Mentoring new hunters is crucial for the future and survival of this noble sport. Here is the leading reason why approximately 30 states have implemented special youth hunts.
In West Virginia, the youth squirrel hunt will be in two weeks, Saturday, Sept. 7. I just hope the weather will be suitable for adults and the youngsters to enjoy the satisfaction of being outdoors or in the woods on that certain day.
Between the years 2006 and 2011, there was a slight increase in the number of hunters nationwide (9 percent). This, however, does not even come close to making up the numbers of nimrods that were lost between 1970 and 2000. Sport hunting participation levels continue to decline or stay stagnate in many states.
All seasoned hunters nationwide must work together to increase the ranks of new hunters across, America, particularly youth. By introducing acquaintances, friends, and even relatives to hunting, seasoned hunters are going to play an important role in connecting adults and youth to sport hunting.
At the present time, it is estimated for every 100 adult hunters (21 years old or older), only 69 youth are coming on to take their places. According to Thomas Hughes, Assistant Vice-president for Education and Outreach for the National Wild Turkey Federation, "the hunter recruitment rate is abysmal".
I have said in past columns, that anyone can become an angler as long as they have a rod with a line and hook attached to it, plus having access to a stock pond or stream. In West Virginia, a person cannot just obtain a rifle or shotgun and call themselves a hunter. For a novice to really become a hunter, especially if they are born on and after Jan. 1, 1975, they must complete the required hunter safety education course. Youth hunters under 15 years of age cannot become skilled hunters without a mentor. To make a long story short, to turn a beginning person into a seasoned hunter simply takes time.
Just about all hunter education courses cover the basics of sport hunting. This will include hunting ethics, firearms education and safety, outdoor survival, map reading, state hunting regulations, and some hands-on shooting of real firearms.
One of the most common questions novice hunters often ask, "What guns are best for first timers."
In my opinion, a .22 rimfire bolt action rifle, equipped with open or peep sights, is best for a youth hunter at the age of 10-12 years of age. Most shotguns, no matter what gauge, have too much recoil for some kids, especially those who are small for their age. This was my problem when I was learning how to shoot. In a situation like this, small youth hunters develop flinch, which is bad for accurate shooting. Flinch become a habit which is difficult to overcome.
A 12-gauge shotgun of any make or type (slide action, semi-auto, single barrel or double barrel) is the best for a mature adult male and some females. Even a 12-gauge single barrel can bring in a lot of game (squirrels, rabbits, grouse, waterfowl, and white-tailed deer). Whatever type of firearm the novice chooses to hunt with, they need to get out somewhere and practice.
We all know there has been a shortage of .22 long rifle rimfire ammunition nationwide this year. From the news I have been able to gather up, the supply may be starting to gain on the demand. I was in a local pawn shop a few days ago, and they had just got some .22 ammunition in. Other people are telling me the same thing in other sporting goods stores.
When the weather is cold or inclement, it is important for the veteran sportsman to tutor first-time hunters on proper clothes to wear. I often recommend underwear made from synthetics, like acrylic or polyester. Wool is also good for these weather conditions, but sometimes uncomfortable; and there are certain people who cannot wear wool.
Many new deer hunters don't understand that controlling their scent is crucial to having a successful deer season. New hunters should not wash their clothes in regular detergent. All hunters need to get as much of the human scent away from them as possible.
To become a seasoned or veteran sportsman or woman often takes years of experience and/or practice. I have been hunting since 1955, and I am not one bit ashamed to openly admit that I usually learn something new about the great outdoors with each hunting season.