This column pertains to, how, I as a youth got into the outdoors and about mentoring, introducing others to the Outdoors, as the Outdoors is “Open 24-hours a day.”
When I was young, growing up in the Glacial Lakes and Prairie region on northeastern South Dakota just one block from the Sioux River, it was natural that my brother AJ and I were attracted to the outdoors.
It helped that my Dad, Cal hunted and did some fishing; he had his old Model 97 shotgun, the Winchester with the hammer that at times released, firing the gun when it was least expected.
He had one rod and reel, one of the short curved metal rods with a baitcasting reel. The rod, supposedly to make the metal more sensitive, about half way from the handle to the tip of the rod, supposedly in order to make the metal of the rod sensitive to a bite, was twisted into two circles, that resembled some sort of spring, that was suppose to bend when a fish hit, it looked good, but you’d have to latch onto a huge fish in order to make the spring move at all and we were after bullheads and an occasional hammer handle northern, so all it did was make the rod stand out.
We also had neighbor, Glen Matteson who fished, had his own ice house he put out each year on Lake Pelican and hunted, with a bow, shotgun and rifle, he was a true “Outdoorsmen”.
My grandparents Mary & Albert, Butch Menkveld were both excellent anglers, and Grandpa enjoyed hunting pheasants. If we didn’t bug them too much, they’re all willing to mentor us, to share their outdoor experiences with us.
Our first attempt at becoming outdoorsmen was on Christmas when we received BB-guns, we thought, man, we’re on our way to becoming “Real” outdoorsmen like Jack London and other hunters and trappers we’d read about at the local library.
We plinked at sparrows, blackbirds and even pigeons as anyone who had a bale or machine shed was more than happy to allow us to help them get rid of the birds as they deposited their droppings on the machinery and the bales, creating quite a mess.
Our Grandpa, Albert “Butch” Menkveld, had made part of his living in northern Minnesota as a trapper, so we badgered him enough that he finally came out with us to show how he trapped back in Minnesota and armed with the knowledge grandpa shared with us, we caught some muskrats and mink.
When we went pheasant hunting with Dad and a group of farmers who hunted together, both my brother and I were armed to the teeth with BB-guns and a hunting knife, we were getting there, and we just knew it wouldn’t be long before we became real woodsmen, hunters and fishermen.
The Big Sioux River was where we cut willows, fashioning them into a bow and arrow, using bailing twine for our bow strings.
They were fun, but didn’t have enough power to penetrate even the smallest cardboard boxes we obtained behind Larabee’s furniture.
One day, Glen gave us some really excellent smoked carp, which got our interest as we wanted to give it a try and find out where the fish came from and what we needed to make them into this delicious tasting fish.
Glen explained that we could shoot them with a bow or use a spear from the bridges over the Sioux River.
We knew our willow bows weren’t going to cut it, so we gave it up until I could earn enough money to buy a “Real” bow or a spear.
Not too long after that, Glenn asked us to come over, he’d be in the garage, and when we arrived, he had a fiberglass bow for us, it had a crack in one of the limbs, but thought it would work for us if we used electrical tape to reinforce the bad spot.
Dad had a couple of rolls of the tape, so we used the better part of one roll to patch it, made a reel to hold the Dacron string from an old Star-Kist tuna can that we attached to a short piece of a 1 X 2, using the rest of Dad’s roll of tape to attach it to the bow, bought a cheap fishing arrow and we were on the river shooting fish the very next day.
We were fortunate to have our family and friends that took the time to take us along, to mentor us in the ways of the outdoors.
There are individuals, kids, and adults out there who would love to know more about the outdoors, but since they have no one in their family or friends that fish or hunt, it’s hard for them to get into the outdoors.
This is where you, I and other outdoorsmen and women have the opportunity to become mentors, by introducing others to the outdoors.
Don’t think that you have to be an expert at any outdoor activities to mentor, to introduce someone to the outdoors.
If you’re into fishing, take them fishing on a pond that has bullheads, bluegill or other species of fish, show them how to set up their tackle and what baits to use.
Don’t think that on these first trips that if they don’t catch a master angler fish won’t be hooked on the outdoors, as you have opened the door, peaking their interest and putting them on the road to becoming one who enjoys the outdoors.
There are several state and national programs, helping to bring others into our sports, these programs will always need others, mentors to help with these programs, but these programs still leave others out there who may not know about these events or hadn’t been involved in them who need mentors like you and I to get them involved in the outdoors.
In numerous states, including Nebraska and South Dakota through the Game Fish & Parks that offer both the Hunter’s Safety and the Bow Hunters Safety courses, with these classes, given at no charge by volunteers of the Hunter Safety program.
Most states require that youths and hunters need to pass and receive their hunter’s safety card in order to hunt in any number of different states.
Our Hunter’s Safety Course that’s held over several nights is where we and the students read and study the Hunter’s Safety manual, learn gun safety, give shooting demonstrations, tree stand safety and finishing up with a test needed to be passed in order to receive their hunter’s safety card.
On the following Saturday, for those who passed the course, we give them an opportunity to go out to Jim Anderson’s Pointer Valley Acres allowing them test their skills to shoot at one of several clay/blue rock throwing stations, and to plink at twenty-two and BB-targets.
I and several members of our Team Outdoorsmen Productions members do our best to bring youth into the outdoors as just this last weekend, I and one of Our Team members took a young man ice fishing, he was an angler, but hadn’t done much ice fishing in our area.
We headed for Buckskin Hills in Dixon County and started by punching a few holes with my Jiffy auger, located fish on the Vexilar, doing our best to entice a bite, the fish would come up to the bait but weren’t interested in what we were using..
We finally gave up on the first holes and moved to where our Team member, T.C. was catching a few bluegills.
As before, the fish would just mess with our baits, but weren’t interested in the numerous styles and sizes of baits we tried.
Dayton and I both missed a lot of bites as the fish would move up to the bait, nibble on the wax worm and then back off.
Dayton managed to catch several smaller fish, but every time I detected a bite, even spring bobber I had on the end of my rod, would twitch, where I’d set the hook and it was a swing and a miss for me and after several hours we decided to cash it in and go grab something to eat. It didn’t have the best bite going on; yet, I believe all of us enjoyed the time together, even if the bite was slow.
On this trip, as a mentor, I learned as much from Dayton as he did from both T.C. and I.
You don’t need to be a professional angler or hunter in order to mentor someone, as a lot of mentoring deals not only fishing and hunting as much of it is educational, explaining the ins and outs of these outdoor activities.
After the educational part of mentoring, then you can move on to some fishing and hunting.
Much of the mentoring I’m writing about not only deals with fishing and hunting, much of it deals with conservation where conservation groups such as Pheasants Forever, Whitetails Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation and others have mentoring programs where they take kids out on their first hunt, their first adventure into the outdoors.
Last fall, our local Lewis & Clark Pheasants Forever chapter held their annual youth mentor pheasant hunt at Jim Anderson’s Pointer Valley Acres near Hartington, NE.
With thirteen area youth participating in the hunt and educational activities, that’s open to both boys and girls, with the only requirements needed to become part of this event, is the completion of the hunter’s safety course and the youth were required to be between the ages of 12-15.
Our local Northeast chapter of Whitetails Unlimited introduces youth to the outdoors and hunting at their annual banquet, with this year the event to be held on March 4 at the Wausa, Nebraska. Fire Hall.
At this event, all kids below the age of 15 receive a WTU, sweatshirts, back packs, caps and other WTU merchandise as well as having the opportunity to win several Twenty-Two rifles, BB-Guns and several lifetime Nebraska hunting permits.
The National Wild Turkey Federation has a youth program called the Jakes that introduces young people to the sport of turkey hunting, where their members, the mentors take the youth out spring turkey hunting, giving these youngsters an opportunity to tag their first spring gobbler.
Both Nebraska and South Dakota’s Game, Fish & Parks offer outdoor fishing classes at no charge and in the summer months, have open water Fishing Derby’s allowing those new to the outdoors to take part in, where mentors introduce and help the newcomers to learn about fishing, giving them the opportunity to catch fish.
It’s not only the youth that have mentors as the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission also offers women’s only hunter education courses, designed give women the chance to learn the basics of hunter safety and gain hands-on firearm and archery experience in a fun, safe environment among like-minded women. All courses will be led by women who are experienced hunters and certified volunteer hunter education instructors.
There’s also a South Dakota program designed for women; the “Outdoor Women of South Dakota” bringing numerous educational benefits in a variety of outdoor skills. The biggest benefit, however, is belonging to a community of women who are driven, talented, outdoor enthusiasts and professionals, and willing to support of each other. Members come from all walks of life and share the same passion for the outdoors, and love sharing that passion with others
It may look as that there are a lot of different organizations that could mentor, but take my word on it, there’re hundreds of newcomers who want to see all that the great outdoors has to offer, but have no one to bring them into it.
Become a mentor, as introducing someone to the outdoors, not only gives those newcomers a chance to be outdoors, but will also give you, the mentor the satisfaction of knowing you helped to show and introduce others to the outdoors, which is “ Open 24-hours a day.”
Gary Howey (Hartington, Nebraska) is a former tournament angler, fishing & hunting guide, an award winning writer, producer, and broadcaster, and was inducted into the “National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame” in 2017. He is the Co-Host of the Outdoorsmen Adventures television series and Outdoor Adventures radio. For more outdoor information, check out garyhoweysoutdoors.com, outdoorsmenadventures.com and like Gary Howey’s Facebook page and watch the shows on the MIDCO Sports Network, News Channel Nebraska and on the Outdoor Channels www.MyOutdoorTV.com.