Youth-only waterfowl seasons are nothing new. They have been around for about a decade and a half. I took part almost religiously for the first half of their existence, thanks largely to my involvement with the local Ducks Unlimited chapter and my excitement for being in the marsh. Though, my interest in the special event has not waned, my fall work obligations have all but kept me from taking part. Not this year. This year will be different…in more than one way.
We have a new waterfowler in the family that has successfully harassed the teal of early season, and he is quite keen on exploring all aspects of fall duck and goose hunting. So with Youth Waterfowl Seasons taking place in Nebraska’s Zones 2 & 4 this weekend (Sept 27-28) and Zones 1 & 3 not far behind (Oct 4-5; Oct 18-19, respectively) I will get the chance to rekindle my passion for youth seasons through the eyes of my son.
The idea behind these special youth-only waterfowl weekends is to provide extra time to get young hunters into the field ahead of the regular fall waterfowl seasons. This should translate into a more relaxed hunt that allows the adults to focus on maintaining a safe and comfortable hunt, that keeps fun as a priority.
Be sure to involve the youngsters in every aspect of the hunt from prep to completion. Every hunt starts days before the guns are uncased. There are waders to find, dogs to work, decoys to ready and sometimes blinds to camo. To a new hunter these are more than just tasks to complete, they are opportunities to become a hunter. My son demanded to help pack and place the decoys before he ever asked to carry a shotgun.
I once heard a “collared” duck chaser use bad language after trying to connect with a twisting teal. Waterfowl can make even veteran hunters look foolish. So be sure to include some chances for new hunters to practice breaking blue rock ahead of time. Its great to simulate the shooting situation as best as possible. Practice taking the safety off as the shotgun comes to the shoulder, let them shoot at some incoming (decoying) targets and perhaps even have the young hunter start from a sitting position.
It’s their hunt so be sure to let them make some decisions. One of the biggest is how long the hunt lasts. You can challenge some older youth to stay an extra 10-15 minutes, but once they truly tire of the event it is time to call it quits. Many first time hunters don’t realize the waiting that goes into many hunts, so be ready to accept the fact that the first few hunts might be shorter than you expect.
Food can save the hunt. Be sure to have enough snacks and drinks to keep everyone satisfied. Its impossible to be comfortable when your belly is empty or you become dehydrated. Having eats on hand can extend the hunt and make the experience better for all involved. Besides food seems to taste better in the blind or duck boat than just about anywhere else.
Don’t forget to give the youngsters praise when they do things right, too. With a young, inexperienced hunter there will be many things to learn and some only come from trial and plenty of error. Remember fun is a priority so keep the mood light and positive.
So get out there and have some fun…that’s the entire reason for these Youth-only weekends.