More than 60 million youngsters have participated in 4-H programs since their inception back in 1902. And today 4-H continues to be the largest youth development program in the United States. Although often thought of as strictly an agricultural organization, 4-H engages youth in hands-on, experiential learning and activities that cover almost any interest. The National 4-H Shooting Sports Program stands out as an example. Young people learn marksmanship, the safe and responsible use of firearms, the principles of hunting and archery, and much more. To learn more about the program, we visited the 4-H Shooting Jamboree at the Northeast Kingdom Skeet Club in Burke Hollow, Vt.
Almost half of today's students graduating with a wildlife degree have never hunted and have a minimal understanding of the impact that hunters provide to wildlife management and other conservation programs. In 2005 the Wildlife Management Institute and Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation began the Conservation Leaders for Tomorrow program as a way to introduce students to the culture and concepts of hunting. For the last two years the Conservation Leaders for Tomorrow program has held their program at Camp Kehoe on Lake Bomoseen in Castleton, Vermont.
Young hunters and their adult mentors have a variety of special seasons to choose from, but the oldest youth hunt just might be the best. Youth waterfowl weekend in late September may not be as popular as the special seasons for deer and turkey, but it offers youngsters an unparalleled opportunity to experience some of Vermont's finest public marshes at a time of year when duck numbers are high. It's a great chance to introduce a young person to a life-long sport that fosters a deep appreciation for wetlands and wildlife.