Preparing a Youth for Their First Hunt

I work with youth and competitive sport shooting and often get the opportunity to hunt with them during the waterfowl season. In my state, we have a youth waterfowl opener that is a week ahead of the annual opening day. My good friend Scott offered that he had a young hunter, so we began to prepare for that first hunt. 

Those youthful eyes can see so much. Rohan was very good at seeing and identifying birds while staying concealed.

It is important to prepare those first-time hunters with the right equipment. Reach out and borrow waders if needed and offer up the best camouflage available for them to use. Perhaps your gun is better suited so make that available too. In our case, we had waders, good camo, but also brought dry clothes just in case. 

Being in the field or marsh before daylight can be intimidating so have a good headlamp for them to use and coach them on being aware of their footing and surroundings. Nothing worse than a wet first-time hunter. The walk in is a great time to explain the place you are hunting and how you have access. Nice time as well for sharing some of your experiences to get them excited.

We arrived at the public area in plenty of time with a pretty good idea of where we wanted to go. Of course, it was pouring down rain! Our plan was to take one layout boat and use that to haul in a few decoys. After a good walk in both Scott and I begin to teach our young hunter how to deploy decoys, why we put them where we do, wind direction, and movement. It was a great experience even at the most basic level. Keep in mind the sharing of the simplest tasks you do while waterfowl hunting is worth passing on. 

Ducks love rain especially Teal.  We knew the rain would be helpful and make for a great day of duck hunting.

Once set up, we settled in and quickly had Teal over our decoys. First shot and two teal drops. Not a bad start. The next two shots dropped two Gadwall and we were off to the races. I can tell you right up front that you can live vicariously through a youth hunter. It was fun watching and seeing him learn that Teal can be past you before you even blink an eye. So many ducks on us and so fast we had a good time ribbing him about how hard some ducks can be to shoot. 

It does not always take a ton of decoys.  We hauled in a dozen-plus one spinner and an agitator.

As always there was a spell of misses, but I was so impressed at how well he controlled the gun, respected our position near him and the patience he showed for birds that we just too far out was awesome. It is never too early to educate youth waterfowl hunters on knowing the effective range of their shotgun. By 9:45 the hunt was over as he finished with two more teal on a double with only 14 shots being taken. Impressive I would say.

Rohan was a quick learner when seeing ducks and learning how to identify the variety we saw.  Mallards, Pintail, Teal, Wood Ducks, and Gadwall.

Excitement was obvious not only for the adults but for our youth hunter getting the opportunity to limit-out in his first outing. We assured him it does not always work that way. I am sure he learned a ton like staying still; keeping his head down and picking out birds he could kill. He also got a great opportunity to ID ducks as we had several species around us. We even had him pole the layout boat back to the parking lot. 

Nothing says success better than a smile.

It was a great first hunt and I hope you try to take a youth hunter whenever possible. It was enjoyable with plenty of ducks working. I am sure our youth hunter will be back.

There is always time for a final picture after all is loaded. I am sure this made his social media. 

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About the author: David R. Vaught, Ph.D. began hunting waterfowl at a young age due to his father being a waterfowl biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. Today he hunts both public and private waterfowl grounds and is always working on something related to waterfowl throughout the year. He loves to turkey hunt and fish for walleye and crappie in the spring. David is a university professor, holds an NRA Level II coaching certification and works with youth in trap and skeet shooting in the summer with his annual trap-shooting academy.

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