Times, lifestyles, and family activities have changed, as well as our land and wildlife resources. The youth of today do not have the same opportunities to hunt as in the past 20 to 30 years. Due to urbanization, loss of farms and other open space, less leisure time, computers and internet access, video games and organized school activities, young people are losing their connection to the outdoors. The days of walking down the road to the nearby farm or wood lot to hunt after school are all but gone except in the most rural communities. Historically, hunting and fishing were activities that many young people enjoyed after school and on weekends. The opportunities were nearby and readily available. So much enjoyment and intrinsic value associated with hunting and the outdoors may be lost to future generations of youth. The Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board (the Board) recognizes that the traditions and values of hunting and our outdoor heritage are an integral part of sustaining our conservation ethic and worth preserving, supporting and passing on to future generations. Therefore, the Board voted to establish the Massachusetts Young Adult Pheasant Hunt Program.
The Massachusetts Young Adult Pheasant Hunt Program provides young adults (ages 12-17) who have successfully completed the Massachusetts Hunter Education Program an opportunity to develop their shooting skills, practice firearms safety in the field, and participate in a special pheasant hunt with a safe, experienced hunter in a friendly environment. The program is designed to be implemented by sportsmen’s clubs that want to help pass on the traditions of hunting and the great outdoors to interested young adults in their local communities. The program is open to any club wishing to participate. There are no fees for participation.
A Planning Guide was developed to assist clubs in the implementation of this program. It includes a number of suggestions for planning and implementing the program at a club. The club can customize any
or all of the suggestions to fit its resources and manpower. This program emphasizes the quality of experience clubs provide to each young hunter, rather than the number of participants.
The first, critical step in developing this program was to find out what young adult hunters and their parents/guardians deemed important, including but not limited to attitudes, interests, concerns, constraints, issues, and opportunities associated with specially designed young adult hunts. To ascertain this information, the Division conducted a Human Dimensions Research Study through Dr. Rodney Zwick at Lyndon State College in Vermont. The research study surveyed young adults who had recently completed the Massachusetts Hunter Education
Course during the past three years and their parents/legal guardians.
One of the major findings of the study was that both young adults and parents/legal guardians wanted more than just a day in the field hunting. They wanted a complete program. The survey provided the following information on what young adult hunters and their
parents/legal guardians considered to be the most important elements of a safe, educational, and positive youth hunt program:
• Firearms safety in the field;
• Safe, supervised shooting instruction and practice prior to a hunt;
• Proper hunting ethics and behavior instruction;
• Training on hunting regulations and safety;
• Training in cleaning and preparing game;
• A safe, supervised hunt using the assistance of a responsible, experienced adult hunter;
• Learning how to identify game in the field;
• The application of proper field techniques learned in the hunter education course;
• Instruction that is hands-on and fun.
Using these scientific survey results, the Division developed a program that included all of the important elements identified by young adult hunters and their parents/legal guardians as being necessary for a safe, positive and successful young adult hunt. The Division suggests that Clubs review this Planning Guide and help pass on both the traditions and values of safe hunting and our outdoor heritage to today’s young adult hunter.