Colorado Outdoor Sports offers extensive experience in creating lifelong hunting memories for our youth waterfowlers. Looking back, mornings spent in the marsh often become unforgettable memories for any waterfowl hunter. The memory of the first hunt leaves a lasting mark, whether that entails joining a friend or family member in the blind or experiencing your first sunrise with decoys and the support of other volunteers. Whether you’re only taking one youth or several, here are some tips for creating the most positive experience possible for any beginner hunter. Fuel that lasting passion that may drive your youth hunters into becoming waterfowlers for a lifetime.
Tip #1: Proper Hunting Preparation
As with any first hunting experience, youth hunts require proper preparation along with comprehensive hands-on education. Brian Shaffer, North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s Outdoor Education Project Administrator explains, “There is a lot that goes on during a waterfowl hunt, and the experience can be a little overwhelming for young hunters. That is why it’s so important to prepare them as much as possible before the hunt.”
All aspects of your hunt should be planned and explained. We recommend discussing hunting regulations, safety, dog work, decoy placement, concealment, game processing, and calling. Brian Shaffer further explains, “You don’t want there to be any surprises. Explain what the hunters will encounter step-by-step, from how to set decoys at the beginning of the hunt to cleaning and preparing the birds that are harvested. Be an open book for those new hunters. Explain what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.”
While safety and protocol are both very important aspects to impart on youth hunters, the overall goal is to get children excited about their hunting experience. Sharing your traditions and experiences regarding why duck hunting makes you excited is equally as important.
Tip #2: Prioritize Safety
Safety needs to be prioritized during any hunt. Instilling this value in youth hunters and any beginner hunter is crucial. Take the time to explain how to properly handle firearms to your youth hunters. Your key lessons should discuss awareness of your surroundings and other hunters around you, consistently maintaining muzzle control, always keeping the safety on, staying inside of your personal shooting lane, and proper finger placement on the outside of the trigger guard.
Shaffer shares, “There is a lot of excitement after a duck falls, so before we send the dog or a volunteer steps out of the blind to retrieve the bird, we have each hunter check to make sure his or her safety is on and the muzzle is pointing in a safe direction. We also have them open the actions on their shotguns. It is a visual signal to everyone that it is now safe to retrieve the birds.”
Incorporating safety lessons into the hunting scenario is crucial for proper education. When preparing for an upcoming hunt, set up the right corresponding practice with the right safety measures. That way youth hunters can be prepared for a safe and successful hunt.
Tip #3: Always Include Adult Supervision
Providing adult supervision from veteran hunters is pertinent to any youth hunt. Experienced adults need to be there in order to supervise and provide a structured environment that includes safety and learning. The key to a fun youth hunt is always providing the right level of engagement in order to deliver the tools for success.
Engaging those that are passionate and experienced with duck hunting can provide all the support and teaching opportunities for youth hunters. Even if these veteran hunters aren’t hunting themselves, they love being in a duck blind and often enjoy sharing their knowledge and experience.
Tip #4: Picking the Best Location
Finding a location with numerous targets is ideal for youth hunters. This gives them better opportunities to learn and experience the waterfowl season. Being able to provide access to a better-quality hunting area, such as, at Colorado Outdoor Sports properties, can enrich the overall experience.
When picking the best location for a youth hunt, blinds are another significant factor to consider. Having a larger blind available in order to accommodate all the adult supervisors and youth hunters is important. You’ll want proper visibility so that the children can see first-hand how ducks work as well as dogs retrieving them. An easily accessible blind that can be accessed by ATV or boat can also provide an optimal location.
Tip #5: Prepare the Proper Gear
While basic waterfowl hunting skills and safety protocol are crucial, so is providing the right hunting gear for your youth hunters. Youth hunting gear and clothing are now a lot more readily available– you should be able to find a wide selection developed specifically for kids in your local hunting store.
Youth hunter gear is now a lot less bulky than it used to be. These improvements in clothing and gear provide better comfort and ultimately safety. Without all the bulky gear and clothes getting in the way, it’ll give them a better opportunity for connecting a shot.
Giving your youth hunters the chance to pack their own blind bags is a great learning experience, of course always make sure they’ve included everything they need and educate them if they forgot something. Including a waterfowl identification guide is also important so that they can better identify their targets.
In regards to preparation, make sure to bring a lot of snacks and spend time cooking with your youth hunters in the blind. Cooking and eating together during a hunt can help build lasting memories while helping pass the time when birds aren’t flying.
Tip #6: Check Weather Conditions and Be Prepared
The weather conditions are crucial to any waterfowl hunting trip, making it very significant for your upcoming youth hunt. We recommend scheduling hunts for youth waterfowl days before the regular season starts. The weather should be milder and often times there will be more locally-raised birds in the area.
If the weather conditions are going to be cold, make sure you properly outfit and prepare the children to be warm. If they get cold, they’re likely not going to have very much fun and it’ll take away from the overall experience. Bringing a heater, hand warmers, and thermoses filled with hot chocolate are great ways to ensure warmth. If your youth hunters are getting cold and ready to go, it’s best to pack up.
Tip # 7: Maintain a Fun Environment
While safety and preparation are key to any youth hunt, the main goal is to keep it a fun experience. When it comes to measuring the success of a hunt, that should be up to the kids and not the adults. For youth hunters, any aspect of the hunting trip can be fun and successful. The highlight of their trip might be eating together in the bind or catching frogs. It shouldn’t matter how many birds they were able to shoot, as long as they enjoyed the hunting experience.
Keeping children engaged requires flexibility on the part of the supervising adults. Safety should always come first, but youth hunters need to have fun. Whether that comes in the form of playing with the dog or letting them out of the blind, try to encourage a fun environment.
Even though the focus should always be on your youth hunters, everyone really benefits from spending time together outdoors. Being a part of their first hunt is a very fulfilling experience for everyone involved. These first hunting experiences can blossom into a lifetime of incredible memories.
For more information regarding how to provide a successful youth hunt, please contact us at 720-300-9400!