I started duck hunting with my dad when I was 6 years old. He would set me in a homemade pirogue and pull me through the flooded timber of Northeast Texas and Southwest Arkansas while we pursued Mallards, Gadwall and Wood ducks. That was 30 years ago and a lot of things have changed. They didn’t make youth waders, boots, camo jackets or youth anything at that time. I wore upsized boots to accommodate more socks and had on enough clothes to look like Randy from the “A Christmas Story” movie!! Now, everyone in the waterfowling industry has special youth waders, jackets and even shotguns. So, let’s go over a few things to make your next youth hunt a success.
- Make them comfortable- When you take kids hunting, it is not to bear the elements and show them what a real hunter is made of. Carry adequate clothes and hand warmers for them to ensure they have a good time even if the birds don’t participate. Small things like stools, chairs and seat cushions go along ways to keeping a youth comfortable and happy.
- Don’t drag it out- If the birds aren’t flying, don’t make the kids sit in the blind or woods until the last possible second hoping for a magical flock of birds to appear on the horizon. Try and take them on early morning feeds where birds fly at daylight and they aren’t out in the elements all day.
- Safety- This probably should be #1, but you need to hammer home gun safety. That gun doesn’t know if it is shooting at a human or a duck. I always try to get the kids together before the hunt and shoot skeet and really go over proper gun handling and safety. With gun safety, there are NO second chances.
- Make it FUN- This hunt is all about them, NOT you. Let the youth tell stories, cut up a bit and blow a duck call or two. Let them play with feathers from dead ducks and count birds in passing flocks. You want them to have good memories afield and want to come back for more.
- Be Patient- Young hunters are going to move, talk and fidget at the worst possible times. That is all part of it. So don’t lose your cool and be grumbly and griping. Kids very well may shoot a decoy or two and that is part of it. I am sure we all have peppered a few dekes while we were up and comers too. Teaching them also involves teaching you how to be patient and making some great memories at the same time.
- Food- Whatever you do, don’t forget some snacks and food. I like to stop by the store and let the kids get a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit or whatever they like along with some candy bars for later. I always make sure to have plenty of hot chocolate on hand no matter what. Kids burn through food pretty quick, and you want them to enjoy the hunt and not be hungry as a hostage.
- Weather Changes- Be prepared for sudden weather changes. We all know how fast the weather can change, so carry extra gloves, jackets and most importantly rain gear. I try to pick days when I know there is 0 chance of lightning when taking youth hunting.
- Not all will like it- Be prepared that not all kids are going to like hunting. Some won’t like the getting up early or seeing the birds bleeding and dying. Other youth may instantly fall in love with the sport and hunt the rest of their lives. Just don’t take them too much and take it too serious until they are ready for it.
I am very lucky and grateful to my Father, Uncles and family friends that always made sure I had a way to go duck hunting. It seems that now days kids would rather play X-box, pokemon go, or play whatever electronic gadget is available than to be outdoors. Not that there is anything wrong with that in and of itself, but those things typically don’t go hand in hand with hunting and fishing.
I hope these tips will help you next time you decide to take some kids out on a duck or goose hunt.
Remember, it is their hunt- NOT YOURS, make it one to remember.
Story by Shane Smith