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Youth Hunting, the Importance of Taking the Kids Hunting


By Darrin Bradley

Big Joe was off to the back corner of the hidden cloverfield in pursuit of the Boone and Crockett eight point. Scott headed off in the direction of a CRP field which bordered the bed area of a wide racked buck, we had seen working the area on a regular basis. I was creeping toward an old brush pile a mere seventy five yards from the truck, where I was hoping to harvest a doe from the ground,in the company of a ten year old boy. I consider myself to be a seasoned hunter with over a half a dozen Pope and Young animals under my belt, however tonight I was nervous. I had grown to love this little boy,and I was expected to produce results for him this evening. “Little Joe” didn’t care if whitetails smell 10,000 times better than a human. “Little Joe” didn’t care if I had never harvested a deer from the ground. “Little Joe” was expecting for us to be at the check station in less than two hours with a deer, and he didn’t care what size, color, shape, or gender the animal was to be.

I hadn’t had too much experience with children. I knew I needed to be safe throughout the hunt, and attempt to set some type of example for him to follow but I didn’t have any clue about fulfilling some type of fatherly role. I have always been very serious about my bowhunting. Tonight I had to make the hunt far more than serious. Tonight the hunt had to meet the entertainment expectations of an impatient ten year old. I was desperate to come up with some solutions.

Upon reaching the brushpile the whispering began. “Ok Joe, lets rake out about a 5 foot circle to sit in. We need to make sure we’re not sitting on any leaves or twigs that will make noise when we move.” The raking was completed quickly by the little fellow, and quite thoroughly I might add. I sat my bow against a tree. I placed my old army backpack within the confines of the great raked circle, and we both sat down “indian style” waiting for a deer to walk by. Suddenly it came to me. “Just pretend like your ten years old too.” Immediately I went to the magic backpack and began withdrawing its contents for entertainment purposes. First we painted our faces with lots of gooey camo facepaint. I even wrote, “I want a deer” on my face in big black letters. That’s all it took to begin the uncontrollable laughter which emitted from the brushpile out across the desolate cloverfield like a train whistle. Next we applied about five different kinds of scents to our clothing. The brushpile was alive and smelling like one part doe urine, one part cedar scent, one part earth scent, and one part fox urine. Now an assortment of aromas and uncontrollable laughter was coming from the brushpile out onto the edge of the agricultural field. I figured it was time to become a little more serious. I broke out the optics. We experimented with binoculars and rangefinders, for the next half an hour or so. By the time that experiment was over I believe both of us knew the exact distance of every stone, twig, and bush within the maximum distance of our rangefinder. Finally we got out my game diary and helped each other write the evening’s entry. We recorded the environmental conditions surrounding the hunt. We had now become focused on tonight’s expected whitetail harvest, in the midst of all the fun.

“There’s some deer”, Joe blurted out. “Shhhhhhhh, we’ve got to be quiet. You’ve got to stop moving so much.” I stated. Out of nowhere came a huge doe broadside at 30 yards. I leaned down to obtain permission to shoot from my young friend. He had his head between his knees, and was rocking back and forth. For an instant I thought maybe “Little Joe” didn’t want me to take the shot. I whispered, “Why have you got your head between your knees? I won’t shoot if you don’t want me to”. Joe replied, “I have my head between my knees because I don’t want the deer to see me. Shoot, shoot, shoot.” I released the arrow into the doe. The animal turn and ran back the direction from which it came. Joe popped up and shouted loudly across the silent Illinois riverbottom. “Let’s go get our deer!”. So that’s just what we did.

This was the second outing Joe and I had shared. On our initial visit to the timber I made a grave mistake. I took “Little Joe” to one of my premier big buck stand locations. It was a great stand to bag a big buck out of, but it wasn’t a location which had ever offered alot of whitetail activity at one time. On that first hunt I was trying to harvest a monster buck before his very eyes. On that hunt we saw no deer and eventually became bored. I have learned to sit in locations which produce alot of whitetail activity when hunting with children. Kids just want to see plenty of deer. Anything less can be very discouraging and painstaking for them. Most kids don’t care if a monster buck encounter occurs or not during the course of the hunt they are participating in. Taking a child to a stand positioned for the interception of trophy bucks can hurt that given location. Those stands need to be hunted by an experienced bowhunter, in order to minimize your chances of being detected. When you take a kid hunting it’s easy to simply hunt in your usual manner. Don’t make this mistake during the early stages of a childs hunting career. One must hunt in a manner which is recreational in order to encourage the child to pursue the sport of bowhunting. Remember, your simply planting a seed and developing a bond between you, the child, and the timber. Make certain each experience is fun.

Today’s world often offers a diverse number of temptations. The country has been saturated with drugs, crime, and many other immoral acts a young person can easily become entangled in. Bowhunting is certainly not the answer to all of life’s problems, however by correctly introducing a young person to this wonderful sport it just might prevent them from becoming involved in something far worse at a later time. Take the time.........................................pass it on!

Darrin Bradley

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