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Hunting the Dream: The Importance of Taking Kids Hunting

This storybook hunt begins on a mystical foggy morning in the hardwood bottoms and pine hills of Central Mississippi. As nine-year-old Chase and I climbed into our box blind, or what we Mississippi folk call a shooting house, daylight had already started to fill in the Tecomate food plot we were hunting. Yet the visibility was limited to only a few yards because of the dense fog that filled the area. After only ten minutes of the daylight combating the fog, a dark figure appeared at the end of the field. I told Chase to pass me the rifle to see if our Leupold scope could help sort out this critter through the murky haze. I passed the gun back to Chase, knowing already what it was, and asked him if he could make it out. “It’s a deer!!” “Can I shoot it?” I said to him, “Be patient and wait, the fog is still too thick, let’s wait till he gets a little closer or till the fog lifts.” After just a few minutes of hard looking Chase excitedly whispers, “There is two deer!” It looked to be two does but the fog was so thick that the video camera would not focus through. Again, Chase eagerly whispers, “I think I see a third deer.” We watched the deer for several minutes appear and disappear as the fog thickened and softened throughout the food plot. The trio of does never got any closer than around a hundred yards and finally disappeared out the end of the field. I reassured Chase that it was still early and that we would see some more deer. That is a risky promise to tell anyone, especially a nine-year-old. Thank the Lord, only ten minutes afterward a large group of mature does, yearlings, and fawns entered into the green patch only sixty yards away. Chase quickly, like a seasoned veteran, got the rifle quietly in the window and was ready to shoot. The deer were chasing each other around like a bunch of kids on the playground. I frantically whispered to Chase, “Shoot the middle one. Wait, wait, shoot the back one, wait, wait, shoot the front one.” Finally I just panned the zoom back to get all the deer in the viewfinder of the camera and told him to shoot the big one when they stop running around. BOOM! Immediately I could tell he hit the deer good as it ran across and out the left side of the field. “You smoked her!” The excitement of myself and obviously Chase was so high I thought the walls of that box blind were going to explode. We were high-fiving, fist pumping, laughing, and talking a lot of smack. This was not only Chase’s first deer to kill; it was the first deer that he had ever attempted to shoot.

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As all of this was going on, my good friend Kerry, and his eleven-year-old son, Eli, were only three hundred yards away in another Tecomate food plot. As I texted him that Chase had just smoked one, a group of does entered into their field. It looked to be two mature does, a yearling, and a fawn. As the deer fed, Eli and his dad finally agreed on which one he was going to shoot. “I am going to shoot the one in front,” Eli said. Kerry told him that was ok as he zoomed in and centered the camera on the front mature doe. Boom! Surprisingly, the mature doe in the back fell and the one he was shooting at ran off unscathed. You never know what will happen when taking kids hunting.

Hours later with two big does in the truck and two happy kids in camp we watched the foggy footage in my Kemper County cabin. We quickly again found ourselves high-fiving, fist pumping, laughing, and talking a lot of smack. Two hunts, two deer, and two memories, these kids will never forget. That is the magic of introducing kids to the outdoors.

Taking Kids Hunting: A Motivational Tool for Us Hunters
There are two things that I am very passionate about other than my relationship with my Lord and my family, and that’s hunting and children. All of us love the thrill of putting our hands on a trophy buck. However, nothing compares to the experience of watching a child harvest his or her first deer. As hunters we need to realize that it is our job to introduce the next generation to the outdoor world. Kids today are busier than ever with schoolwork, sports, video games, and many other activities that pull at their interests and at their busy schedule. Hunting now to the new generation is not as high on the radar as it was to most of us when we were their age. So not only is it our responsibility to take them hunting but to make it an experience that they will want to return to again and again. By taking children hunting we ensure that our beloved hunting legacy and hunting freedoms will continue for years to come.

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Fueled by this passion for children and hunting, I teamed up with a friend of mine (Kerry Nelson) who shared this same passion and we founded Hunting the Dream in November of this year. Hunting the Dream is an organization that simply introduces kids to the outdoors through hunting and fishing. Our primary goal is to take children ages twelve and under who do not have the opportunity or access to the hunting and fishing world. Our secondary goal is to take any child hunting or fishing at any age no matter the circumstances and video their outdoor experience. As the hunting goes, we plan to take them to some of the best-managed places that we can access. This will give these young hunters excellent opportunities in harvesting an animal and having the best overall hunting experience we can give them. As the video goes, we plan to film all of these hunting and fishing adventures with broadcast quality video equipment so the kids can share them with friends and family for a lifetime. Our hope by doing all of this is to ignite a flame in these children’s hearts for the outdoors that will spread throughout our next generation and preserve our hunting heritage for years to come.

Taking Kids Hunting: A Management Tool for Us Managers
The good thing about hunting with children is that they are not very picky about what they shoot. This gives us managers the opportunity to use kids as a management tool to harvest does. We all know that harvesting does is essential in properly managing a deer herd on any level. One of the biggest problems that I have seen in managing hunting clubs and single land owner properties is getting hunters to shoot enough does. Allowing children to harvest does can help out with this problem while also contributing to the regulation of the deer population and sex ratio of the overall herd. Most states now offer some type of youth season that precedes the normal hunting season. In my home state of Mississippi, youth are allowed to hunt two full weeks prior to the opening day of gun season. Also last year, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) introduced an antlerless-only early primitive weapon season that is during the same time as youth season. These early season hunts are a big help for me to meet antlerless quotas on my personal properties.

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This year’s harvest data showed that by compiling archery season’s antlerless harvests with the early primitive weapon and youth season’s antlerless harvests, the doe quota on my properties has already been met. Meeting doe quotas early decreases the hunting pressure on deer in general for later on during the hunting season. By the time the rut comes around deer will have had time to calm down and be less gun shy in open areas, and increase deer activity during day light hours. Also, keeping antlerless numbers in check will limit the availability of does during rut and increase the activity of bucks in search of a hot doe. Because the youth hunts produced thirty percent of the antlerless harvest total, they prove to be an effective tool for antlerless management. This also gives us the opportunity to teach children about management, and the responsibility of stewardship by getting them involved with the entire process.

The Hunt That Sums it Up!
When eight-year-old Caleb arrived at camp that Friday night he was quiet and timid. I could not get a word out of him even with my best jokes and stories. Early the next morning was pretty much the same story as I tried my best to pump the youngster up for the morning hunt, without even getting a smile. Two hours later this sixty-pound boy (soaking wet), who has never been hunting before, dropped his first deer in its tracks, like a pro on TV. All of a sudden this quiet and timid little boy would not be quiet as his confidence level shot through the roof. Just like the 95-grain ballistic silver tip .243 Winchester bullet shot through his deer. The cool thing about this hunt was that Caleb’s dad, Josh, was right there in the box blind with us. I am still not sure who was more excited, dad or son, but this hunt won two people to our beloved hunting world. Back at camp we watched the footage again and again. Seeing Caleb’s deer drop like a sack of ‘taters’ in that Tecomate food plot was more enjoyable than any 170 inch plus buck that David and Jeff shoot regularly on “The Bucks of Tecomate.” It did not take long to find us in my Kemper County cabin high-fiving, fist pumping, laughing, and talking a lot of smack. That’s the magic of taking a kid hunting.

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Hunters, take a kid hunting! Managers, take a kid hunting! The rewards are countless!

God Bless and Happy Hunting.

For any information on Hunting the Dream or how you can start something similar in your area please contact me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for more information.

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Posted by Mark Newell on 12/07 at 08:00 AM
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