Whether the age is 6, 16 or 26 is not important; the goal is to provide an enjoyable outdoors opportunity for new hunters

Steve Johnson

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  • Prostaff Member Steve Johnson

As recently as a couple of decades ago, a youth hunting season might have consisted of a boy with a BB gun and a flock of blackbirds … not an organized effort for sure, but certainly a right of passage.


I was raised in a home where hunting, fishing and trapping was as much a part of the fabric as Sunday school and cleaning your plate. We had no youth deer, pheasant, waterfowl or turkey season. Sports, electronics and friends were just as prevalent, albeit perhaps not quite as technologically advanced as they are today.

But competition for the free time of youngsters increased as the years advanced, and to keep pace many state wildlife agencies developed special programs designed to attract interest in fishing and hunting.

For a decade or more, North Dakota has continued to buck a national trends of falling hunter participation. While no single North Dakota program can take credit for this, it didn't happen while the Game and Fish Department was standing pat, either. Many youth training and special opportunities have become part of the effort to keep current hunters and anglers and add even more into the mix.

Some of the youth-oriented programs involve mentors who begin cultivating the interests of a young hunter. Whether the age is 6, 16 or 26 is not important; the goal is to provide an enjoyable outdoors opportunity.

Most kids who like to hunt and fish grow up in families like mine, where the parent(s) are the mentors or teachers. I developed my interests from my Dad, and I am passing on those interests to my children.

Not all kids, however, have parents who are interested in fishing or hunting, or live in an area where fishing or hunting are easily pursued. In those situations, were local wildlife clubs have always been more than willing to provide an avenue of mentorship, and in recent years the Game and Fish Department has also developed a role in assisting these wildlife, conservation and civic clubs.

Through a program called Encouraging Tomorrow's Hunters, the Game and Fish Department can help local nonprofit wildlife, civic and fraternal organizations reach out to youngsters. To qualify, and organization must be registered with the North Dakota Secretary of State's office, and have an organizational structure with officers, a treasury account and liability coverage.

Essentially, in this day and age we need to ensure that Doug Leier isn't putting in for a grant to take his own kids hunting. I’m not saying and individual would do this, but the intent of the program is to expose kids to hunting who may otherwise have limited opportunities.

If my kids don't have an opportunity to hunt, it's my fault. Grants provided through this program are designed reduce the number of kids who grow up and sometimes wonder what if someone had taken me?”

Pat Lothspeich, outreach biologist, heads up the program for the Game and Fish Department. Some of the expenses that grant funds can cover include specific equipment rental (tent, trailers, etc.), ammunition, targets safety equipment, advertising, promotion and event insurance premiums.

The maximum grant is $3,000, and priority is given to hunting events over target shooting events. The sponsoring group must provide a 25 percent in-kind match, which can include volunteer time

Applications for the grant program are available from Pat Lothspeich, at 100 N. Bismarck Expressway, Bismarck, ND 58501; 701-328-6300; or e-mail ndgf@nd.gov.

I understand the not every kid who shot gophers in 1986 is still hunting deer in 2011, but with the help of these programs, at least kids with an interest in 2011 will have an opportunity.

Leier is a biologist with the Game & Fish Department. He can be reached by email: dleier@nd.gov

Posted by Steve Johnson under Hunting on March 22, 11 09:02 AM | Permalink

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