By Rob Olson, President
Creating New Waterfowlers
Our best bet is to introduce adults to hunting
August 21, 2012
I RAN MY FIRST youth duck hunt in 2000. Our Manitoba event was the first organized youth duck hunt in Canada. I was excited then about getting youth outdoors, and I'm still pumped up about it. My best trophies are still first duck pictures.
When I started down the youth hunt path, I wasn't thinking too hard about the outcomes. A youth hunt felt good — and it was good. It provided as much reward to me as I was giving to my little hunting buddies.
More than a decade later, I'm taking a harder look at our own youth hunt programs and asking deeper questions.
"Take a kid hunting; Take a kid fishing."
If the subject wasn't so important, you might make the case that these slogans are almost cliché nowadays. Sure, we should all endeavor to take a kid hunting. But when you take a child afield, do they, in fact, end up hunting for the long term?
When we started our youth hunting program at Delta Waterfowl, we were talking a lot about the need to tap into new kinds of groups of kids within circles like 4H or on youth sports teams to get "new" kids into hunting. Ten years of experience has shown our thinking was mostly off-base.
Successfully mentoring youth can be a tricky business, as it turns out. To take a child who is brand new to hunting out in the marsh, you need the approval of the parents. Getting permission can be a mean feat, and no wonder. Would you let a stranger take your kid anywhere, let alone afield with a firearm?
Moreover, even if you do get a newbie child afield, who will take the youngster out several more times that fall and in subsequent years to ensure the kid has a fighting chance to remain a hunter after the glow of the first hunt wears off?
To create more than a one-time experience for a child, it's critical that you identify the ongoing source of mentorship right up front. If you can't provide it yourself and there is nobody else to take the child hunting on an ongoing basis, there's a pretty good chance it's one-and-done. And hey, that's all right, too. The child, and you, will be better off for the experience.
We've found the best chance of creating a new young hunter is to look for kids closely related to you, or who have a parent or other mentor in the family. You can easily get the social license to take the child out, and you have identified a source of ongoing mentorship. Quality of the mentoring relationship is the key, not quantity.
Consider that if we all create two new hunters in our lifetimes, we'll be more than holding our own in numbers. So look close to home first — I bet all of you have a nephew or niece who would love to go hunting.
And if you really want to start a fire that will keep burning, take an adult hunting. We have a nearly 50 percent success rate creating new hunters when we introduce adults. They have their own transportation, money to buy the required licenses and gear and less liability issues than kids. It's like stocking a 10-pound trout or planting a full-grown tree.
If you want to really get strategic with your mentoring, take a woman. If she picks up waterfowling, it's nearly a slam dunk that her kids will hunt, too.
I'll be taking kids hunting till I die. I believe it's one of the things I was put on earth to do. But now, I'll be taking my nephews first and looking for a full-grown tree or two to put in the ground, too.
Create two new hunters and put two ducks back for each one we shoot: That's our mission if we choose to accept it. It's far from impossible.
Rob Olson is president of Delta Waterfowl.