20th Year for the Waconda Lake Youth & Women's Pheasant Hunt

Pass It On - Outdoor Mentors was privileged to participate in the 20th Waconda Lake Youth & Women's Pheasant Hunt, December 9, 2017. In fact, we have been taking kids to this event for the last 16 years!

Started by KDWPT staffer Mike Nyhoff when he was running things at Glen Elder State Park, in 1998, the first hunt had 9 participants. In '99, after reading a local news article about the event, David Segui (1st baseman for the Baltimore Orioles at the time) and a number of other professional athletes joined the hunt "to do something for the youth in Kansas". A trap shoot and banquet were added to the event that year and 60 beginners hunted that weekend. Fourteen local youth attended the "one-and-only" Waconda Lake Rabbit Hunt in February '99. The hunters bagged 50+ rabbits and the cooked them up for lunch. After the regular event in November 2000, a special women's pheasant hunt was held in January 2001.

The 2002 Hunt was re-named the "David Segui Youth, Women and Celebrity Pheasant Hunt". That was also the first year that the Pass It On - Outdoor Mentors program became involved with several youth hunters participating. Over the years, we have brought young hunters from across the state to participate in the hunt.

In 2008, the event welcomed military service members who had recently returned from active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan. These "Hero-Celebrities" fro the KS National Guard or Fort Riley's Warrior Transition Battalion joined as special participants, recognizing them for their service. 

Over the years, the event has included professional football and baseball players, professional drag racers, champion turkey callers, tournament anglers, TV soap opera actresses, KART racers, sports broadcasting announcers, and many active-duty military members who spent a day hunting and shooting with new youth and women hunters over the years.

Jerry Holloway with volunteer mentor Brittany Waldman

Jerry Holloway with volunteer mentor Brittany Waldman

This year, Eric Williams and Jerry Holloway, who played for the St Louis Cardinals football team, were joined by Hall of Fame drag racer Guy Caster. In addition, we had TSGT Bryan Byers, TSGT Tim Campbell, CSM Steven Strawka and SGT Kenneth Kester join 30+ youth and women hunters for this years event.

The new hunters ranged in age from 8 to 67 and there were about as many male as female hunters.

For the true beginners, we started off the day with some review of upland hunting safety specifics, a "walk-through" of a field hunt and some time with the shooting instructors, busting clay targets. Once they had honed their shooting skills, they "hunted" a field with pheasants placed in bird launchers, giving the mentors the opportunity to work with the new hunters in a very controlled environment. They wrapped up the day hunting a field where pen-raised birds had be released earlier in the day. They all had the opportunity to see great dog work and experience first-hand the excitement of having a cackling rooster bust cover.

Those new hunters who had spent previous time afield joined their mentors on a wild-bird hunt on the refuge area at Glen Elder. 

Ashley and her first pheasant!

Ashley and her first pheasant!

We were contacted earlier this year by a young lady who had taken a hunter education class, but didn't have anyone to teach her to hunt. She was asking how she could find a mentor. We suggested that she join us for the hunt. As you can see from the picture, she got her first bird!

The day wrapped up with a banquet that evening, provided by the local Pheasants Forever chapter. Each hunter was entered in a drawing for some great prizes. Each group of hunters had a "Safe Hunter" nominated by the hunt captain. A winner was drawn from those names and they won a pheasant mount donated Jerry Scott of Scott's Taxidermy in Salina. The other Safe Hunters won game shears.

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All participants received a commemorative hunting vest, donated by the Ringneck Rustlers chapter of Pheasants Forever.

We look forward to seeing these new hunters in the field again soon!

This event wouldn't be possible without the help received from all of the many volunteers who mentored the new hunters and the sponsors who helped with all of the expenses of this event! Many Thanks!!

2017 Major Sponsors

  • KS Wildlife Parks & Tourism
  • Pass It On - Outdoor Mentors, Inc.
  • Waconda Lake Association
  • Waconda Ringnecks PF Chapter
  • Osbourne County PF Chapter
  • Ringneck Rustlers PF Chapter
  • Doug Richards
  • Brown Jerry's Blues, Brews & BBQ
  • Brush Art Corporation
  • Midway Coop

To see photos from the event, check out the photo gallery!

Young Hunters: When and How to Get Children Started

With permission from the folks at Outdoor Empire, we have posted an article by Erik Jutila addressing when and how to get kids started hunting. Thank you to Outdoor Empire for allowing us to share this resource!

 

Passing the Torch

There are a lot of reasons to introduce kids to hunting. It is a wholesome hobby that teaches valuable life lessons, encourages exercise and promotes spending time outdoors. In addition to the reasons that hunting is a good activity for the individual, getting the next generation involved is good for the overall sport.

– As the world becomes increasingly modern and technology-flooded, and gun and hunting rights continue to be challenged, hunting is in danger of becoming a thing of the past.

– Today’s youth will be responsible for keeping the sport alive by advocating for gun and hunting rights in the future. Hunters are also some of the primary activists that support habitat restoration and wildlife management.

– Hunting encourages quality time with family or mentors. Instead of playing games indoors on an iPad, it gets kids outside, spending valuable time interacting with people and nature. Many types of hunting are a good source of exercise and teach healthy lessons about the processes through which food makes it to your table.

Plenty of moms and dads look forward to a time when they have kids old enough to take along hunting. This article will explore how to know when the time is right for those first experiences, and how to make those experiences positive memories for your new hunter.

 

When to Get Them Started

Photo: Chris Waters

Like is true when it comes to many youth activities, if you get a child started too young, you run the risk of them burning out at an early age.

It does not matter if it is soccer or piano, kids get are often driven away from activities by overbearing parents that force them into hobbies. Some kids burn out early; others make it into their teenage or young adult years before they reach the point of pulling away from the activity.

It is best to let the child dictate their readiness and interest in hunting. Keep in mind that as soon as a kid is old enough to talk they are likely to start asking about going along on hunting trips. So, a little scrutiny will be required to determine when the time is right.

Every child is different, so there is not one set standard that can be applied to all children. When you are considering bringing them along on a hunt (as opposed to allowing them to actively hunt) some factors to consider are:

  • Interest in hunting Even if kids are not very interested in hunting from the onset, there is a chance they will come to like it if taken along. However, kids who are interested in going on their own may be ready to go at a younger age. If kids are a little hesitant, you will have better luck having a reasonable conversation with them about giving it a try when they are a little older.

 

  • Attention span- Lots of hunting is not necessarily action-packed, this article will identify the types of hunts that are best for getting a child hooked, but kids with very short attention spans might need to grow up a little before they are ready to come along on a hunt.

 

  • Willingness to follow instructions- Disobedient children are not ideal for a lot of activities, but when you add in guns, knives and outdoor elements, a kid not following directions can become a safety issue. If a kid wants to go, a hunting trip could be used as a reward for following directions well.

 

  • Sensitivity levels- If you have a child that you think would be very upset with the death of an animal, allow some time to pass before they witness it on a hunt. Let them tag along on a scouting day where you are spotting animals but not shooting them. Eventually, they may start to show more interest in your success stories and ask to be there for the hunt itself.

 

  • Stamina- Outside of mental stamina (see patience), physical stamina may play a role in them being ready to come along on a hunt. For the most part, kids probably have more energy than adults, but they may also wear themselves out quickly. If they tire easily and are likely to get discouraged by the work, wait till their legs are a little longer.

 

 

Starting Slow

Once you have determined that your child is ready to get involved with hunting, it is time to consider what their first outing should be.

If everything goes well, your youth hunter will grow up to enter the woods before sunrise and come out after sunset. They will be willing to endure foul weather and cover many rugged miles in a day to pursue game. However, long and intense hunts with low chances of success are not the best options for early experiences.

Before a kid is ready to carry their own weapon and harvest their own animals, let them target practice with air rifles or bring them to tag along on a hunt . Here is some framework for what would make a good first hunt:

  • A hunt that is about them: Even though the child will not be actively hunting, make sure it is a trip catered to them. Do not bring them on a hunt where you are focused on harvesting game. Their experience is the priority, and it is likely to play a big role in their interest in hunting moving forward.

 

  • Go on a good weather day: Just like adults, kids are likely to find more enjoyment and be more patient on a day where the weather is good. A day where it is not bitter cold or pouring down rain would be the best start.

 

  • Outfit them with good gear: Most grownups survive days in the woods by wearing hundreds of dollars in high-quality gear. Spending a bunch of money for a kid’s test-run might not be the best plan, but make sure they have good boots or shoes and enough clothes to stay warm and dry.

 

  • Bring snacks: A snack break is a good way to add some entertainment while sitting in the blind or provide an intermission from walking through the woods or fields. Not to mention, a hungry kid is likely to lose interest much quicker than a well-fed one. Pack their favorite snacks and bring along a thermos of hot chocolate on those cooler mornings.

 

  • Pick a hunt with some action: In a dream world, every hunt would involve encounters and successes, but much of hunting is not like that at all. Waterfowl, game birds, squirrels or other small game are good choices because you are likely to see some game and have some success. A big game hunt where you are likely to see lots of animals is not a bad bet either. Even a buck hunt where you see lots of does will probably keep a kid fairly entertained.

 

  • Call it a day when they are ready: With any luck, patience will be something that your child learns organically through their experiences. It is not a lesson best forced upon them. If they ask to go home, you might encourage them to stay a little longer, but for the most part, heading home or back to camp when they are ready is best. If all the trips are very short, maybe postpone them going along for a couple. If they ask to go again, you can preface the trip by saying “you can go along, but we will be staying in the woods a little longer this time.”

 

  • Let them choose their level of involvement: Kill shots, gutting and butchering animals are all a part of the sport- but just because a kid is ready to go for a hike in the woods, does not mean they are ready for the other parts of the hunt. You can establish that they will have to be willing to do those aspects before they can actually hunt, but do not force them to participate and observe if they do not want to. Likewise, if the kid wants to ease their way into it, find a safe way to get them involved like pulling on a leg while you do the cutting.

 

Shifting to Full Involvement

Those days when your youth hunter is just tagging along offer a great opportunity to further instill the responsibilities and skills involved in hunting. Make sure to maintain a focus on being a safe and ethical hunter, which will serve them well as an individual but also a steward of the sport and resource.

Once you are looking at making the jump to them actually hunting, consideration must be given in areas outside of the intrinsic factors discussed for early involvement.

For instance, beyond the kid’s maturity level and interest, legal limitations must be considered.

States do not have restrictions for just bringing kids along on hunts, but the same cannot be said for them becoming actual hunters.

Many states do not have a minimum age requirement for hunting. The youth hunter needs only be able to complete the hunter education course and pass a test to be issued a license. Some states have limited deferral or mentor programs, where a young hunter can participate without having passed a hunter safety course.

In these scenarios, the state allows them to go out under the tutelage of a hunter who has been licensed for at least a certain number of years.

If your kid shows all the signs of being ready to hunt but lacks the reading and writing skills to pass the hunter safety course, they might be a good candidate for the deferral or mentor program. If they have the reading and writing skills, the course is a practical and useful step in earning the privilege to hunt.

In most states, those programs afford them one year before they have to pass the course, so it only makes sense in a few cases.

The age at which they are able to complete a hunter safety course and test usually corresponds well with the other indicators they are ready to hunt. The attention, understanding of rules and interest level required for the course are probably roughly equivalent to what they would need to actively hunt.

Click to see every state youth hunting age requirements:

 

In addition to meeting the legal requirements, here are some other attributes to look for:

  • Willingness to fully participate in the process: While forcing a kid to gut an animal their first time going along on a hunt is not recommended, they should understand it is a part of being a hunter. Before they harvest an animal of their own they should be ready to do be involved from the first shot, to the last shot, and on through the field dressing and butchering process.

 

  • Skills with the required weapon: Certain hunting methods have greater barriers to youth involvement. Archery can be difficult for the youngest of hunters because of the strength required to draw a bow although there are many youth bows and crossbows on the market, big game hunting with a rifle requires the shooter to deal with the recoil and weight of bigger caliber firearms. Pick a weapon that is geared towards youth hunter strength and stature, and make sure they are competent and safe with it.

 

  • Ethics and decision- making: It can probably be assumed that an adult will be by the side of the young hunter as they make their early hunting choices. However, the old adage about not being able to un-pull the trigger is as true for kids as it is adults. Making sure that your child is old enough to understand the rationale behind decisions made in the field is crucial.

 

The First Real Hunt

 

 

 

Most states offer opportunities that are unique to youth hunters. Often these are hunts where success is likely. These hunts can be for the female big game, offer a few days head start on game birds or waterfowl, or focus on areas where access to the territory is easy. These youth-catered hunts are excellent opportunities for first outings.

A hunt where the young hunter is the only tag-holder comes with the advantage of the adult mentor not being concerned with their own harvest. Most parents or mentors would take as much or more joy out of a young hunter harvesting their first animal, but some might still let their focus wander to their own successes.

Whether it is a youth hunt or a general opportunity, pick a hunt that coincides with the considerations we have already discussed. Early season hunts are likely to have better weather.

Game birds, waterfowl, varmints and deer can all be reasonably hunted with youth firearms and calibers. They also all typically provide a fair amount of encounters and a decent chance at success.

Keep in mind the outline of the first hunt as discussed above. You can gradually remove the “training wheels” by making the hunts a little longer, and encouraging your child to be more involved with the whole process. It is still best to start with a hunt that offers the following:

  • Good weather
  • High success rates
  • Reasonable duration
  • Adequate gear
  • Youth-appropriate weapon

Talk (quietly) them through the stages of the hunt. As an experienced hunter, you have probably forgotten that you once had to learn many of the things you now know. As an example, to a young hunter, a finishing shot to the head of an animal may seem brutal. Offering a little explanation can help them understand that it a kill shot is the humane thing to do, and respectful to the animal.

 

Conclusion

Ultimately, hitting the timing just right and then planning and executing a perfect first experience should produce positive results. However, be prepared that even if everything goes well, hunting is not for everyone.

For some, it might be an acquired taste, and they may come around to liking it on their own at an older age. Similarly, know that everything is likely not to go quite as planned, and the kid will probably have a great time, anyway.

If you are successful in introducing them to hunting, be ready to experience great joy as you share in their successes. You will also feel good about introducing them to a healthy and wholesome activity that comes with a bonus of quality table fare.

And finally, by passing along the hunting tradition to the next generation, you will have done your part to keep the sport alive.

The Hamburger Helper Story

I received an email from a gentleman who lives near Kansas City saying that he had heard me talking about the Pass It On - Outdoor Mentors, Inc. program on a radio program while he was driving through Chattanooga, TN.  It seems he had been driving all night and had listened to Scott Linden’s outdoor show on one of the satellite radio stations. Bruce’s email outlined his vast experience in the outdoors and stated,

“I do believe God has now called me back to help minister to kids thru my vast experience of the outdoors.”

Now it’s not every day that you get an email from someone who feels like God has directed them to contact you and get involved in your program.  And to be honest, I didn't get back to Bruce right away.  But three days later, I got another email from him, stating,

“Mike,
I Gotta do this, please call me collect when you have time to talk.
Bruce”.  

I called Bruce that day and his sincerity came through in the conversation. I directed him to the local Big Brothers Big Sisters agency to get matched with a young man.  After going through all of the background checks and screening, Bruce was matched to young George.

George was typical of many of the kids we try to get outdoors, living with his mother and siblings in a single-parent home. He wasn’t doing particularly well in school and was pretty much disinterested in things in general.

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Things began to change once Bruce and George starting spending time together, hunting and fishing. George took a hunter education class and Bruce spent time with him at the range to develop his shooting skills.

After they had been matched for a few months, Bruce sent me the following email:

Dear Mike,  

I just got a report from George’s mom. They had his first parent teacher conference this week. She said it was the best report he has ever gotten. George has five A's and three C's and he also just won the most improved kid award in P.E. class.

I guess the principal even told George’s mom that he didn't know where the "old George" has went to, because no one recognizes the "new George". He sits still in class, and pays attention to his teachers and has really made huge improvements over the years past.

GO GEORGE!!! 

Sincerely,
Bruce

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Bruce and George attended a youth pheasant hunt hosted by the Pheasants Forever chapter in Abilene, KS.  They also traveled to western Kansas to join us for the Mitch Telinde Memorial Pheasant Hunt near Garden City. That's some dedication, taking a trip all the way across Kansas, just to give a young man a chance to go pheasant hunting. George had a great time and expressed interest in doing more hunting. 

 

Bruce shared hunting rights to a property near KC that held some pretty nice bucks. They had been trying to, unsuccessfully, to tag a particular 9-pointer that frequented the property that was really big, a real trophy.  All through archery and muzzleloader season, they had been tracking his movements, but no one ever got a clear shot at him. Bruce asked the other hunters if he could take George deer hunting on the property when rifle season rolled around in December. No one had an objection.

That first morning of rifle season before the crack of dawn, Bruce and George were in the blind, waiting for things to happen. Despite all of the excitement, George managed to drift off to sleep! It wasn't long before the action got started. Bruce soon saw a nice doe moving in the distance. He nudged George awake to start getting him set up for a potential shot. Moments later, they saw that trailing the doe was the big 9-pointer everyone had been chasing all season long.

Bruce got George lined up on the big buck. George wasn't steady and wasn't quite sure of the shot at first. Bruce calmed him down and got him steady.

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BOOM!  Big Buck Down!

George’s mom didn't have the funds to pay to have the deer processed, so Bruce told him they would take it to Bruce’s house and do it all themselves. They skinned the deer and began deboning it. That is pretty different stuff for a young man who had never spent much time outdoors. But George was right there, helping in any way he could. 

The buck was a big one. After an 8-hour job, they ended up with over 200 lbs of burger and steaks!

As they started grinding the venison into burger, George asked, “Would this burger be good in Hamburger Helper?” Bruce assured him it would be indeed! George replied, “That’s great!  We've been eating lots of Hamburger Helper over the last few months, but we haven’t had any meat to put in it!”

I got a call from Bruce the Monday morning after their hunt.  Bruce struggled with his emotions to tell me this story, stopping several times to regain his composure. I have to admit, I had tears in my eyes as I listened.

Unfortunately, George’s story isn't unique. There are many kids in every community growing up in difficult circumstances. But thanks to a caring man who stepped up to make a difference, George’s world is different…and better today. Thanks, Bruce!

And thanks to Cam & Company!  Cam interviewed Pass It On - Outdoor Mentors president, Mike Christensen, on their live show on the Sportsmans Channel, giving us the opportunity to tell the story on-air.  

Outfitter Extraordinaire!

Pass It On - Outdoor Mentors has been very fortunate that over the last 12+ years a number of outfitters have stepped up to offer outstanding hunting and fishing opportunities for the youth in our program. We’ve had a great goose hunt thanks to Flatland Waterfowl.  We’ve had a young hunter go elk hunting in New Mexico (it was filmed for a STEP Outside show on the Outdoor Channel). We’ve hunted deer on the Z Bar Ranch in southcentral Kansas (one of those was also filmed for a STEP Outside show).  Ringneck Ranch, Prairie Wind Hunt Club, Beavers Game Farm and many other outfitters have hosted pheasant hunts.  All greatly appreciated.  One outfitter in particular, Bell Wildlife Specialties, has gone above and beyond year after year, every year we have been taking kids hunting.

I first met Dan Bell at a Quail Unlimited banquet here in Wichita in September of ‘02.  Dan had donated a hunt for their auction and came down for the event. That was just a couple of months after I had hired on with Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters to start their Outdoor Mentoring program. He heard about what we were trying to create and offered to host a youth turkey hunt that following spring.

When March rolled around, I gave Dan a call, hoping that he remembered me and his offer to host the hunt.  Dan quickly replied with a hearty, “Come on up!”  That first year we took a dozen kids up to Dan’s place in Harveyville for the hunt.  We also had a film crew from Diamond Adventures come along to get some film for their outdoor show. This turned out to be very fortuitous as some of the footage shows some turkey hunting action that is absolutely fantastic!

Since that first hunt, Dan has hosted anywhere from 10-15 young hunters every April during the Kansas Youth Hunt weekend.  Dan has also hosted deer hunts and goose hunts for us, when the opportunities were available.  Hosting all of the hunters and mentors and guides, providing meals and lodging and great hunting opportunities, Dan and his staff have done it all.

We’ve had a several young hunters put their turkeys in the Kansas record book.  In fact, one young hunter has 2 birds in the record book!

Dan has also hosted deer hunts and goose hunts (again, STEP Outside came along to film that hunt as well), when the opportunity was available.  As an outfitter, working to make a living guiding hunts, Dan’s giving these kids a chance to hunt defines his commitment to insuring that our hunting heritage is passed along to the next generation.

Dan takes time with each hunt to carefully prep the hunters, as many of the mentors have been novice turkey hunters as well. The young hunters are given a hunter safety and gun safety refresher before heading to the blinds.  Dan coaches them on calling techniques and tactics.  Dan also provides additional guides to insure that each young hunter has an experienced hunter with them.

We can’t begin to thank Dan and the staff at Bell Wildlife Specialties for all they have done to help us get more kids outdoors!

Over the last 13 years that we have been hunting with Dan, we have lots of great stories to tell.  Stay tuned…we’ll be getting to some of those soon!

Why Outdoor Mentoring is the Key!

Folks in the outdoor industry have been putting a lot of time and effort into the recruitment, retention and reactivation of hunters (R3 for short). With the hunting population making up an ever smaller percentage of the national population (somewhere under 10% now), it is important for state fish and wildlife agencies (who depend greatly on license sales to be able fulfill their mission) and companies who cater to the hunting and fishing crowd to find out what it takes to make a new hunter.

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The Wildlife Management Institute has been looking into this question and, with the help of many outdoor industry folks, have come up with the Hunter Adoption Model (shown below) to serve as a discussion/analysis tool when looking at R3 programs.

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Discussions with many of those who are studying how to increase outdoor participation has highlighted the fact that most efforts focus on the early part of the Adoption Model, providing one-day events that help with generating Awareness and Interest and might get into the Trial stage. But most stop at that point. Folks are realizing that these one-day events, while great at creating Interest and Awareness, aren't moving the needle when we look at what it takes to bring new hunters into the fold.

Few programs address taking a new hunter from the point where their interest and awareness and experience has led them to want to be a hunter and they are confident enough in their skills to be able to go on their own. In the past, one might rely on family members to fill this gap. Dad, uncles and granddads would take youths hunting and fishing, passing on their love for the great outdoors. Today, with so many single parent households, that isn’t happening for too many youths.

That’s where Outdoor Mentoring is Key! Outdoor Mentoring provides the new hunter with a Mentor who fills that void. For many new hunters, they are going to need to repeat the trial stage a number of times. They’ll need to have someone take them upland hunting, waterfowl hunting, dove hunting, deer hunting, turkey hunting and/or varmint hunting. They need someone, an Outdoor Mentor, who will give them the opportunity to find their place in our hunting community.

Not everyone (me included) relishes spending a day in a tree stand. I would much rather spend time behind a ranging pointer chasing upland birds. Or maybe they prefer the thrill of watching ducks settle into a decoy spread. Or maybe they do like sitting in that tree stand, being a part of nature and watching it in all of its splendor. But they have to get out there and experience the hunt to find their place!

And that’s where you come in! It takes you stepping up and mentoring a new hunter. State fish and wildlife agencies can’t make it happen. NGO’s like Ducks Unlimited or the National Wild Turkey Federation can’t make it happen. They can help by raising the awareness of this need. But they can’t spend time with individual new hunters, giving them time in field to find their way.
 

It takes you!

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Please consider becoming an Outdoor Mentor today. There are thousands of children all across the country who would jump at the chance to have you take them hunting and fishing. Give us a call at 316-290-8883 and we’ll help you get started. Be the one who helps a new hunter find his way in the great outdoors!

And please make a generous donation so that we can continue to recruit more mentors and get more kids outdoors, hunting and fishing!