By Josh Boyd
Self-reflection is perhaps one of the most noteworthy attributes of the human mind. An individual recalls and reflects upon the meaningful moments of their life and the direct impact in which they have played.
As outdoorsmen and women, we tend to reflect quite frequently, perhaps more so than most. Something as simple in nature as a leisurely stroll through a woodlot of prominence within our past is sure to bring back a flood of memories. Above all else, those same memories made while afield, will stand the test of time and remain as the true trophy gained from our outings.
Upon reflection, the memories of where it all began are naturally of much significance to a hunter. For the vast majority, these moments took place in the accompaniment of a mentor who, through patience and their own love for the outdoors, took the time to foster what would become a new and valued way of life for their young protégée.
Just as these recollections of our humble beginnings resonate deep within ourselves, as the years go by, there are new generations of young men and women who are only now beginning their outdoor journeys. This is where we, as seasoned outdoorsmen and women, have the opportunity to pay forward to the young among us, the knowledge that we ourselves once received.
Everyone, at one time or another, has more than likely heard the sentiment that children are the future. Not only is this a more than fitting way to describe the worth of children within our society, it also accurately reflects the value of successive generations to the continuation and longevity of our hunting and fishing heritage.
Each year, the ranks of outdoorsmen lose a multitude of aging members due to health or mobility concerns. As natural as these occurrences are, the resulting void in the number of sportsmen must be filled in order to carry forward the time-honored traditions that we hold so dear.
As stewards to the young among us, we must be diligent in our presentation of hunting and fishing in a positive light, highlighting the interactive nature of these activities for the often anxious children. With the recent advent of so many technological advancements that are vying for the attention of today’s youth, careful thought and detail must be put into making a young outdoorsman’s or woman’s initial outings as enjoyable as possible.
Whether an afternoon on the lake or a morning in the woods, one thing of importance to consider when attempting to make a child’s initial time afield memorable is that the quickest way to sour a child on anything is to force them to participate against their will. Children have notoriously short attention spans and this does not always bode well for six-hour stand vigils or days spent in their entirety on the water.
When a child first starts out in their outdoor endeavors, it is best to honor their wishes should they decide that they have reached their limit, whether it be forty-five minutes or four hours. By forcing a child to stay beyond an amount of time that they are initially comfortable with, they begin to associate these outings in a negative light.
Also of note, when planning a day afield for a young outdoorsman or woman is the merit involved in correctly selecting a species of pursuit. Children are action orientated. They have a tendency to base their thoughts and feelings off of the here and now. A child is not likely to react favorably to a situation that lacks perceivable or visible action for extended periods of time.
With this in mind, a fisherman might consider spring crappie fishing or bluegill bed fishing as viable options for a child’s first outing in contrast to musky fishing. Likewise, when hunting, it could be advised to pursue small game or even the often vocal and boisterous spring gobbler as opposed to a deer hunt in areas of low population densities.
Of additional consideration is how much satisfaction a child can receive from being given a certain task to oversee during a trip afield. Children take much joy in the feeling that they have contributed in some way to the day’s activities. Whether this is based in fact, or just perceived, children often notice little differences and feel a sense of accomplishment that spurs them on in their future endeavors.
By supplying a child with a simple task to operate a call such as a push/pull style call in the case of turkey hunting, and allowing them the opportunity to try their hand at calling, a child feels that they are actively participating in the hunt. Along the same lines, by allowing a child to attempt baiting their own hook when fishing, they feel as if their effort factored into the day’s catch.
Above all else, by just simply taking a child hunting or fishing, you are introducing them to a world that they otherwise might have never encountered. Whether it be your child or a child of a friend or acquaintance, when mentoring youth in their hunting and fishing endeavors, you are giving them the lifelong gift of the outdoors.
Just as our hunting heritage was handed down to us, we must take the time to ensure that successive generations are made aware of the undeniable benefits of an outdoor lifestyle, and are presented ample opportunity to go afield to learn and grow as an outdoorsman or woman.
When introducing a member of today’s youth to hunting and fishing, not only are you brightening their lives, but you are doing your part to ensure that our hunting heritage flourishes well into the future. Just as you introduced that child to the outdoors, the process will come full circle as they are one day presented with the opportunity to share the same experience with their children.
Through careful planning and a keen eye for safety, a hunter has every opportunity to make a vast difference in the lives of young men and women in their community through their introductory efforts into the outdoor way of life. Just as we received the gift of being shown the endless magnitude of all that the outdoors has to offer, we are responsible for passing the torch, and one day giving that gift ourselves.