privileges” of being able to fish, hunt, and enjoy the outdoors. I don’t have to talk about everything that threatens our sports, but I would like to offer up a suggestion on how to keep our privileges intact for generations to come. How? You might ask. It’s easy! Introduce our youth to hunting and fishing. Teach them to respect the wilderness and what it can provide. Get rid of the video games and computers and take them afield.
I was blessed to have a father that was interested in fishing, hunting and the outdoors. He started me off young and fueled my passion for the outdoors by taking me fishing and hunting when he could. I couldn’t wait for the arrival of next issue of “The Outdoor Life” or one of the many other outdoor magazines I could subscribe to. I still remember sending away for all the “free” catalogs that were advertised in the last few pages of the magazines. The magazines often became threadbare by the time I was finished flipping thru reading and re-reading from front to back. I would spend hours practicing my casting in the back yard or shooting countless arrows at a bale of hay. I was fortunate, but others are not. Some youngsters don’t have parents that are able to share this passion with them. This unfortunate fact is something (as a sportsman) we need to recognize and introduce these young adults to the world of the outdoors.
Many communities offer Hunter’s Safety courses that are often times required to get any type of hunting license. Sign them up for the class and attend it with them. You never know what you may learn as well. The class will give the youngster the opportunity to handle different firearms, learn gun safety, the “rules” of hunting, and an appreciation for the outdoors. While some things may seem trivial to you, they are an important learning session for them.
Soon there will be many outdoors shows and expositions in the area. As an adult we typically go to see the latest and greatest gear and kick the tires on a new boat or ATV, but for a kid this is an ideal place to get them started. Take a youngster with you to the show. Whether it be your own children or friends, it is important to expose them to what is out there. Let the kids fill up their bags with literature from the different venders. To us it may seem like a waste, but to them it is another learning tool. You can use the literature to introduce them to other types of fishing and hunting. I remember spending hours going thru my bag of “goodies” after a show and enjoying every minute of it. These packets will help fuel their desire for the outdoors. A lot of these shows have special areas for youngsters to enjoy fishing in a trout pond or participating in a casting contest. They also often have archery instruction and air-rifle shooting. Take them and let them learn, and most of all have fun.
As a sportsman we have an unwritten obligation to help fuel the desire to hunt or fish within a youngster. They are the future of our sport and we need to nurture this. Take them into the field with you on a hunt. Let them help you set out the decoys and build the blind. Teach them the difference between a rub and a scrape. The attention span of young kids can be short so sitting in a deer blind or tree stand for 12 hours may not be an enjoyable experience for them so concentrate on short trips. Take them when you go to set your stand or get them out in the field on a pheasant hunt. Walking with you they will quickly understand what it feels like to experience the hunt. Talk to them while you are hunting, explaining what and why you are doing something. They will be full of questions so take the time to answer them and, if you can, show them.
When it comes to taking a youngster fishing, you want to start them out with a short trip to a local pond or lake that you know has a good population of panfish in it. Kids can get bored pretty quickly so you don’t want to make a day trip of it, but you want to make sure there are plenty of opportunities for them to catch fish. Make them a special lunch or snack and maybe their own thermos of hot chocolate. I know growing up, that I wanted to be like my dad and when I saw him with his thermos of coffee I wanted one too. I would get my own thermos filled with hot chocolate and I could be just like one of the guys! On trips like this it’s best to not even bring a rod and reel of your own to start off with. You want your concentration to be on them. Take your time to show them how to properly bait a hook and let them do it themselves if they ask. The more they do the more they learn. Show enthusiasm when they catch a fish and show them proper ways of handling the fish so as not to harm them. Teach them proper release methods and make sure you explain what you are doing and why. When a youngster understands why they have to hold a fish a certain way or why you are releasing the fish they will have a deeper appreciation for the sport. The more they know the more entertained they will be. Don’t forget your camera to capture some of their fish on film. Their smiles and squeals of joy are something that you will not soon forget.
While you are out fishing or hunting don’t forget to take time to stop for a while and look around you. Take them searching for frogs, or point out different types of flora and fauna. Make their trip a learning trip. This will keep them interested and keep them from getting bored. These little breaks can help foster an appreciation for the outdoors as well as allow them to explore the area for other places to fish.
Sharing the outdoors and hunting and fishing with a youngster is something that everybody should do. It is what being a sportsman is about. Share your knowledge and pass it on to future generations. Let them have fun, but help them understand conservation and their surroundings. The key is to “Have Fun”.