Mentor hunting a great way to introduce kids to the sport

Ryan Braun
Conservation Technician, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks

What is mentor hunting? Mentor hunting is designed so parents can make the decision on when their child is ready to go hunting. With mentor hunting, there is a one-on-one interaction between the beginning hunter and the experienced hunter to learn how to safely handle and shoot a gun. It is a program designed to help show respect for wildlife and introduce kids to hunting at a younger age before they get so involved in school sports and other activities. Under this program the youth are not required to be HuntSAFE certified in order to go hunting, but are encouraged to take a HuntSAFE class once they’re old enough.

To be a mentor, a person must be at least 18 years old, be a South Dakota resident, have a valid hunting license, and are HuntSAFE certified. If you are not the parent of the child you are mentoring you will need to be HuntSAFE certified, have a valid hunting license, and written permission from a parent or guardian of the mentee. The mentor is not allowed to carry a gun during a mentor hunt. The main focus of this hunt is to teach gun safety and help the youth develop an interest for the sport of hunting.

I have taken my own kids on mentor hunts and one of the most important things I encourage is safety. Teach them to treat every firearm as if it is loaded and to always have the gun pointed in a safe direction. I encourage taking kids out to the target range to get used to the gun they will be using, and to show them how to load, unload, where the safety button is and other safe handling procedures. Make sure the gun fits the child, because one gun does not fit all. Try to pick a gun with less recoil, if possible, to prevent them from being scared to shoot the gun. By doing this, the young shooter will be more confident and shoot better.

One thing I have learned is that kids don’t have the patience that we adults have and can get bored pretty fast. So, keep your hunts short and don’t forget to bring some snacks and drinks. Bottom line is to keep the hunt a positive and fun experience, otherwise they may lose interest in hunting.

A good season to begin mentoring is the spring turkey firearms, which runs April 11-May 31. Licenses may be purchased any time before or during the season. The license can be purchased on the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks website. You should allow for seven to 10 days for a mentored hunting license to arrive. The cost for each turkey, antelope and deer mentored tag is $5. A person can’t even go to a movie for the price of a mentored tag.

With turkey season only about a month away, spring is right around the corner. Mentor hunting is a good way to get the kids outdoors and out of the house away from their electronics. So, if given the opportunity, mentor a kid, you won’t regret it. With some luck you might also have a hunting partner for life. Have a safe and enjoyable spring!