Experienced hunters asked to take sons and daughters hunting, and their friends, too
PRATT — On Nov. 7-8, Kansas hunters have the opportunity to add to their ranks by taking a youngster hunting. These two days are reserved for hunters 16 and younger to hunt pheasants and quail under the supervision of an adult 18 or older. (The adult may not hunt.) The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) began the season to hopefully turn the tide of declining hunter numbers and introduce youth to hunting opportunities in uncrowded and noncompetitive situations.

Studies show that the most effective hunter recruitment tool is experienced hunters mentoring new hunters. But as Gregg Patterson of Ducks Unlimited says, “When you have boys and girls without a hunter in the household, it's tough to give them the experience. Many young people are interested in hunting, but they don’t have anyone to take them. Hunters willing to mentor need to look outside their immediate families and groups of friends and reach out to any youngster who shows interest."

"The Kansas Hunter Education program graduates 7,000-9,000 people each year, the vast majority younger than 16 years," adds hunter education instructor Mike Nyhoff. "Classes are filled with interested young people, many of whom have friends who encouraged them to attend. But many graduates never have the opportunity to hunt because they have no one to take them. This is where young hunters with mentors — and mentors who have young family members or friends they mentor — need to reach out. Kids need to ask their mentors if they will add a friend to their group, and mentors need to ask their kids if they have a friend who would like to join them. And adults who have never taken a kid hunting need to get involved, as well."

The commitment to mentoring can be as simple as asking the kid down the block to hunt. To help make the trip more comfortable, invite a non-hunting parent or guardian, and perhaps recruit another hunter, or gain a friend, in the process. Some parents have never been hunting and don’t know how to teach their children. When they see the excitement on their youngsters' faces and experience the outdoors themselves, they might catch the fever and become lifelong hunters.

There are organizations that will help match interested mentors with interested youth. Pass It On – Outdoor Mentors, Inc. (www.outdoormentors.org) has teamed up with Big Brothers/Big Sisters to make a difference in the lives of many young people. But they need more mentors.

KDWP and private conservation organizations such as Pheasants/Quail Forever, National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), Ducks Unlimited (DU), and many local groups set up youth hunts. Find a local PF/QF group online at pheasantsforever.org, a local NWTF group at ntwf.org, or a local DU group at ducks.org. Local sportsmen's organizations may be found in the phone book.

"The youth pheasant and quail season was established for kids, not the skilled hunter," says Nyhoff. "In the past, hunters have always accepted their responsibility to ensure the future of hunting, and it is imperative that adult hunters accept the challenge today. If you can't make the Nov. 7-8 youth season, it's not too late; the regular season begins Nov. 14 and runs through Jan. 31."

This Nov. 7-8, take KDWP's 2009 Pheasant and Quail Youth Season Challenge. For information on this challenge, go online to www.kdwp.state.ks.us. Then click "Hunting/Hunting Programs/2009 Pheasant and Quail Season Challenge."