By Steve Weisman
10 ways to develop the love for duck hunting.
I have 55 years of awesome duck hunting memories, but none are more cherished than the times I have shared this passion with first my son Curt, who began going with me when he was only three years old, and now my grandson Hunter, who began hunting with his uncle Curt, his dad, and me when he was five years old. Yes, we start ’em young!
As an old timer, I understand more and more the importance of taking the time to get youngsters hooked on duck hunting. It’s the key to keeping the legacy of waterfowling alive. However, it takes more than just talking about it. It’s about making youngsters a part of the entire process and making the hunting trip revolve around them. Here are ten ways to do that.
- Nothing beats enthusiasm. It’s important to share your excitement with them. One way to build enthusiasm is to watch duck hunting videos. Even at age 37 my son gets a kick out of watching them with my grandson. It’s fun to talk about the kinds of ducks, the way that they come in, why the hunters are doing what they are doing, and how neat it would be for us to be there.
- Include the youngster in the planning. Take him or her out looking at the sloughs and talk about which ones are better than others and why. Look for ducks on the water and make a game of duck identification.
- Getting the dog ready for the season. Teaming up with the youngster and working with the dog on commands, retrieving dummies, etc., is always a fun adventure. When my son and I worked together with our Labrador on retrieves, we would trade off spots. First, I would sit in the direction that the ducks would be coming in, while my son would be hidden from sight. He would throw a dummy, and I would make the retriever sit until the “fetch” command was given. Then we changed up, and my son would control the dog. From age 8, my son did more training with the dog than I did.
- Take advantage of Fall Youth Days. Many areas have Fall Youth Days that are both educational and fun. In mid-September my grandson spent a Sunday afternoon at the Izaak Walton League grounds participating in all aspects of hunting including trap shooting, duck calling and decoy placement. Plus, of course, food during breaks!
- Get him into a hunter safety course. Check schedules early and make sure the youngster gets the chance to take a hunter safety course, and go with him. Yes, it’s a little like school, but it’s set up to be a fun experience. Hunter safety courses aren’t just about safe gun handling – they’ve grown through the years to become a lot more.
- If your state has youth duck days, get in on them. Some states have an early duck season, often in mid to late September. The idea is to give hunters the chance to experience duck hunting during the warmer periods and to capitalize on uneducated ducks and any early migrating teal. This is the perfect time to take a youngster duck hunting for the first time.
- Make the hunting trip about the youngster. Share the beauty of the first light and the sounds of the slough. Make a game of it and have them guess what might be making those sounds. Listen for the cackle of a rooster pheasant. Have them look for ducks and to also pick out other birds flying, whether it’s a Canada goose, a seagull, an eagle or even a crow. And pack a lunch the youngster will enjoy.
- Bring a friend. Have the youngster invite a friend stay overnight and come along on the duck hunt. You can bet that they will keep each other entertained, and it will most likely help you keep your youth!
- Practice at the trap range. Before going duck hunting, go to a trap or sporting clay range and let the youngster take some shots. Guide them so they know how and where to aim. Start with easy straight-away targets before moving to tougher ones.
- Give the youngster some good shots. When it is time to actually shoot at a duck, he gets the shot. Give him the limelight. For safety sake I recommend only one shell in the chamber, and putting the youngster in the best place for a good shot. Guide them and help them know when to take the shot.
If you’ve done everything you can to help the kid enjoy the experience, and he still gets bored and wants to go home, don’t demand that he sit there and be quiet until YOU are ready to go home. Nothing will ever come of that, except a child that will never want to go again.
The bottom line? Duck hunting is about making memorable moments together – moments they’ll remember as great times!
About Steve Weisman
A retired teacher, Steve Weisman is a member of OWAA and AGLOW* and has been a freelance outdoor writer for 19 years. He writes for several publications throughout the Midwest. He enjoys sharing news about the outdoors through his own experiences and the information gained from DNR wildlife and fisheries biologists and outdoor experts. Contact Steve at email@example.com.
*OWAA is Outdoor Writers Association of America.
AGLOW is Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers.
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