Youth seasons are about to open up across the country. While this is a great time to get out and kill a deer as they are still on their summer pattern, and before the craziness of the rut kicks in, focusing on making sure your youth enjoys the hunt should be the objective of the hunt. As we all work to recruit new hunters into our ranks, let’s make sure their earliest hunts are done in a way that is likely to make our hunting heritage appeal to them.
Hunt deer, not trophies
Hunters introducing new folks to hunting, youths, or otherwise, sometimes forget that their budding hunter hasn’t experienced much time in the woods before. Try to remember how excited you were the first time you had a deer just a few yards away. Hopefully you still feel that every time you go into the woods, but if your nerves have acclimated and you don’t get that jolt every time even a button buck is in range, be sure to let them enjoy that.
A new hunter is going to have more fun being covered up in does and fawns, than sitting on a big buck’s bedroom, seeing nothing. Make the focus of the hunt about seeing nature through a hunter’s eyes, not about putting another line in a record book somewhere. Your chances of success go up dramatically, and so does the likelihood that your new hunter will be hooked on the experience.
Focus on comfort
This is especially true for young hunters. Even experienced hunters sometimes struggle with long sits. Bad weather or slow animal movement will only make this worse. For young hunters, think about using a ground blind instead of a tree stand. They will be able to fidget without risking being seen, and if they need to lay down for a bit, the ground is far safer than leaning against you in a tree stand.
The more comfortable they are, the less likely you are to hear the hunting version of “are we there yet?” There’s no substitute for time in the field when you’re trying to fill a tag, and if your young hunter doesn’t want to stay out because they aren’t comfortable, you may have trouble getting them back out there in the future.
Let them run the hunt
This is a youth hunt. Let them run the hunt. If they want to shoot a deer, you’d rather they did, as long as it is legal, let them. If they want to leave after a few unproductive hours, consider it. Even if it wasn’t hunting, we’ve all been turned off of a food or activity that someone wanted us to like so much that they pushed it to the point we refused it out of spite.
Let the youth be part of the planning. Let the youth make decisions on what to do. The ownership of that time spent together will be worth far more to them than the outcome of the day afield.
After all, the job of the experienced hunter is as much to bring a new hunter into the fold, as it is helping them fill their tag.