“I wanted to do this very same thing forever.”

Mentor them well
39

Kaitlyn Hanson started hunting young, mentored by her dad, Dave’s friend Al Hanson.
She started out right with a youth/ladies model Weatherby Vanguard in .243 Win.

The late Patrick F. McManus, who died in 2018 at age 84, wrote many great stories about hunting, fishing and outdoor living. A favorite from the ’70s was called “A Yup of a Different Color.” It recounts how then 14-year-old Pat persuaded two old hunters, Rancid Crabtree and Mr. Hooker, to take him deer hunting.

Driving into the mountains in Rancid’s old truck,“Rancid and Mr. Hooker told all the old stories again, starting each one off with ‘I ever tell you the time … ?’ And we drank the scalding black coffee and ate the homemade doughnuts Gram had sent along, and the two men puffed their pipes and threw back their heads and roared with laughter at their own stories, and it was all a fine thing to be doing, going up into the dark, frozen mountains early in the morning with those two old hunters, and I knew I wanted to do this very same thing forever.”

This Savage Lightweight Hunter rifle in .260 Rem. with a Burris scope is a great
deer gun for new hunters. They’d also appreciate a loan of extra gear such as the
Leica rangefinder, Jet Boil, Meopta binocular and Garmin GPS.

A Favor For Dad

The story reminds me of the old-timers (actually they were likely 40 or 50) who would sometimes let me tag along on deer hunts. My dad liked bird hunting but had little interest in deer hunting. Looking back I suspect the old hunters took me along as a favor to Dad. In any case I was grateful then and still am today. When I first read the story I was closer in age to the boy; rereading it today I realize I’m now one of the old hunters. I feel we who have enjoyed the shooting sports for so long have a duty to support future generations. I have huge respect for all those who volunteer their time to teach hunter and firearms safety courses. I’m also thinking of ways to support individual youngsters.

One way is to provide advice so they are properly equipped. This can be carried too far, of course. We tend to be equipment-happy about most sports — a little make-do spirit is to be encouraged. I remember my first hunting jacket was an old coat with a red lining, worn inside-out!

The idea is to make it a positive experience. It’s hard to have a really good time if one’s hands and feet are freezing. Safety courses teach the importance of ear and eye protection. We can help ensure the youngsters have quality safety gear.

Compact Ruger American rifles are perfect for young shooters. A rimfire .22 LR (left)
is a great starter, or move up to a Ranch model .223 Rem with a 1:8 twist suitable for heavier bullets.

Guns

Back in the ’60s when I first hunted deer there weren’t any “youth” rifles, at least none of which I was aware. Even rifles touted as lightweights such as the Winchester 70 Featherweight weren’t very light. If a kid was especially lucky, he might get a Winchester or Marlin lever-action carbine. Today’s young shooters have a plethora of choices (and yes, I know what a plethora is). Most rifle makers have a compact youth model in their lineup.

For smaller-statured shooters even the compacts can be a bit long in length of pull. In my experience getting the LOP right is one of the most important components of stock fit. Don’t overlook the option of an AR-style (modern sporting rifle) with collapsible stock. With these LOP can be set to suit almost any size shooter. With the bolt concealed in the upper receiver housing there is no need to move the face from the stock to allow for bolt operation and a Picatinny rail on the receiver gives flexibility in mounting an optical sight.

Dave realizes he should start giving away his overstock of knives to youngsters instead
of leaving them for the executor of his estate to sell on the cheap!

Sell It Cheap …

If you’re an old-timer like me you probably have shelves and drawers full of gear you seldom use anymore. I took an inventory of my gun and reloading rooms — and was frankly astonished! Daypacks, fanny packs, folding and fixed-blade knives, binoculars, hatchets, game saws, sharpening stones, spare shooting glasses, muffs and earplugs, cleaning gear … I hang onto the stuff thinking one day I might need them, when the reality is one day my executor is either going to sell them cheap or throw them out. Better to give them to a youngster who will use and appreciate them. Remember along with a knife goes a lesson in sharpening and using it safely.

And at current rate of consumption I’d have to live to about 150 to use up all the .22 shells, not to mention all the reloading components. I can’t quite bring myself to give away .22 shells yet but I sure am going to enjoy more plinking and training sessions with some worthy protégés.

The Greatest Gift

The most important gift you can give is not things, but your time and your example. Let the youngsters learn every hunt, every competition, every day at the range, happens in three stages: the anticipation, the doing and the remembering. Encourage them while they are young, get in lots of the doing, for the day will come sooner than one ever imagines when the remembering is all you have left. But I’m not there yet. I still think it’s all a fine thing to be doing and I want to do the very same thing forever.

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