Have you ever stopped to think why you personally developed an interest in the outdoor sports? While for some, that interest at least partly comes naturally, for many of us it was due in large part from having mentors – people we looked up to and depended upon who carried a love for the outdoors. Some of my earliest memories are of my father and uncles returning from hunting and fishing trips with talks of their adventure and occasionally with fish or game that I could see and touch. It’s this type of exposure that our youth need if we expect them to carry on our love for our outdoor heritage.

Over the years Pennsylvania, like many other states, has developed a number of seasons – both hunting and fishing – with our youth in mind. Here in Pennsylvania youngsters who qualify can hunt species such as squirrels, rabbits, pheasants, deer and turkeys during special youth hunts. They can also pursue trout during a special youth fishing season. With all these ample opportunities, coupled with our regular hunting and fishing seasons, the only thing the youngsters seem to be missing is enough caring adults to mentor them. Isn’t it time you stepped up and took a kid outdoors?

Those of you who know me know that my greatest passion when it comes to hunting is pursuing the ringneck pheasant. While it’s true I enjoy harvesting pheasants myself, I can’t legally even carry a shotgun during my favorite hunt of the season. That hunt is the youth pheasant hunt. My wife and I have been participating in this hunt since its very beginning, first taking our daughter Jamie and then moving on to help introduce other youngsters to this great sport. In all honesty, I can’t remember just how many different youngsters we’ve taken afield, but I’m certainly glad to say that many have gone on to develop what I believe will be a lifetime interest in the outdoors.

This year’s youth pheasant hunt will begin Saturday and run through Oct. 19. As long as this old timer’s legs hold out and my beloved bird dog Jack is up to it, we are planning on once again heading afield in hopes of watching a young man that we hunted with last season continue to grow as an outdoor enthusiast.

Whether you hunt, fish, trap, or simply enjoy spending time studying nature, try passing that interest along to our youth. Soon our generation will pass and the next will be in charge of protecting this old world. Wouldn’t you rest better knowing that job will fall into the hands of someone who understands and appreciates the outdoors and isn’t simply interested in dollars and cents? I know I would.

Larry Hendricks is an avid outdoorsman from Union County.

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