Newsroom Midwest Region

Mentoring hunting traditions in the Midwest

October 12, 2017

Youth Waterfowlers of Tomorrow participants. Photo by Bill and Jenni Biegala/USFWS.
Youth Waterfowlers of Tomorrow participants. Photo by Bill and Jenni Biegala/USFWS.

America’s sportswomen and men have been strong advocates for conservation on national wildlife refuges, fish hatcheries and other protected lands and waters across the country for more than a century. This support for wild places and the wildlife that call them home continues today. For a decade, we have been focused on empowering new hunters with the skills and confidence to continue the tradition of ethical hunting in the Midwest.

“I believe that education plus opportunity equals understanding and I truly understand that youth play a major role in the future of conservation,” said Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Federal Wildlife Officer Joshua Bauer.

More than 20 field stations across the Midwest host youth mentored hunting opportunities. Here are a couple stories from the field.

Continuing the waterfowling tradition in Ohio

Young hunters learn how to call ducks. Photo by Bill and Jenni Biegala/USFWS.
Young hunters learn how to call ducks. Photo by Bill and Jenni Biegala/USFWS.

For five years, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge has hosted youth waterfowling workshops and hunts in northwest Ohio. More than 150 young hunters, ages 17 and under, have participated over the years. While there are almost 30 mentored youth hunting opportunities across the state, offered in cooperation with Ohio Department of Natural Resources, this hunt is the only one that provides in-depth training in all aspects of a safe and ethical hunt. Participants learn first-hand how to set duck decoys, how and when to use a duck call, and the value of working with a skilled hunting dog in the field. Gun and boat safety, as well as strong waterfowl identification skills, are paramount during this skills training.

“Hunting provides our youth a unique opportunity to learn about the natural world through first-hand experiences and the accomplishment of providing their own food,” said Wildlife Communications Specialist Kelly Schott with Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife.

We’d like to thank our partners with Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ducks Unlimited, Friends of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, and the many other organizations that make our youth hunts possible. Together, we make a strong future for wildlife and wild lands. Learn more about Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge.

Making new traditions in Wisconsin

Lawson with his younger brother, Bryer, participating in the first-ever youth deer hunt at Iron River National Fish Hatchery. Photo by USFWS.
Lawson with his younger brother, Bryer, participating in the first-ever youth deer hunt at Iron River National Fish Hatchery. Photo by USFWS.

Known primarily for their lake trout and coaster brook trout, Iron River National Fish Hatchery in northern Wisconsin is also doing its part to encourage the next generation of young hunters. This October staff organized their first youth deer hunt on the hatchery’s grounds for children ages 12 through 15 years old.

“We developed this hunt to support an agency-wide initiative to provide outdoor recreational experiences to local youth. Overall, it turned out to be a great weekend and everyone had a good time learning how to hunt,” said Iron River National Fish Hatchery Lead Fish Biologist Jorge Buening.

Interested local youths with valid hunters education certificates placed their names into a lottery to compete for the two hunting slots available on the hatchery grounds. This year’s selected hunters were Lawson and Yana. Though both hunters spotted deer at various points in their hunts, the whitetails proved elusive. While neither went home with a chest full of venison, each enjoyed a rainy weekend in the autumn woods.

The success of the event can be credited to the dedication of hatchery staff and the involvement of the hunters’ parents, who served as hunt mentors in the field. With one youth hunt completed, hatchery staff are thinking about what a youth turkey hunt might look like in the spring. Future youth hunts will be advertised at local schools and at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center in Ashland, Wisconsin. Learn more about Iron River National Fish Hatchery.

Yana in her covered deer blind. Photo by USFWS.
Yana in her covered deer blind. Photo by USFWS.