As the average age of hunters increases, one of the big issues in the hunting world today is how to get more kids involved in hunting. It’s not easy, but it must be done. The future of hunting, and of wildlife in North America, depends on it.
I’ve seen several ways to turn kids on to hunting, and they’re not mutually exclusive. That means you don’t have to choose between them—they’re all worthwhile and they all work.
A few weeks ago I wrote about Blake Alma, an Ohio teenager who is passionate not only about the outdoors but also about sharing that passion. He could be a great role model for other kids. His podcasts can certainly interest teenagers, and might even prompt them to do what he does. Wouldn’t it be great if a kid you introduce to hunting has that kind of passion?
Last spring I was a guest at the annual youth hunt conducted by the southern Pennsylvania Warrior Trail Gobblers Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. Well over 100 kids were there, and at least 10 shot gobblers that morning. All had the opportunity to shoot bows at 3D targets, go fishing, shoot sporting clays, and attend a class on turkey calling. All went home with at least one prize. What a way to transmit the excitement of the outdoors! No kid will forget that day.
In Allentown, Pennsylvania Camp Compass Academy serves high school age kids with life-changing experiences in the outdoors. It’s a non-profit started by John Annoni, a teacher with a perpetual friendly smile. He’s a visionary. He’s energetic. He’s persuasive. And he loves kids. Annoni started Camp Compass as a way to introduce at-risk youth to the outdoors because that’s what changed his own life as a child of a single mother in the inner city.
He began by developing a conservation curriculum for the classroom, and it evolved into a year-round program offering qualified students hunting and fishing excursions. The program runs on donations— most importantly contributions from individuals. It’s the most effective inner-city youth hunting program in the country. Check out www.CampCompass.org. Your contribution can put an inner-city kid into the outdoors, and change his or her life!
Another way of introducing kids to hunting is to give a hunting-themed book to a kid for Christmas, or a birthday, or any day at all. If you know a kid you’d like to introduce to hunting, but he doesn’t live near you, what better way than to send a book he can read himself?
Shawn Meyer, a pastor in western Ohio, has written two books aimed at kids ages five to eleven. One is called “Connor’s Big Hunt” and tells the story of the boy going bowhunting with his father for the first time. Along the way they take the reader through preparation for the hunt, safety issues, landowner relations and other aspects of the experience.
Meyer’s second book in the series is called “Conner’s Spring Gobbler.” Connor wanted a turkey’s tail fan for his bedroom wall, and this hunt accomplished that. It also taught Connor that he can call in a turkey, and he learns the patience it takes to succeed on a spring gobbler hunt. It teaches that hunting is not just about success. It’s about gun safety, sportsmanship and respecting wildlife. Meyer’s books are available at www.huntwithakid.com.
Of course, the best way to introduce a kid to hunting is to take him hunting. It requires a commitment. You may sacrifice your interests in favor of his, but as Shawn Meyer says, “If the future of hunting is in the hands of our children, then our children are in our hands.” Yes, it’s the responsibility of adult hunters to turn kids on to hunting. That’s the only way it ever happens.
When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, writing about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. Contact him at EverydayHunter@gmail.com, and read more of his thoughts about hunting at www.jamestowngazette.com.