Mentoring the Next Generation of Hunters
By Gary Swingle
Many non-profit groups in the hunting and conservation world host youth hunting camps. From rabbits to elk, these camps typically offer young hunters and their families a great place to camp and share stories, plenty of food and experienced mentors to help in the field.
Having attending a couple of great camps this fall courtesy of the Arizona Deer Association and the Arizona Chapter of Safari Club, here are a few things that make these camps great for the next generation of hunters.
These camps are typically run by a small, but dedicated, handful of volunteers. They store equipment at their homes, ask around for donations, take time off work to make sure camp is set up early and stay late to break it all down and otherwise give up weeks of their lives each year to make these camps possible. In many cases, these same volunteers run the local fundraising efforts that pay for all the food and equipment, too.
In addition to set up crews and running registration, volunteers offer their services as mentors for kids in the field. In many cases, camp participants have parents with little to no hunting experience, or maybe just are not familiar with the hunting area. So mentors volunteer their time to take kids out and teach them the basics from finding game to what to do when you are lucky enough to harvest an animal.
Help from State Agencies
State agencies across the country are tasked with hunter recruitment and these camps are a great way for Wildlife Managers (or Game Wardens in some states) to help with hunter safety reminders, to teach the importance of following game laws and to maybe even point hunters into areas that have been known to hold good numbers of game!
Often overlooked, but a key factor in making these camps memorable for kids is the opportunity to be in a camp filled with their peers. Pair that with time spent around the dining tables and campfire and you have a great recipe for showing new hunters the power of the hunting community!
Let’s face it; food can make or break your outdoor experience sometimes! And for whatever reason, these camps always seem to have a volunteer or two that know how to crank out good food! Breakfast burritos are a staple in the southwest. Lunches can be sandwiches or burgers and hot dogs. Dinners are usually pretty hearty; the Arizona Deer Association usually has a steak night! And with kids, desserts are always important and its pretty tough to beat Dutch Oven Desserts like the Arizona Chapter of SCI!
And remember, attending these camps is typically free of charge thanks to the fundraising efforts at the local level!
If you take all those ingredients and remember to spend time in the field at your young hunter’s pace, you are sure to have a great time, make great memories and get the next generation of young hunters headed in the right direction!
Gary Swingle operates Ridgeline Market Solutions, a company that helps non-profits and small outdoor businesses with their advertising, marketing and social media needs. His dad showed him the wonders of the outside world at a young age and its been hard to keep him inside ever since.