By Matt Lenz, Pro Staff

It only happens two days a year, but can have a lasting impact that carries on for a lifetime. Minnesota’s Youth Waterfowl Day can be the one of the greatest experiences of a kid’s life and likely yours. On these two days a licensed adult resident, accompanied by a youth under age 15, can hunt waterfowl without a license. This day provides an awesome opportunity to put kids in a great spot and shoot some waterfowl. The hunters are still required to comply with the hunting seasons, limits, and other regulations; but they will have access to the birds before they start moving south and have a state full of hunters blasting away at them.

The importance of introducing youth into the outdoors grows with each wave of new technology. Television, video games, computers, and “i-this” and “i-that” are all contributing factors to the decline in young people’s desires to enjoy the great outdoors. In an age where conservation is being threatened by issues such as urban sprawl, politicians, and anti-hunting groups, it is important to bring a new generation into the sport that we love. Pro Staff Jake Bruhn-Ding and I, along with two other adults, were given such an opportunity to bring three youth into a slough for the Youth Waterfowl Day in 2009.

The morning was brisk as we setup the decoys about an hour before shooting time. There was a freshly cut wheat field behind us where we setup about fifty Canadian geese shells. In front of us, there was a five acre slough with two dozen floating mallards and two dozen geese decoys. Each youth was assigned an adult, and situations were described to determine who would call the shot.

After eagerly awaiting the first shooting chance, a flock of six ringnecks flew over the right shoulder of one of the youth. We watched silently as they buzzed across the water. No shots were fired and no “take’m” call was yelled. Laughter erupted and a “that was awesome” was shouted by one of the youth. It was apparent that pure joy was encountered, and we had still not yet downed any birds. Just seeing the birds was enough to get these kids pumped. That was the only chance at ducks for the day, but it got everyone’s heart going and we were all ready for the geese.

Around 8:00, a faint moan was heard in the distance. Was it our minds playing tricks on us? Was our first chance at shooting just off on the horizon? I began calling and sure enough, the conversation had begun. A cluck here, some honks there, it was obvious that they were getting closer and closer. Three Canadian geese arose over the horizon and headed right for the wheat field. We let them circle us once and on the second pass, with wings cupped; the three youth jump up and fired. Two of the geese dropped at our feet and the third came down following the second round of shooting. You could not have asked for a more perfect situation to show these kids what waterfowl hunting is all about. About ten minutes later, another pair of geese appeared to be coming down into the field perfectly. Suddenly, when they didn’t like what they saw, they abruptly changed course and flared off. A lone shot was fired and one of the two geese dropped at about fifty yards.

I didn’t grow up hunting because I was never given the opportunity. It was three years ago, when I was finally given a chance to join in the fun. We didn’t even fire our guns that day, but I was hooked. There is nothing like sitting in waders in the middle of a slough, bringing birds in to your spread from over two miles away.

Take a kid hunting, they will enjoy it. It isn’t always about the hunting, but spending time outdoors enjoying nature and each other’s company. When it happens, the shooting can provide a great bonus. A kid’s first downed bird is an experience they will never forget, and one that you will also likely remember forever.