Becoming a Hunting Mentor
Several surveys have shown in recent years that the percentage of the population that participates in hunting and fishing is on the decline. Another study has shown that just taking a kid hunting one time with no future support does not make it likely that that kid will continue hunting. Many of the readers of this column I am sure learned to hunt from a father, grandfather, grandmother, a favorite uncle, or a family friend. These mentors cultivated you as a hunter, taught you hunting and woodcraft, and provided a social outlet. With less and less people hunting these days, along with kids often living far from their extended families, many young people do not have access to a family member who will teach them about the outdoors.
If you are a conservationist, and care about the future of hunting and fishing, you need to be taking young outdoorsmen and women under your wing. It does not need to be a relative, or even someone under 18. A friend's kid, a young adult from your church, a friend of a friend, all are good candidates. If hunting ever comes up in conversation, see if there is interest in that person and invite them in to the field. It is a lot of work on the part of a mentor, but without recruiting new hunters this sport is in trouble.
Many deer leases limit the number of hunters, but some leases have a hard time finding enough hunters to harvest doe. It does not need to be only big game hunting, either. There is a lot more opportunity for pursuing small game, including TPWD's Dove Lease Program, where private lands are leased for public hunting. The vast majority of these are just for doves, but some units include squirrels, rabbits and waterfowl. All of these are accessed with an Annual Public Hunting Permit, available at any license vendor. After purchase, a map booklet is mailed out detailing all units available.
Whether on private or public land, pass along some of your skill to up-and-coming hunters. It is easy to get caught up in trophy buck mania, but there are a lot of simpler, easier to access, and cheaper forms of hunting to introduce new hunters to. All it takes is someone willing to share the sport.
If you would like to contact your local biologist, see our website at; http:// www.tpwd.state.tx.us/wildlifebiologist.