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Youth Waterfowl Hunts: Introducing Kids to the Outdoors
Steve Bryant, Area Biologist
Approximately 10 percent of Alabama’s youth have an added dimension to their lives because someone, usually a father, family member, or close friend has introduced them to hunting. In past eras, when family farms were common, it was beneficial to hunt during the winter to help provide food for the family. It was an inevitable rite of passage that the sons and sometimes daughters would be taught to harvest wild game. The youth of today can choose from numerous assorted activities. Hunting is often not even considered because a mentor is unavailable.
However, for those who have an interest in continuing with past traditions, and not only observing but also interacting with nature, you may be interested in Alabama’s Special Youth Waterfowl Hunts. For those hunts, a youth is defined as a person who has not reached their 16th birthday. A properly licensed adult, this includes possessing State and Federal Waterfowl Stamps when waterfowl hunting, at least 25 years old must supervise the youth. The adult supervisor is expected to discuss firearm safety rules and hunter ethics with the youth, and ensure they are followed. The supervisor must remain within arm’s length of the young hunter at all times. A supervisor can accompany no more than two youth when waterfowl hunting.
Due to the difficulty in harvesting wild game, the youth hunts are scheduled to provide the best opportunity for these young hunters to be successful. Youth waterfowl days are typically on a weekend shortly following the closing of regular duck season. Youth waterfowl hunts are usually held on a weekend shortly following the end of the season because Alabama normally winters the largest number of waterfowl during this period. If these hunts were held before the regular season they would occur at a time before the winter migration has fully developed.
Youth waterfowl hunts provide excellent opportunities for extended quality time with youngsters. Unlike a deer and turkey hunt, which usually offers one or two opportunities for a shot at game, waterfowl hunting is more forgiving. The youth usually has several opportunities to see ducks. A missed shot does not diminish the hope that before the day is over they will have something in their game bag. However, waterfowl hunting requires accessories not normally required for other types of hunting. A mentor that can call ducks and knows how to use a decoy spread is a necessity. It is advantageous to have camouflaged boat but this is not necessary if the water is shallow enough to utilize waders. The weather can range from mild to harsh so warm clothing is advised.
When hunting with youth, at some point, that magic moment will occur when the ducks fly over, the gun sounds, and the youth shouts “I’VE GOT MY FIRST ONE.” This memory is one that both the youth and adult will cherish for a lifetime. And it most often leads to an end of the hunt when the young hunter will ask, “When can we go again?
For more information concerning youth hunting, contact your district office.