If you enjoy the outdoors, Texas is a great state to call home. Texas offers a staggering diversity of wildlife, year-round hunting and excellent bowfishing.
The Texas Youth Hunting Program makes the Lone Star state even better by solving common problems for young hunters. Locating places to hunt – and places to shoot archery – and finding a quality hunting mentor can be challenging for beginning hunters. Mentored-hunting programs, like the TYHP, address these challenges and more.
The TYHP offers affordable hunting experiences for youths. In 2016 the program held 190 hunts and took 1,700 kids hunting. They’re a prime example of the country’s many youth-hunting mentorship programs. Similar programs are available through state wildlife agencies in Tennessee, Oklahoma, Florida, New Mexico, and more.
Like many great organizations, TYHP relies on dedicated volunteers to make these hunts possible. If you’re a passionate hunter who cares about passing your traditions to the next generation, consider getting involved in a hunting mentorship program like the TYHP. Volunteers teach firearms safety, guide youth hunters, cook camp meals, and serve as huntmasters. TYHP trains huntmasters to plan, coordinate and manage the entire hunt. It’s a lot of work with huge responsibilities.
Why get involved in mentoring?
As with any volunteer position, these instructors get great satisfaction from donating their time for a good cause; in this case, ensuring hunting’s future. They pass down skills, values and ethics that are close to their hearts. Young hunters, especially those who aren’t from hunting families, need mentors to teach them about conservation, safety in the woods and hunting ethics. Mentors are vital for increasing hunter numbers and sustaining them. TYHP volunteers, and the landowners who make the hunts possible, ensure hunting’s future one youth at a time.
Who can participate?
TYHP hunts are open to youths 9 to 17 who have completed hunter-education training. The hunts focus on fun, safety and education. “TYHP focuses on safety and ensuring new hunters understand what good ethical hunters do and do not do,” said Chris Mitchell, director of the TYHP. “We also incorporate how hunters help conservation by letting them know that this is not just a hunt. In many cases our hunters are assisting a landowner in reaching their wildlife-management objectives.”
The program focuses on essential hunting skills that youth hunters can apply to future hunts. Mitchell said this includes knowing and understanding game laws and regulations; writing thank-you letters to landowners; and field dressing, skinning and quartering harvested animals.
How do I participate?
Signing up for a hunt through the TYHP is easy. It starts with creating an online account at www.tyhp.org, and then signing up for a hunt. Each participant must complete hunter education prior to their mentored hunt. Youth hunters also need to bring a parent or guardian with them on a hunt. These hunts are designed to be educational for youngsters and their parents. “Even if the parents are also new to hunting, we teach the hunter and the parent what they need to know to be successful,” Mitchell said.
What do you need to bring with you? The TYHP website also offers a complete checklist of required gear. Some items include: boots, gloves, hat, camouflage clothing, a cooler for meat, carcass tags, hunting license and, of course, your bow and arrows. If a hunter lacks the required gear, rental equipment, loaner bows and crossbows are available. All the essential gear can also be bought at nearby archery stores.
Hunts are available to all youngsters of any physical ability. “If hunters have special needs they just need to let TYHP or their huntmaster know, and we’ll make arrangements,” Mitchell said. “This may mean we arrange for an ADA-compliant blind or direct the hunter to a particular hunt that meets their needs.”
For more adventurous young hunters, TYHP offers more challenging hunting opportunities after they complete a hunt with the TYHP. These are called “adventure hunts,” and students learn more advanced skills such as wilderness camping and stalking quarry.
Mentored-hunting programs like the TYHP are great ways to introduce hunting’s next generation to the outdoors, and possibly spark a lifetime passion. No matter your location, if you’re the parent of young bowhunters, enroll them in a bowhunter-education class, and visit an archery shop to expertly fit them for gear and find a mentorship program near you.