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Read outdoors stories from a 2nd grade class in Nevis, Minnesota

Fishing

Start Them Early on the Ice

DNR Takes Aim at Hunter Recruitment

Catering to the Gung-Ho Outdoor Youngster

Mentor Mentality: Kids Require Thoughtful Guidance

Outdoor Club Fills Niche

Getting Kids Started

 

Start Them Early on the Ice

Scott
When it comes to hard water angling, panfish top the list.

By Scott Seibert
The problem with ice fishing, in many cases, is that people let themselves get bored, or cold, or discouraged. That doesn't have to be the case. It's a matter of being willing to change and try something new.
If I haven't had any action in 15 minutes, I move! Drill a few more holes. It'll keep you warm. Remember kids have short attention spans (so do most adults) and if the fish aren't hitting or the weather is too cold or windy it's no fun at all being on the ice. Keep it short and sweet and your youngster will be much more likely to get excited about the next trip.
Getting started in ice fishing is relatively simple and inexpensive. Many “ice” related companies produce products for the beginning angler. These products have been tested by professional anglers, like myself, to hold up under harsh conditions and to increase mobility on the ice.
The warmest innovation that has helped the ice angler stay on the ice longer, which enables them to catch more fish, is the portable ice shanty. A good, lightweight, portable ice shanty can provide a lot of added comfort. A propane lantern is enough to warm the interior. These structures come with names such as the Clam, and the Fish Trap. The important thing is that they allow you to take others out on the ice and yet be mobile. One thing that many modern ice fisherman want to do is to move from location to location. Sure, the carpeted ice shack with the bunk beds is nice, but not as portable as the modern ice angler needs.
Clam Outdoors has a starter kit that consists of a twin hub pop-up shelter (Twin Hub I), a hand auger for drilling holes, and a toboggan for ease of transportation on the ice. Clam Outdoors also has a Dave Genz starter ice combo rod and reel. This is perfect for a young or inexperienced angler. Clam Outdoors has also introduced an ice fishing combo pack that has everything a young ice angler needs. The Ice Fishing Combo Pack has a solid fiberglass ice busting rod, an IceArmor jig box, 6 ice fishing jigs, a clip-on weighted depth finder and a handy hook removal tool. Clam Outdoors even has a Lady Ice Buster rod that is a cool color of pink. For more ice fishing gear check them out on the web at www.clamoutdoors.com.
If the young angler wants to start on a smaller scale and go without a fishing shelter, don’t hesitate to introduce them to the white bucket. Many of us started using the white five gallon bucket to carry our gear out on the ice and it became our chair when it was turned upside down. StrikeMaster company, www.strikemaster.com has a Glide-Lite sled with a five gallon bucket and vertical rod holders, and room to store your electronic flasher. Team this up with a Mora hand auger and you will have a winning combination for the beginning angler.
When it comes to hard water angling, panfish top the list. If you were to take a survey on the ice, you would find as many as 80% of the fishermen are in pursuit of panfish. Don't get me wrong, some attention is given to walleye and pike, but they seem to be secondary on many fishermen's agendas. Unlike pike or walleye, which can turn off for days, panfish are predictable. The average fisherman is out to have fun, many times making it a family affair.
Northland Fishing Tackle has some great fishing kits that contain the correct sizes and colors of jigs. Look specifically for jigs like the Mud Bug and Gill Getter or the Perch Pounder Kit and the Crappie Crusher Kit. www.northlandtackle.com.
Vexilar flasher units like the basic FL8 and the Fish Scout FS1000 underwater camera are nice to teach the beginning angler what to look for when ice fishing. They also help entertain and replace the video games. Believe me it worked with my kids. Again check out all the electronics at www.vexilar.com.
Don’t forget to also include a pair of ice cleats for your boots and an ice chisel to sound the ice as you walk out on it. The DNR website will give you a list of productive panfish lakes and it will also issue the ice thickness. Words of caution from the DNR, “snow is a bonus for snowmobiles." But it also poses risks for those who cross lakes and other bodies of water. Snow is an insulator and slows the ice-making process. In many areas, there is deep heavy snow on fairly thin ice. Remember No Ice is Safe Ice.
Getting started can also include hands on fishing experience for the first time angler at local fishing derbies or tournaments. These events usually last 3-4 hours they have pre drilled holes and they will lend a hand at getting everyone started and teaching the fundamentals of ice fishing.
A source of information and bait can be obtained at your local tackle store. The tackle store will tell you where you might find panfish and where the local community fishing hole is located. They will also help the inexperienced angler purchase live bait for the day. Look for wax worms, and Euro larva (I like the colored Euro larva).
If you are planning to make it a full day, don’t forget to bring along a pair of ice skates or a football for the young angler. Play a little and maybe grill a few hot dogs on the ice. It will break up the day and make it more enjoyable for the entire family. Or you can make your trips short. Two hours prior to noon and the last two hours of the day are the most productive for fishing.
Remember start them out early on the ice and make it safe and fun, to get them involved in fishing. Have them drill the holes, watch the depthfinder and teach them that the sport of ice fishing can be enjoyed all the rest of their lives.

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DNR Takes Aim at Hunter Recruitment

Success for beginning hunters increases retention rates.

Photos in the October 2011 issue.

By Bob Bohland
Hunting license sales are seeing a sharp decline. Not just in the State of Minnesota, but nationwide. This is causing quite a stir among those in charge of managing wildlife and wildlife lands due to the majority of their funds coming from the sale of licenses. While not a new problem, it is one that has seen a lot of focus from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources as of late.
In the spring of 2003 the Minnesota DNR, headed by Commissioner Gene Merriam, recognizing the trends and wanting to be proactive took steps towards slowing the decline of hunting and fishing license sales by forming a Hunter Recruitment and Retention Program and hired a full-time coordinator. In 2005, a group of DNR staffers met for an advisory committee. During this meeting they developed a plan for the long-term retention and recruitment of hunters. This plan identified several factors that the DNR felt were barriers for hunters to start or continue the tradition of the sport such as: access to hunting lands, lack of time, lack of outreach, etc. All told, 11 major impediments were found.
The group also addressed goals and strategies for the program and set priorities for how to market the program. Their major goal is to: “Sustain and increase participation in hunting by recruiting new and former hunters and retaining current hunters and maintain an annual hunting population of 570,000 individual license holders.” They plan to do this with six objectives:
1) Increase the recruitment rate of youth
2) Increase the recruitment rate of adults, including non-traditional groups (females, minorities, urbanites)
3) Increase the retention rate of current hunters
4) Increase the number of hunters participating in multiple hunting disciplines
5) Reintegrate former hunters
6) Create a positive image of hunters and hunting among the general public
Since their inception in 2003, the group has seen success. Their biggest gains have been through their Becoming an Outdoors Woman (B.O.W.) program. Due in large part to this program, the number of female deer license holder numbers has risen from 44,349 in 2003 to 54,433 in 2008. From 2003 to 2008 firearm deer license sales rose from 644,751 to a record high of 791,715.
Another program that has seen success has been the Hunter Apprentice Validation program. According to Minnesota law, a hunter born after December 31, 1979 must have completed a firearms safety course prior to purchasing a license. In 2007, the DNR introduced the Hunter Apprentice Validation to allow new hunters to try out the sport before deciding if they would like to go through with the class. After purchasing the apprentice validation, the new hunter must be under the supervision a licensed adult hunter. Originally this validation was only good for one year, but for 2011 the DNR has extended it to two years in a lifetime.
But their work is not done. Their recent focus has been on grouse, ducks, pheasant, and other small game. Normally small game license sales rise and fall depending on the population outlooks for pheasant and grouse. But Minnesota small game sales have remained stagnant in recent years, so this year they have started a push to introduce more hunters to small game.
Other programs that the DNR offers are: Becoming an Outdoors Family, Mentored Youth Spring Turkey Hunts, Mentored Youth Waterfowl Hunts, Mentored Youth/Women Upland Bird Hunts, National Archery in the Schools, the Scholastic Clay Target Program, Take-A-Kid Hunting Weekend, among many others.
Many of these programs are always looking for volunteers and mentors to help. If you are interested in participating, contact the Minnesota DNR through their website (www.dnr.state.mn.us). To keep hunting and fishing available and to increase availability of funds for management, we as stewards of the outdoors need to do our part to help, bring a kid out hunting with you, introduce others to the sport, or just spend a day helping out at one of the DNR’s programs. And remember, the most important thing you can give is your time.

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Catering to the Gung-Ho Outdoor Youngster

Becoming a Mentor Series Feature From Mark Strand Outdoors

It’s not always easy to tell which kids are gung-ho about hunting and fishing, but Jason Mitchell suggests asking them if they’d like to go again, and paying close attention to the answer. As long as the weather is favorable, he also says, it’s hard to tame the drive in enthusiastic kids.

With Jason Mitchell
An awful lot of advice on how to get kids started in fishing and hunting assumes the kids are interested, but likely to become bored with the whole thing if it drags on past a couple hours or if a hungry fish does not attack every time the bait hits the water. For average kids, this is probably accurate, but there are gung-ho youngsters for whom this ‘average’ label does not apply.
When the flame of outdoor desire burns strong and bright, what is the best approach to mentoring? Is it possible to burn out natural-born fanatics by giving them too much, too soon? And is it always obvious which kids are fired up and which ones are inclined to dip their toes in the water?
We explored this topic with Jason Mitchell, who was as avid a young fisherman and hunter as rural North Dakota ever produced. He grew up wanting nothing more than to be on the water and in the field as much as possible. In adulthood, he became a full-time guide and eventually host of his own outdoor television show.
Jason has a gift for teaching young beginners how to fish and hunt, and it’s a critically important role that he takes seriously. We think you’ll agree that his thoughts on catering to the gung-ho outdoor youngster are worth hearing.

Q: Do you think it’s obvious to see that a youngster is gung-ho about hunting and fishing, or are some kids hard to read?
Jason: One thing I’ve really noticed while guiding is that some kids can be shy, or just quiet, about how excited they are. We’ll be having this bang-up day, catching lots of fish, and I’m kind of disappointed that the kids don’t seem to be having that much fun. Then we get home and I check my Facebook and the kid says he had the time of his life and “here’s a picture of me with my big walleye from Devils Lake.” Sometimes it’s not cool for kids to let people know they’re excited, so you have to know some kids don’t really show it on the outside.

Q: Do you have any tips for helping people read their own kids in this regard?
Jason: One of the best ways to find out what they really think is to ask if they would like to go again. If they make excuses to avoid going again, you can tell it might not be for them. Some kids are just not outdoors people – but fishing can bring so much to anybody, that I think we should expose them to it and see.
Even if they don’t say much, if their eyes light up when you ask whether they want to go again, you know they’re excited about it.

Q: There’s an old saying in dog training that you should “put ‘em back in the kennel wanting to do more” so that even the most naturally driven puppy remains excited during training. In other words, you should not just keep throwing retrieves until finally the puppy doesn’t seem interested anymore. When it comes to gung-ho kids and the outdoors, do you think this principle might apply, or should you just provide as many hours in the field as humanly possible?
Jason: I think it’s just like dog training. I think you should put them back in the kennel before they get tired of doing it, but at the same time, I think that most living circumstances automatically kennel those kids before they would get burned out. They still have to go to school, a lot of them play sports or do other activities, and usually it means they can only go fishing on some of the weekends. Life sort of sets up those parameters, and the gung-ho kids end up not getting as much as they want. They figure out ways to drag their parents along, by asking to do more.

Q: So your take is that gung-ho kids will run into plenty of obstacles that keep them from getting so much outdoor time that they would get burned out on it. But how about this one: even with kids who are excited to go, should you draw some lines when it comes to less-than-ideal weather conditions? You plan to go fishing, and you wake up and it’s cold, windy, and raining. Do you just zip up the raingear tight and take the kid anyway? Do you stay out there if they seem to be having fun, or do you cut it short to guard against them having a bad experience and maybe losing some of their gung-ho-ness?
Jason: I think you gotta be awfully careful with that. If you stay out there and the kids are miserable, wet, freezing cold, it can get imprinted in their minds, and it can be hard to get them excited about going again next time. As they get older, after they have already had a lot of good days out there, if they go enough they’re going to experience rough weather, big waves on the lake, deer hunting in the snow, and they will probably cope with the conditions just fine.
When it comes to bad weather, I think you have to wait until they get to that stage where they are taking you, rather than the other way around. Truthfully, crummy weather has the potential to turn kids away from fishing and hunting before they get to the point where they really love it and it becomes a part of who they are.

Follow Jason Mitchell and his TV show (9 a.m. Sundays on Fox Sports North and Fox Sports Midwest) at www.jasonmitchelloutdoors.com and www.facebook.com/JasonMitchellOutdoors.

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Mentor Mentality: Kids Require Thoughtful Guidance

Becoming a Mentor Series Feature From Mark Strand Outdoors

Willie
To do the right thing by young anglers and hunters, says Jason Mitchell, you have to put your own wants aside in order to create a memorable day for the kids. Take them more than once, and let successes like these come on their own timetable.

The future of anything has always rested in the hands of teachers. When it comes to fishing and hunting, this is especially true. Teachers, mentors, guides–call ‘em what you will, they hold the fate of the future of our outdoor traditions.
Jason Mitchell has been a fanatical fisherman and hunter since he was a young boy. He was essentially born with the “want to” that kept him out, even when he was cold, tired, hungry or thirsty. You had to drag him out of the boat, off the shore, away from the hunting fields.
To this day, there is no way to pull Jason away from these pursuits. He grew up to be an accomplished fishing and hunting guide out of Devils Lake, N.D. Then, when legendary outdoor broadcaster Tony Dean decided to retire, he hand-picked Jason to carry his torch into the future. That was the beginnings of Jason Mitchell Outdoors television.
Along the road, Mitchell has witnessed the birth of many new anglers and hunters. He has contributed heavily, in fact, and refined a strategy for successfully introducing youngsters, and nurturing their development until they become active participants.
Going well beyond the usual cookie-cutter advice you hear about bringing kids into the outdoors, here is a glimpse into that philosophy.

Q: Do you think there is a right and wrong way to approach a day outdoors with kids, from the mental outlook of the mentors?
Jason: Definitely. You have to pace yourself, and be patient. Hooks in the carpet, pop spilled in the boat, getting hung up a lot, it all tests your patience. If you’re a high energy go-getter, throttle back and know things aren’t going to be perfect.

Q: When it comes to how long you should stay out there, you’ve said that there is no simple answer to this. What do you mean by that?
Jason: For one thing, it’s important to pay attention to the signals each youngster gives you. They don’t always come right out and say they want to go in, because they don’t want to disappoint their parents, or seem like they’re a wimp or something.
Some kids want to stay out there forever. I was like that. When I was a little kid, I would get furious because my dad wouldn’t stay out all day. There are a lot of kids who don’t want to be out there very long, but with the right mentoring, they grow up to be avid and great fishermen.
Being a kid is confusing; you don’t know who you’re going to be. You might collect baseball cards, try different sports, get interested in girlfriends or boyfriends, and just dabble at things to see what you’re good at. You find what you like by trying things. So when it comes to how long to keep kids out there, it’s a case by case evaluation. Be honest with yourself, and pick up on all the signs they’re giving you. Don’t force it. Expose them, and keep the outings short if that seems like the right thing to do. Don’t push it. Let ‘em warm up to it. Let it come over time. It’s a matter of repetition.
You just never know, and I don’t have all the answers, but it seems like if you try to have good intentions and stay conscious of your role, and tune in to the kids and what they seem to want, you’ll do the right thing most of the time.

Q: You’ve also said that, in order to help kids grow attached to the outdoors, you have to help them soak in the entire experience. Tell us more about that.
Jason: I don’t think you should have this attitude that you’re out there trying to kick mother nature’s butt. It’s not about outfishing the other people who are with you. Fish and game live in the coolest places in the world. Obviously, catching fish is important, especially for kids, but point out the other things.
One thing that disappoints me is when some hunters, for example, learn everything they can about calling ducks, but don’t take time to learn more about the plants, the other birds that live in marshes. The whole picture fascinates me. If you can get into this mindset, that you’re fascinated by nature, it will add a whole new dimension to the kids’ experiences.
Show them what’s out there. Even if you are catching fish, take time to try to guess where the loon is going to pop up next. Tell them about loons.

Q: Still, sometimes it seems like mentors rationalize away a lack of catching fish by talking about quality time and all the birds the kids saw. Isn’t it important to focus on trying to lead them to fish, and game?
Jason: Yes, of course. But in the big scheme of things, catching more fish or big fish, or shooting things will come as you do it enough times. How can you catch more fish? The only answer that’s real is to keep fishing.
For kids, it starts with being out there. It will all happen, if they develop a passion for being outside. Just remember, it’s the people who go a lot who have the most stories about days when they didn’t catch anything.

Q: Being out in the elements brings up the whole discussion of comfort. How do you keep kids comfortable out there?
Jason: You gotta dress them in clothes that are right for the day. There are better clothes for kids now, and a lot of what they would use for any outdoor activity can be the right stuff to have them wear for fishing and hunting, to start out with. So dress them for the weather, but pay attention to how they’re doing, too. Different kids have different thresholds. If it’s freezing, go back to the truck and warm up.

Q: What else do you think makes a good outdoor mentor?
Jason: Doing it. It’s easy to talk about it, to give that lip service to it. It’s different to put your own ambitions on hold and take a kid. You’re donating your day to their future. Let’s say you’re an accomplished fisherman, and your idea of a good time is to be on a big lake and stay all day, and fish for five bites, in order to catch one big fish.
If you’re serious about taking kids, you have to put your own wants aside and set up the day for them. Set up in a bay where they can catch a bunch of little sunfish, whatever it takes for them to have a ball. Those kids, when they turn 20 years old, are the ones that are now driving the boat for dad. As a guide, I’ve seen dads taking their kids out for the first time, and I’ve seen kids taking their parents out for the last time. It all eventually comes full circle, and that’s pretty special. At that point, you forget all about putting your own wants on hold temporarily.
Follow Jason Mitchell and his TV show (9 a.m. Sundays on Fox Sports North and Fox Sports Midwest) at www.jasonmitchelloutdoors.com and www.facebook.com/pages/Jason-Mitchell-Outdoors-Television.

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Outdoor Club Fills Niche

By Jerry Carlson
www.jerrycarlsonoutdoors.com
Most experts agree that today’s youth simply do not spend enough time outdoors. We all are aware of the many activities that are available for young people that are not outdoors oriented. There is also plenty of press about the amount of time kids spend on the computer or in front of the television.
Sometimes, the problem with the lack of outdoor activity for kids is the mere lack of opportunities. In an effort to increase outdoor opportunities, Jim Russell and Woody Sankey of St. Cloud have started a new program for kids called “The Outdoor Club.”
I recently had a chance to volunteer at one of their meetings held at Riverside Park in St. Cloud. At this event, members of the club were given new rod and reel ice fishing combos complete with line.
Our agenda for the evening was to teach the young people, and their parents, how to tie fishing knots and to rig a rod for ice fishing. The entire operation went very smoothly and 90 minutes later members were ready for an “on the ice” experience.
The Outdoor Club actually has more than one ice fishing experience planned for the eager youth. After all, what good is a new rod and reel if a person can’t go fishing?
The Outdoor Club works closely with the St. Cloud Recreation Department and another organization called Simply Outdoor Experiences. It is open to the public with membership dues set at $15 a year. Membership information is available at 320-650-3053.
The Outdoor Club has more than fishing on its schedule. For a list of upcoming events, check out the Simply Outdoor Experiences website at www.simplyoutdoorexperiences.org.

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Getting Kids Started

It’s About Them and Their Fishing

Jason

Attentive mentoring creates chances for youngsters to catch fish, and become attached to the sport, says guide and television host Jason Mitchell

A frank discussion on what it takes to get more kids into the sport

With Jason Mitchell
To Jason Mitchell, introducing kids to fishing and hooking them on the sport ideally takes place on the same day. It’s a specialty that takes a commitment from an adult that goes beyond “letting ‘em come along.”
Mitchell is a veteran guide from Devils Lake, N.D., who travels widely to fish and film Jason Mitchell Outdoors television. Still a relatively young man himself, he has a huge soft spot in his heart for helping youngsters become attached to angling–including his own kids, Olivia and Brennen.
“It has to be about the kids and their fishing,” begins Jason. “Your child-to-adult ratio has to be low. You can’t expect to take out more than two kids, and it’s best if it’s one-on-one.
“And you have to be in a good spot. It doesn’t have to be a fly-in trip; it can just be a good spot off a dock, or the best bullhead spot in the area. As long as you can provide something with fins, some action, you’re off to a good start.”

Kids Own the Day
While guiding, Jason has seen first-hand what happens when parents want their kids to pursue big walleyes rather than the faster action of smaller walleyes, or better yet, panfish.
“If parents put their own desires in front of the kids’, it’s usually a disaster,” he says. “Don’t go out there to impress these kids with your advanced abilities. Have their first trips be something simple they can grasp. Something where they can have success.
“Try to find a situation where it’s easy, in a sense. Take them to a place where they can cast and not get into trouble, but let them make mistakes without criticizing their technique. When you take a youngster fishing, that day is their day. You’re fishing for whatever bites. And you stop when they want to, even if it’s after just an hour. Kids don’t have the threshold to stay out all day, even if it’s a nice day.”
After an outing or two, if a youngster is taking to the sport, then it can be time to broaden their horizons–but keep the training wheels on.
“You can take them out trolling crankbaits, or bottom bouncers, or jigging,” says Jason, “but it might take you to detect the bites in those situations. As soon as you set the hook, hand them the rod. At the end of the trip, they don’t remember you had anything to do with it. They tell their friends how many fish they caught.”

Let ’em Bring Toys
On a youngster’s first fishing excursion, it’s common for them to want to bring a gaming device or other toys. Rather than separating them from these security blankets, Jason urges adults to “not ban toys right off the bat.”
From his guiding experience, Jason has witnessed that it almost always works better to let kids bring toys, and play with them.
“I don’t think it’s a big deal if they want to bring some toys from home if it eases the transition between living room and the outdoors,” he says. “A lot of times, the Game Boy is in the glove box by the end of the day, and they aren’t paying attention to it anymore.”

Let ’em Keep Some Fish
Some kids naturally want to let every fish go, some kids want to keep ‘em all, and some kids want to keep one or two.
As long as the fish are of legal size and limits are adhered to, “I think kids should be able to keep some fish,” says Jason, “and we shouldn’t judge the kids for which fish they choose to keep. If they spend the rest of the day with the livewell open, looking at the fish, and then we fillet them and eat them, that’s all good stuff.”

Let Friends Come Along
While he feels that initial outings are best handled one-on-one, after kids have a good introduction to fishing, bringing a friend or two can help kids have fun on the water.
“Especially once they get a little older,” says Mitchell, “maybe fourth or fifth grade, let some friends come along. Then it’s really cool. They love to do things with their friends. It’s a good way to get their friends outside, too. Maybe all of them will like fishing, and it will become something they do together for many years.”

Mentors are the True Key
Jason, who is also a volunteer instructor for the nonprofit School of Outdoor Sports, believes the key to developing lifelong anglers is to provide them with quality mentoring.
“Teaching kids to fish requires a commitment of time from people who are willing to put their own fishing on hold,” he says. “You have to get kids on the water several times before they can get a feel for it, have some success, and get that feeling of accomplishment that makes fishing so important and special.
“It’s so important that they catch something. Those are the life-changing events. If they catch fish, that’s what they associate fishing with, rather than being cold or hot or getting sunburned. It comes down to you taking one kid to your best spot and letting them catch–or at least reel in–all the fish. If everybody did that once a year, we’d have a lot more new anglers.”

Jason Mitchell’s time on the water is difficult to match. He earned a renowned reputation as a guide on North Dakota’s Devils Lake and now hosts Jason Mitchell Outdoors television, airing 9 a.m. Sundays on Fox Sports North and Fox Sports Midwest. www.jasonmitchell
outdoors.com

 

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