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GSCO Youth Initiative Program

A vital role in protecting and perpetuating all things outdoor related is getting new people involved in hunting and fishing, no matter their age, socio-economic class or gender. For this post I want to discuss the importance of getting more children involved in the outdoors and the various Youth Hunt Initiatives GSCO participates in to make this happen. Hunting engagement, new hunter recruitment and license sales have steadily declined over the past 30-40 years for several reasons: lack of places to hunt and fish, cost to hunt and fish, more emphasis placed on extracurricular activities (ball sports, cheerleading, gymnastics, etc. which dominate free time) and the one that falls squarely on your and my shoulders; not passing down the tradition of all things outdoors to future generations.

Growing up, I did not have anyone in my immediate family that hunted or ever took me hunting. My parents both worked all the time and neither came from a hunting background. We fished some and occasionally an uncle or family friend would let me tag along on a hunt, but those trips were rare. I hardly ever saw anything and never fired a shot for several years. Despite my lack of success, for some reason, I still wanted to hunt. When I was 13 a gentleman from my church (John) took me fishing on one of those rare charity trips and my life would never be the same. He took me under his wing. We fished and hunted somewhere around 15-25 weekends a year from the time I was 13 until I went off to college. Those weekends changed my life and I was finally getting to hunt and fish as much as I dreamed about doing it. I made a promise to myself that if I were ever in a position, financially or otherwise, to take kids hunting, I’d devote as much time as possible to pass on the outdoor tradition to as many children as possible. But be careful what you wish for! I’ve had the privilege of taking dozens of kids hunting each year over the past few years and I can only hope that the impact I’m making on their lives will be as positive as the impact John had on mine.

Here’s a video we put together highlighting one of the youth initiatives GSCO is partnered with. GSCO Life Member, Charles Herron has hosted youth hunts on his property in Alabama for several years. We would like to encourage anyone watching this who has the ability to take a child hunting or fishing to do so and send us a report on it to be featured in upcoming issues of the magazine. It is imperative to the survival of our wildlife, wild places and outdoor heritage to get children involved. They will be voting in the near future!

-Cameron Mitchell