Beyond the four seasons of winter, spring, summer and fall, there is no season many adults look forward to more than hunting season. And there is one season that many adults (including myself), and kids look forward to together—Youth Hunting Season!
Youth hunting season in most states occurs after the regular season closes. Depending on the state, it might last from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. However long it lasts, plan for and take advantage of it. If you do not have young children, there are ways you can still be involved. There are groups and organizations that run youth hunting programs and are always seeking volunteers to train and help with hunts. Find any interested kids early in the year so you have time to gather all the necessary training and certifications prior to the next season’s hunt. Enroll them in a Hunter Education course, and even take the class with them! Start purchasing and gathering hunting clothing, accessories and necessary equipment throughout the year.
Youth hunting season is more than just another hunting season. It is up to you what you make out of it. It can be one of the most memorable times of the year, because youth hunting season can be several seasons rolled into one! Not only is it a dedicated time for young hunters, but it is a season for bonding, sharing and friendships.
Bonding is the greatest part of youth hunting season. There is no better time to bond with your young hunter. Hunting camps are empty, so you will have no distractions when teaching your sons and daughters the skills necessary for having a safe and successful hunt. This is also a great time to you teach your kids what to pack for a successful hunt, hunting camp etiquette, tracking game animals, and how to field dress and process game.
Remember, this is their time. You are there to provide guidance—not do everything for them. For example, tell them the best time to be in the stand. Let them decide what time everyone should get up and what time to be in the blind. You can also let your son or daughter plan the meals. Explain to your young hunter that if you hunt in the evening and are successful, this means it is going to be a late night by the time you put away the equipment, hang and field dress game, then eat supper. Let him or her decide on a quick and filling meal knowing it will be late when they start cooking, reminding them that they still must get up early for the morning hunt the next day.
I have four sons and can attest that you can learn more about your children in a deer blind than in any other environment. Kids are more likely to open up and talk to their parents at this time. They truly feel that they have you all to themselves. The time you spend with your kids hunting is really a special time for both of you.
I know how special spending time with your parents is. Looking back at all my school activities, sports and social activities with my friends, it is the time that I spent with my family in the outdoors that I remember the most. I felt most connected to my family when we were outdoors together. It let me know how loved and appreciated I was to my parents. Best of all, it taught me how to raise my kids and show them all the wonders of the outdoors the way it was showed to me.
Sharing is another benefit of youth hunting season. It is also when you have the chance to share the experience of hunting with someone else’s kid. This is when you take the opportunity to introduce hunting to a young person who was not raised in a hunting family or otherwise had no exposure to this great pastime.
If you have a friend or family member, ask them if their sons or daughters would like to experience a hunting trip. Even better, ask your friend or family member if they would like to experience the trip with them! Explain to them what a great bonding experience they will have with their child or children. You may be responsible for bringing them closer together and introducing them to an activity that they will pursue on their own.
If you do not have any friends or family members who have kids, or if they have kids not interested in hunting, there are youth hunting organizations that are always looking for volunteers to help take kids hunting. Most state game and fish departments offer youth hunts, and many times are looking for volunteers to help with everything from transportation, cooking and even guiding hunts. Some organizations partner with state agencies to provide opportunities to interested boys and girls in youth hunts. For example, in Texas, the Texas Youth Hunting Program (TYHP) partners with the state agency as well as participating landowners to provides youth hunting opportunities to kids.
Friendship is also a fringe benefit of youth hunting season. Individuals who normally do not hunt, but are not opposed to the activity, are usually open to allowing kids to hunt on their property. Even landowners who hunt on their own property and who may not allow others to hunt during regular hunting season, may allow kids to hunt during the youth-only hunting season. This is when lasting friendships are made between you and the landowners.
Over the years, I have made many friendships with landowners who permitted youth to hunt on their property. These are not friendships that only happen once a year during youth hunting season, but friendships that last year-round. These friendships are solid because of the mutual interest of hunting and the shared interest of introducing kids to the sport. There are always opportunities to widen your circles of friends!
Oftentimes this friendship may even lead to more hunting opportunities for you during the regular season. This friendship also gets you another hunting partner. I have been on many hunting trips with landowners I have met because of youth hunting season, at locations other than their property. The more hunting opportunities you get, the more time you can spend outdoors.
Youth hunting season is a great way to introduce the next generation to hunting as well as forge new friendships. If we are to continue the heritage of hunting, we need to have a younger generation to pass the torch. As the number of hunters decreases every year, the number of anti-hunters increases, followed by an increase in anti-hunting legislation. The best way to defeat this is to grow the number of hunters in the United States. The future of hunting in the United States is dependent on the future generation of hunters, and we all can help invest in their anticipation of the next hunting season!