When it comes to teaching youngsters the basics and traditions of hunting, often squirrels or rabbits are the game that usually come to mind for the initial outings.
Squirrels are a good choice because many of the basics learned apply to other types of game, like deer and turkey.
My first hunting was for rabbits. Almost by accident I shot one with a BB gun when I was about 10 years old.
While rabbits are good for learning, however it seems these days there are fewer and fewer rabbits to hunt. Most farmers have eliminated their fence rows and many also fall plow. Much habitat has disappeared.
The PR folks at Delta Waterfowl sent me information about starting youngsters hunting waterfowl. I’ve always thought of waterfowl hunting as difficult and challenging. The best hunting usually requires crawling out of a warm bed about the time many people go to sleep, and it also often requires waiting for birds in lousy weather. The worse the better.
However, the information from Delta Waterfowl President Rob Olson is interesting and worth passing along for would-be waterfowl hunting. Many of the recommendations apply to any type of hunting, and even relate in general to fishing.
"I really believe you can't start'em too early," said Olson, who hunted ducks and geese with his father well before he was old enough to pull the trigger. "One important thing we've learned with our First Hunt program is that hunting participation soars in families where parents hunt. The more you can nurture the culture when they're young, the more likely you'll have a kid who hunts over their lifetime."
Olson recently took his son Benjamin, 4, and nephews Petey, 8, and Joey, 6, to Delta to hunt ducks. "They had an absolute blast, and we didn't even shoot at a single bird," said Olson. "In many jurisdictions across North America, there are age restrictions on when kids can start hunting waterfowl. Restrictions or not, there is nothing stopping you from bringing the little ones along for a hunt. My advice is to just do it. You can't imagine how rewarding the experience will be—for you and the kids."
Here are 10 tips Olson recommends considering when you take youngsters into the field:
1. Keep it short. "It's like training a young Lab—short is always best," said Olson.
2. Pick the right day—this isn't the time for a tough, cold day in the marsh.
3. Make it fun. "Keep the focus on the kids and make sure the experience is fun and upbeat," said Olson. "Bring a football in case the birds don't cooperate."
4. Start teaching some basic skills, but concentrate on safety.
5. Bring lots of calls, and let the kids blow them as much as they want. The outing isn't about bagging birds. "Bring some ear plugs too, because it's probably going to get loud," Olson said.
6. Bring lots of snacks. "Kids always want something to eat," said Olson.
7. Bring a dip net. Yes, a dip net. "If the birds aren't flying, switch it up to a frog or water bug hunt. It doesn't matter to them."
8. Take a lot of photos. They are certain to become family heirlooms.
9. Bring a change of clothes because your kids are likely to get wet.
10. Get your kids to help clean the birds, and eat them that same day. "If you do, they'll get hooked on eating game," said Olson.
From this old outdoor writer’s experience, don’t worry about getting wild game. Make sure the kids have a fun experience. It’s about the kids and not the adults.