Taking Hunter Education one step further, the Missouri Department of Conservation is making an investment in the future by teaching young hunters the skills needed to become successful waterfowl hunters. Applications are being distributed all over Southeast Missouri for the upcoming Youth Waterfowl Clinic to be held at Duck Creek Conservation area in Puxico, Oct. 4. The waterfowl program is one part of a new comprehensive advanced Hunting Skills University curriculum.
"Waterfowl hunting is a culmination of a number of different skills and one of the most challenging to learn. Getting started waterfowl hunting is easier than most people think and we hope to take the guesswork out," said Dee Dee Dockins, Outdoor Skills Specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation.
The Hunting Skills University program was developed in 2003 by the Missouri Department of Conservation to allow young shooters, graduating from Hunter Education, to apply the classroom skills they learned in a field setting.
Young hunters, ages 11-15 years of age who have successfully completed a Hunter Education course are eligible to apply. One adult sponsor is required to attend the clinic with the participant so that the adults can help students to apply what has been learned during the event. In the course of the clinic, participants will learn about waterfowl identification, habitat, target patterning, distance estimation, decoy setup, equipment selection, steel shot, and lots of wingshooting. At lunch students will have a taste of waterfowl and learn how to best prepare their game.
Dockins hopes this event will be one of many in Southeast Missouri promoting hands-on "field" opportunities for area youth.
"I feel this effort is absolutely crucial for conservation. By the time kids are in middle school, they're already being pulled away by the allure of video games, organized sports or other activities," she said. "We [The Missouri Department of Conservation] want young people to have the choice to participate in hunting because it allows for an appreciation of Missouri's woodlands and wildlife. Hunting teaches responsibility, accountability and respect for our nature resources."
The National Shooting Sports Foundation reports that young people typically begin exploring their interests in sports and hobbies by age 10 to 12. Further research shows that people who don't hunt as a youth are less likely to hunt as an adult. According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, youth participation in hunting declined by 26 percent between 1990 and 2000. While the current National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation reports that youth hunting participation is stable, only 25 percent of children from hunting households actively participate in hunting today.
"We are making an investment in the future of waterfowl hunting and we will reap the rewards of our efforts for years to come," Dockins said.
The due date for applications is Sept. 30.