Raising the next generation of hunters should be a priority for every sportsman or sportswoman.
Even though hunting has seen a rise in participation in recent years, it's important that existing hunters continue to share their guidance and knowledge with future generations.
If you're not sure how to get your kids involved in hunting, here are six ideas to help you raise a future hunter.
1. Take Them With You
It's amazing what kids pick up on from an early age. From the time they're babies, they begin mimicking their parents.
Start cultivating a love for the outdoors early. This doesn't mean you should give your toddler a firearm. You can start by having them tag along searching for antler sheds or helping you refill your feeders.
Some of my earliest memories involve walking the property adjacent to my grandpa's house looking for squirrels, digging up worms for a weekend fishing trip, and following blood trails with my dad after he shot a deer.
As a result, I've always had a deep respect for the outdoors.
2. Classes and Schools
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of archery programs in schools. Find out if your child's school offers one.
If they don't, contact the school district to find out how you can get one started. If they aren't willing to add an archery program as part of the physical education curriculum, suggest starting a club. You could volunteer to be the parent sponsor.
Encouraging your child or children to join a class or program is a great way to get them to start thinking independently about their role in the outdoors. Even by learning archery, the lessons that go along with such a skill are invaluable.
The National Archery in Schools Program is a great resource.
3. Summer Camps
Your kids will love spending time with you in the outdoors, but you should also look for opportunities for them to interact with other youth hunters.
Many states, like Georgia and Florida, offer youth summer camps that focus on outdoor skills such as firearm safety, shooting, trapping, conservation, and game calling. There may also be a privately-owned camp in your area.
If you can't find a hunting specific program in your area, a local 4-H club would be a good alternative for introducing your kids to other outdoor enthusiasts their age.
4. Youth Hunting Days
Take advantage of youth hunting days! On select days during the various seasons, hunting is only allowed for those 17 years old and under. Kids must be accompanied by a licensed hunter 21 years or older. Keep in mind, most states have a limit on the number of kids each hunter can bring with them.
Just because these days are specified for kids, don't limit your outings to just these select days. When raising future hunters, taking them out often instead of sporadically is critical.
5. Education Opportunities
Attend your state's hunter safety education course with your kids. It may not have been a requirement for you or you may have already taken it, but use it as another opportunity to bond with your kid.
Also, many states now offer the option to take the course online. However, do your kid a favor and go in person. While the Internet is great for a lot of things, safety is better learned in person. Also handling the materials in person will help them feel more comfortable when they are out hunting with you.
Educating them early will help ensure kids grow into responsible and ethical hunters.
6. Make an Investment
If your child takes an early interest in hunting, you may want to look into making a long-term invest into their future. Many states offer the option to purchase a lifetime hunting and fishing license.
Since my husband and I are both outdoor enthusiasts, we plan to purchase a lifetime combination license for our daughter's second birthday.
In South Carolina, this covers freshwater fishing, state hunting, and big game hunting for just $300 (the price goes up after two years of age). Aside from tags and special permits, she'll never have to purchase a license again in her lifetime. This is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
In the grand scheme of things, it's a small price to pay for raising a future hunter.
With so many ways to introduce kids to hunting, there should be no shortage of future hunters.