Hunting Season Offers the Perfect Opportunity for Today’s Youth
When the opening of hunting season began this past weekend, even though some sectors posted a slight decrease in participation, the success rates were high. But one of the most talked about facts was the ‘young mentors programs’ being offered in various states that posted an increase in 12-16 year-old hunters.
These members were just beginning to experience the wealth of opportunities that hunting and fishing provide, while their loved ones had the chance to spend more time with their children in a truly fun way. Across the country there are a variety of youth hunting programs that have grown steadily over the past few years, and each of these programs and events have been built in order to provide a way for youngsters to nurture their early interest in hunting, by allowing them to take an active role in various trips afield with well-skilled mentors.
As every community knows, pulling our youth away from that dreaded Facebook page or X-Box game takes quite a bit of effort nowadays, but becoming part of nature not only offers a chance at exciting outdoor activities, but also provides that much-needed time with the family, as well as a chance for exercise and adventure. The world of hunting and fishing can do far more than just teach them the basics, such as experiencing the hands-on use of sporting arms; these programs also offer education that promotes our youth’s understanding of wildlife conservation, which has truly helped assure hunting’s future by reinforcing the principles of hunting safely, through the close supervision provided by dedicated mentors.
Most all mentoring programs within the states basically provide the same services, and follow the same rules and regulations. When it comes to a qualified mentor for a youth program, that person is always a properly licensed individual, twenty-one years of age or older. This guide (whether they be parent or guardian) helps the participants become engaged with various hunting activities, while always making sure that safety is a top priority. From scouting to learning firearm and hunter safety – the youth have a truly fun time while learning to have the ultimate respect for their natural environments.
Now, the definition of a mentored youth is “an unlicensed individual under 12 years of age who is accompanied by a mentor while engaged in hunting or related activities.” When it comes to the ‘mentoring programs,’ the youth doesn’t need to take any tests that are required for all first-time license buyers; all that’s required is that the youth be trained in firearm and hunter safety before heading afield.
And for those who are a bit uneasy about the age group, when based on data collected from all the states regarding their mentoring programs, there have been no decreases in safety by allowing individuals of any age to go hunting. The preparation has been well completed and each and every event proves how much both families and states want to include today’s youth in something they really wish to do.
When speaking about various locations and programs, there also comes into play the variety of species that can be taken by a youth. While there are a few slight differences, most identify the legal game as being the same for one and all. Example: the ODFW – Oregon’s Mentored Youth Hunting Program – allows the following: squirrel, woodchucks (groundhogs), antlered deer, fall turkey, spring gobbler and coyotes. When hunting for antlered deer, the participants follow the same antler restrictions as a junior license holder (one antler of three or more inches in length or one antler with at least two points.)
There are many ‘extra’ hunting events available in the U.S., and the success rates have not only been high, but the ‘junior’ numbers participating have also grown. Take New York State, for example. There, the ‘Youth Firearms Deer Hunt’ was held over the Columbus day weekend, and offered 14-15 year old junior hunters the opportunity to hunt deer with a firearm. In this particular event, both resident and non-resident junior hunting license holders could take one (1) deer with a firearm during the hunt, as well as being able to use a crossbow if they wished to.
There are even bigger events on the horizon, such as Tennessee’s ‘2012 Young Sportsmen Bear Hunt’ (held in various counties October 27-28, 2012 for ages 6 through 16). Each of these young sportsmen are accompanied by a mentor, and youths over the age of ten meet certain hunter education requirements. Add in all the free fishing events being held, and today’s kids end up with a great many choices when it comes to encouraging their very own ‘outdoorsmen spirit.’
It is always a fantastic thing for parents to be able to spend time with their children in this era of the ‘Internet Superhighway,’ and the youth mentoring programs are one great way to have that opportunity ten-fold. For more information on these programs, as well as others for juniors and young adults, head to the various state Fish & Wildlife Associations to check out all the fun that’s coming up. You will soon see that these one-on-one mentoring opportunities gives first-time hunters a chance to try hunting and enables veteran hunters to pass on their passion for the great outdoors.
With this type of relationship, the U.S. hunting heritage is sure to remain strong!