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By Larry Keane

The priceless memories created from a hunting trip with dads or moms can stay with sons and daughters for a lifetime. Creating more of those opportunities has become even easier.

The onset of coronavirus and the historic firearm sales spurred by it increased America’s gun owning population across all demographics. Simultaneously, that boost also reversed a trend that will have lasting effects for outdoorsmen and women and conservationists for generations. Americans in big numbers took to the fields and woods to hunt and that included kids discovering an outdoors lifestyle.

South Dakota Republican state Rep. Lynn Schneider supported a new measure to lower the age requirement on youth hunting in his state and recognizes why the boon matters. He explained that when younger hunters get “involved in hunting and trapping at an early age…we’ve then got a hunter, a fisherman and a trapper for the next 40 years.”

Small Hunters, Big Game

If there were any doubt small hunters could tag big game, the 2020-2021 hunting season put the notion to rest. Fourteen-year old Paslie Werth in Kansas went out one Sunday afternoon for a deer hunt with her dad and she came home happy. After nearly giving up on the day, Werth saw some movement and found not just her target, but a world record 42-point non-typical whitetail just before sundown.

“When we walked up on him, I was kind of in shock. I couldn’t believe that what had just happened had actually happened,” Werth told local news. “He was way bigger than I thought, and I couldn’t believe how heavy his rack was. My hands couldn’t even go around his antlers.”

In Clark County Wisconsin, a young hunter felled a black bear weighing more than 10 times her weight. Eleven-year old Naiya Iraci wanted to hunt bear with her grandfather on his property.

Iraci lined up on a 720-pound black bear from about 30 yards away. It was the first she’d seen. “I was nervous, I was kind of shaking,” Iraci said. Not shaking enough to miss though, and she harvested the state’s record bear.

In Morrisville, N.C., Bryan Alexander took his 13-year old daughter Emma on her first turkey hunt. She didn’t go home empty-handed. After walking a field and reaching a place to set up, the two thought they heard a snake rustling through the brush. When Bryan threw a stick to scare it off, they saw three gobblers rush by. Emma aimed her shotgun and dropped a gobbler with a 10-inch beard and 1 ¼-inch spurs.

In Alabama, nine-year-old Ella Clay dropped a 10-point buck while her 10-year old friend Dee Tully took home two greenhead mallards on a recent excursion. Stories like these were common during the recent hunting seasons and will undoubtedly stay with these kids, their families and friends for decades.

States Encourage Youth Hunting

South Dakota and New York recognized the opportunities created by more outdoor social distancing and encouraged youth hunting. South Dakota completely removed youth hunting age restrictions, costs or fees. The purpose is to get the lost funds from kid licenses back in the coming years through new hunting traditions.

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, an avid hunter herself, praised the new guidelines. “2020 was a tremendous year for youth hunting and fishing in South Dakota, and we’re building on that for the future,” she said. “The goal of this legislation is to get more young people involved in our outdoor way of life at an early age so they continue those experiences long into their adulthood.”

In New York, state legislators are proposing to drop the state minimum age for youth hunters by two years, from 14 to 12, bringing the Empire State more in line with the rest of the nation. New York Republican state Assemblyman Dan Stec said the proposal was a way of taking advantage of the increased interest in hunting. “The sporting community saw a big boost this past year. Many more hunting licenses were sold and there was a dramatic increase in hunter education courses.”

It’s exactly what NSSF’s +Onesm encourages. +One challenges traditional hunters to bring one new hunter along on the next outing. The experience will last a lifetime and grow the traditions and perpetuate conservation. It might even help a young hunter take home a trophy.


Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.


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  1. It’s good to bring your children into the woods.
    Just make sure they have no bread crumbs, they might find their way back out.
    Speaking of giving bears somthing to eat, dont believe the hype about leaving trash out there. Trash is good, candy bar wrappers always have a little sugar on them to lick off, empty soup cans, beer cans always a couple dribbles , and please dont bury your gut piles.
    Possums of the World thank you

  2. A 40 point whitetail. A 700+ pound bear. Darn kids. Robbing us old guys who’ve been out in the woods WAY longer than they’ve been alive.

    • Tom,

      I had a similar experience this year. My child and I were out hunting for white-tailed deer. I was about 3/4 mile away and could easily hear any shots that my child launched. I was not seeing nor hearing any deer in my vicinity. Imagine my excitement/anxiety when I heard my child’s first shot, and then a second shot about two minutes later, and then a third shot about 25 minutes after that. Turns out my child dropped three nice white-tailed deer in 30 minutes! I highly doubt that I will ever top that. And I am totally okay with that — it is incredibly nice when your child outshines you like that! I am a super proud parent.

      And given the hardship of the past year due to COVID-19 (my spouse was laid-off for 7 1/2 months), that was a huge blessing and boost for our family. Those three deer netted us about 120 pounds of pure red “organic” meat. And when I say “pure” meat, I mean just that: no bone, no fat, no tallow, no connective tissue (a.k.a. “silver skin”), just pure meat. We will not be protein deficient this year!

  3. I have no other way to explain it other than to say what my close friend said, “Hunting is good for the soul.”

    If you can possibly swing it at all, get out into the wilds and hunt. At least once.

    Aside from the mental health benefits of getting out into the wilds, there are practical benefits as well. Good hunting skills means being able to provide meat for yourself and your family during a period of hardship. No less than three times in my life venison was a significant boost during a time of significant hardship.

    In addition to providing meat during hardship, hunting also fosters self-discipline and calm under pressure/stress. I am absolutely convinced: the way that hunting has developed calm under pressure in me will result in much improved performance if someone violently attacks me.

    And in a somewhat similar vein, I am intimately familiar with actually pulling the trigger on a life (animals only of course) because of hunting. If, God forbid, a violent attacker leaves me no choice other than to defend my life with a firearm, I believe that I will not hesitate to pull the trigger when it is necessary, having done that many times while hunting.

      • Well if recent history is any proof, a lot of humans don’t have brains at all to eat.
        Besides, don’t want any possums out here catching mad pelosi disease. Seems terminal, and also contagious.

  4. Good for the children who live in a rural or less built up Metropolitan area. Where they can have a chance to hunt. But most city kids don’t have that opportunity. Which is why city kids need 2A education and Rifle teams added to the public schools.

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