Woods, waters and wildlife

Getting kids outdoors

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Every kid needs a mentor to teach shooting, hunting, fishing, safely driving a car, telling the truth – and living life. Unlike fastening their shoes, there are no Velcro-like shortcuts to the important things.

WWII deprived me of the father that could have taught me. My mother did the best she could, even showed me all she knew about shooting a .22 pistol.

Fortunately, my grandfather’s favorite hunting buddy agreed to help. “Uncle Josh” Munro got me started. His lessons on the ways of the woods and waters, taught at his backwoods place on Beech Creek at the end of a dirt road in Hardin County, have stayed with me for a lifetime.

Maybe that’s why I’ve introduced my kids and grandkids to hunting and fishing and assisted on youth hunts, outdoor camps and kidfish events. I owe a debt, and that’s the only way to repay it.

Kids need to be in the outdoors – hiking and camping in a state park, swimming in a natural stream or splashing in the waves at the beach. If you are a parent but don’t feel mentor-qualified to give a kid the off-the-pavement alternative to being couch-bound to electronic entertainment, the following tips will hopefully help.

Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are a great place to start – and not just for the cookies I ate a while ago! My grandson surprised me by gathering an appropriate selection of dried branches and twigs and getting a fire started on his first night – a cold one – at our deer lease. Scouting had taught him how.

Beyond that are camps and organizations that offer more advanced areas of outdoor enjoyment. The Texas Brigades, sponsored by Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) and staffed by Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD) employees and other qualified natural resources specialists is one of the best, and has been copied by other states. It began as Bobwhite Brigade, the brainchild of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s Dr. Dale Rollins, a regional quail authority.

Rollins termed it a bootcamp for leadership and knowledge in wildlife, fisheries and land stewardship. It now also includes Buckskin (deer), Bass, Waterfowl, Ranch (cattle), and Coastal Brigades throughout Texas. I’ve instructed at North and South Buckskin Brigades and at Bass Brigade and learned more than I imparted! Application deadline is March 15. Find out more at www.texasbrigades.org.

A similar type camp is the Wildlife Conservation Camp sponsored by the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society. It’s in a different venue each year. I’ve also instructed there and recommend it. App deadline is May 1. Check their website at www.wildlifecamptx.org .

Then, there is the Texas Youth Hunting Program (TYHP), a joint venture between TPWD and TWA. They have hunts for several species of game, providing mentored hunts for kids and help with processing. A parent may accompany. We have assisted at a number of youth hunts. www.tyhp.org.

It’s been said that if you teach your kids to fish and hunt, you won’t have to hunt for your kids.

It works. Believe it.

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