Hunting season is upon us, with bear and resident Canada goose seasons in full swing and duck and deer season not far off.

But before the opening days, there are youth hunting days set aside for both ducks and deer.

For children who love the outdoors, this is a tremendous way to introduce them to hunting.

Duck hunting may be one of the best ways to get a child interested in hunting. Youth Waterfowl Day, on Sept. 17 in the northern part of the state and Sept. 24 in the southern zone, gives young hunters a chance at ducks long before they get spooked by the constant pressure of the general season.

Those of us who hunt ducks realize the sport encompasses so many of the qualities that make hunting so enjoyable, rewarding and challenging.

First, duck hunting provides multiple opportunities. Young hunters can take ducks from a variety of species. Usually the kids will get shots at several moving targets.

Duck hunting also teaches young hunters about concealment, and the importance of blending in with your surroundings. These skills can be transferred to a variety of hunts.

It also gives hunters an opportunity to call in game, to imitate their prey in hopes of luring them in close enough for a shot. Regardless of whether you get a chance to shoot, it can be a thrill to call in animals.

And it teaches them patience, conservation, discipline, responsibility and a sense of ethics; all qualities that will serve them well in any walk of life.

However, taking a child hunting is different from going off into the woods with your regular group of buddies. Before you head out, please keep these ideas in mind as you plan your day afield.

• Keep your hunting sessions short. Of course, for many of us, there is nothing better than a day in the woods, still-hunting for deer, in a stand waiting for a bear or in a blind at oh dark thirty waiting for a turkey to come down from a roost. But for a 10-year-old, keep your hunting sessions short and focused. Long periods of idle time can turn off a young hunter. When they say they’ve had enough, they mean it.

• Keep it interesting. Get your kids involved in all aspects of the hunt. Take them out before the season to scout out your favorite areas. Have them help build your blind. Have them practice at home with a variety of calls. On the day of the hunt, involve them with the decoys, setting up the blind or anything else you can do to make them feel like a vital part of the day.

• Keep them comfortable. Nothing can turn off a kid to the sport of hunting than a cold, wet, hungry day in a blind. Dress them appropriately in layers, including an outside waterproof shell. Bring plenty of their favorite snacks and even some special treats. Bring a thermos of hot cocoa. Utilize a large blind, with a portable heater if necessary. The beauty of a large, concealed blind is it allows kids to stretch out and fidget without scaring away potential targets.

• Keep encouraging young hunters. Focus on the good things they do. We have all missed our share of birds. If they miss, praise them for staying still until they could get a shot. While there is certainly room for teaching, point out the positives and sandwich them around the teaching points.

Before you head out, of course, please familiarize yourself with this year’s migratory game bird hunting schedule, and purchase your federal and state duck stamps. And when you buy these stamps, let your young hunter know the money from stamp sales helps to purchase waterfowl habitat and supports conservation of migratory game birds.

Then in years to come, there will be an opportunity for this year’s young hunter to pass along a tradition to another generation.

Mark Latti is a former public information officer for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and a registered Maine Guide. He can be reached at:

[email protected]