As a hunting community, we’re all trying to come up with new and interesting ways to get kids involved in the outdoors. With this, there is one very important thing to remember. There is no one-way to do it.
Every kid, situation, and opportunity may be different but there is one thing that holds true across it all. Have fun and let them experience things for themselves. I just returned from a an incredible show in Oshkosh, WI called the Greater Wisconsin Outdoor & Sportsman Festival where the main focus was bringing families together and providing activities that embrace the outdoor lifestyle.
Kids were abundant and the activities available for them to participate in were incredible. First, there was a kids fishing tournament on lake Winnebago where the local pros brought kids out and let them compete. They were up bright and early, fished until noon and I was lucky enough to be on the stage to help them with their fish as they came in for their official weigh in. Sure, fishing is fun…but kids are competitive too! The tournament was a wonderful idea and to see the kids get up on stage and hold their fish high and proud was great to be a part of. Again, maybe not all of these kids will continue to fish or hunt, but this was an experience they will never forget. Plus, the top 3 kids went home with checks of $150, $250, and $500! Things like this wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of so many people, especially the pros who dedicated their time to take the kids out.
In the end, you don’t have to be a pro or put on a fishing tournament to do your part but its just great to see so many creative ways to get kids involved. We live in an interactive world; kids want hands on experience and there are so many ways to get them involved that you can be a part of. At this show they really went out of their way to make it an interactive experience and I think the end result was very successful. Kids running all over with smiles on their faces. I even helped out the Oshkosh High School Trapshooting team by signing a Winchester .280, and helped sell raffle tickets!
Another great event that took place was a minnow racing competition. Simple to setup, yet a blast for kids and adults alike! In fact, a young girl who I talked with at the show on numerous occasions and I went head to head in this competition. Again, it’s not just telling kids about hunting or showing them, it’s about experiencing things with them. Hopefully this young girl will always remember the time she smoked me in minnow racing. More importantly, the overall feeling of support and a sense of welcoming into the outdoor community. Sometimes you just need to sit back, have fun and the rest will come.
They also had a falconer there to teach kids about how they hunt with them, dog trainers, fly fishing instructors, 3-D archery, a casting school, guys who were teaching kids how to tie their own flies and the list goes on. Things like sitting with a grandfather like figure, learning how to tie their own fly, then going out and catching a fish with something they made is truly priceless. Sure it may or may not cause them to become a hunter or fisherman for life, but I can promise the more positive experiences kids enjoy such as these, the brighter our future will be as an outdoor community.