The youth is our future, look after them. They will eventually take over from us at various levels amidst huge challenges. As hunters and nature lovers it is important that we equip youngsters for the future, inter alia to appreciate conservation, hunting, firearms and nature.
The challenge remains to stimulate their interest sufficiently to get involved in these activities. Parents that expose their children to nature during camping holidays or visits to zoos and game reserves, hunting excursions and SAHGCA activities have a better chance of succeeding.
We need to improve our involvement of youngsters at branch level. Some branches are successful to some extent, but it is often the children of active branch members only. It is a start, but there is a much bigger group of children we need to reach.
Please note that we are talking about junior involvement and not junior training a such. Children should given the change to learn by playing. Plan ahead and incorporate activities aimed at children of all ages to:
- look forward to the next opportunity
- bring along a friend
Remember that you compete with extramural activities and sport, television, computer games, cellular phones and movies. Branch management, especially the junior trainer, will have to be creative to attract these youngsters. During shooting days there are numerous shooting exercises and activities that had been developed for youngsters specifically. These include shooting with airguns and bows and arrows. Other activities that can be offered at shooting range sites include tracking, identification of birds, plants, grasses and trees. Youth movements such as Boy Scouts, Girl Guides and Voortrekkers have been doing it for ages. SAHGCA can offer these activities and involve the whole family. While the parents are shooting, the children can be kept busy with these other activities. The junior trainer can involve other parents to help and expand these activities to something that all members can participate in.
The Marico Bosveld Branch in Rustenburg started a project for underprivileged children in their community. They collect clothing and other items for the children and take them along on excursions elsewhere, which are often the only holiday these children enjoy. They are exposed to nature, game drives, campfire stories, “braaivleis” and other campfire favourites.
Sandrivier 58 Branch in Welkom involve children at the Excalibur shooting range just outside town where they get the opportunity to shoot with airguns, 22-rimfire rifles and handguns under supervision. The branch hosts a junior day once a year attended by up to 80 children who participate in shooting and other activities. The parents are also invited as onlookers.
Mopani Branch at Phalaborwa has a similar activity at the shooting range on Wednesdays when range officers assist children in shooting activities.
One can only speculate about the potential positive impact of such activities on these children, but the initiative by Marico Bosveld, Sandrivier-58, Mopani and other branches to make a difference in these children's lives, are laudable.
Today's youth are open to basic, healthy outdoor fun - just as children were 20, 30 or even 50 years ago. The difference are in the opportunities available to the current generation of children to exposure to the above activities. Adults should grab the opportunity to make a difference and reap the benefits when they experience the enthusiasm of these children.
Who exposed you to the exciting world of hunting? Was it your father, grandfather or a favourite uncle? Those wonderful memories will always be with you and they have probably made a huge contribution to the person and the hunter you are today. It probably laid the foundation for your passion for hunting, shooting and nature. Do the same for someone else!
“In the end we will conserve only what we love;
we will love only what we understand;
and we will understand only what we have been taught.”
Baba Dioum, Africa