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Waterfowl: Turn Kids On to Whistling Wings

Jason Patterson |  August 20, 2010

2346-TeachingWaterIThis article will discuss the outdoor mentoring of children, perhaps earth’s greatest blessing. A lot of us have children of our own and we all know the battles of life that face today’s generation and future generations for that matter. Kids today are very different from past generations and face very many difficult challenges in life. They have various things to choose from, good and bad! Most of the time, kids spend their days playing video games and so forth. Parents are busier than ever and a lot of kids have to suffer from that. It is not all the parents fault either, it takes more and more to make a living, times are tougher than they ever were and we have to find some way to stop all the stress and madness of today’s high tech world. I have got the perfect cure for parents and children, the sport of waterfowling! 

We are going to go over a few things on how to teach kids the sport of waterfowling, and if you don’t have kids of your own, don’t worry, there are plenty to go around for all of us!!

Getting Started

Growing up in Southern Indiana, I only had so many options, play basketball, hunt and fish. I not only did all three, I was addicted to all three but only because a couple of people in my life took the time out to spend with me. My father is responsible for taking me on many trips fishing at local farm ponds and my brother introduced me to hunting at age 12 and I have never let up since that time. If it wasn’t for those two, I would have probably never even tried to do anything but shoot hoops. 

Today I love the sport of waterfowling and I have two kids of my own, Devin who is 16 and Oakley who is 9. Both of them love to hunt and fish but they have a special love of ducks and geese. In my personal opinion, there is no better sport to teach kids than waterfowling, it is tailor made for children and I am going to show you how to bring kids in to the sport that I love the most! The number one thing to remember when involving kids with anything is you have to make the experience fun and stress free. Children like to have a good time; so planning your excursion should be a top priority on your check sheet. 

One thing to remember is to make this their trip, not yours. You will spend the vast amount of your time tending to them and they will feel much more at ease if all of your attention is on them. This will be a test on your patience, but one thing to keep in mind is that your child or someone else’s child might be your blind counterpart for years to come, so teach them all the ins and outs of hunting. They may have to come and pick you up someday, and it doesn’t hurt to have some youngsters with a lot of energy picking up decoys and cleaning your birds. So all in all it is a benefit to all of us, you have started a new generation in the sport and have added some helping hands to brushing blinds and so forth.

Gearing Up

If your child has not had the opportunity to take a hunter safety course, this should be your first course of action, any child the age 10 or over has to have this and the safety instructions that the course offers is second to none. My child corrects me every time we go hunting because of something I am doing wrong. Children remember a lot from this course, trust me I know! The next thing that I recommend is to figure out what firearm the child will be handling and shooting. This all depends on the age of course, my 8 year old swears he can knock ducks down with a .410 and my 16 year old just switched to a 12 gauge this year. At 10 years of age my son shot a 20 gauge until just last year. A lot also depends on the size of the child you are taking. Some kids are bigger and can handle bigger firearms. Youth models are available and are highly advised, adult guns just do not fit to children, you don’t want to them to feel intimidated. 

Shooting clays or skeet is a great way to get kids into shooting, take them just with you so they wont feel embarrassed and let down when they don’t connect on every clay target, self motivation is the key here, not success. From there I took my boys on a dove hunt, dove hunting is similar to waterfowling, in the sense they have to shoot birds that are moving and they get to shoot quite often which is a plus. Again take them on a hunt with just you and then you can go with more people when they feel comfortable. After the dove shooting adventure you now have a couple of months to get them ready for the real thing, whether it be ducks or geese or both for that matter.

Countdown to Opening Day

The preparation for duck season usually lasts as long as the actual hunting season and this is no better time to show the youngsters all about what it takes to get ready for the onslaught of honkers and greenheads. The first thing to consider when taking children waterfowling is to have them well clothed and warm, very warm. Being cold is the number one no no on a child’s mind. Take them to your local sporting goods store and let them pick out there hunting clothes, the various patterns, let them pick the one they like. You will need the whole shebang, from jackets, shirts, pants, socks, boots, hats, to the all important, long underwear. From there take them over to the call section and let them get a call that they can use and practice on, we know they probably won't be very good at it but that is what my 8 year old loves to do the most, there are plenty of opportunities to call while hunting, not just when ducks or geese are approaching. You can also teach them until hunting season arrives, just kind of a tease to keep them interested in what is coming up. 

Once back home there are always situations on when you have to go get decoys ready and brushing duck blinds, this again is another opportunity to get them involved and feel needed. Next time you are out in the garage getting decoys ready, call them out of the house and give you a hand, kids love to feel needed and that gains respect between you and them. Another good bit of advice is if you have any good duck hunting movies laying around, ask them to watch with you, even if they only sit there for a few minutes, that is still time that they appreciate and they will remember that, I promise you!

The Time Has Arrived!

You have done all your homework and the time has come to take them hunting. This is the crucial point in which kids either go again or stay home. I know most of us hunt with a group of people, but I recommend that you take them on their first trip with just yourself unless your hunting party knows and understands the fact that children are coming. You will need to give them your undivided attention; you wont have time for anything else. 

2346-TeachingWaterIIMost trips usually don’t last very long at first when taking children. A couple of hours are a good starting point and work for more in future hunts. Let them help you with everything when hunting, to setting out decoys, helping with the dog, and just keeping them involved of what is going on around them. Again, keeping them warm is a must, so bring what you need to make that happen, extra clothes, heaters, hand warmers and so forth. Feeding them is also a big thing, hungry children are unhappy children. Cook them a hot breakfast and bring plenty of snacks and drinks for them. 

When the birds do start flying, let them take the first shot if they want to, most of them will not, but give them the option of shooting. My son did not shoot till several volleys were made; so don’t get upset with them. Once they shoot, they will usually shoot every time from that point on. Let them go out with you on the boat and retrieve birds, this is very exciting to them and let them brag a little if they did happen to knock down one of those fat greenheads. A lot of times, we don’t always know who kills the bird in the first place, it doesn’t hurt to give them the credit for bagging them, make a big deal out of this, again, anything you can do to make them feel needed and appreciated is the key. During slow times in the blind, we all are used to these of course, show them other wildlife that may be flying around, show them the different species of birds that you have been harvesting and it doesn’t hurt to give a calling lesson or two. 

Also if your child has friends that hunt, invite them along to join them, they always seem to do better when they have some buddies with them. And don’t forget, if they are ready to leave, gather up your stuff and go, kids don’t like feeling trapped, don’t worry if birds are flying all over the place, remember why you are there in the first place.


Taking children on any kind of hunting or fishing trip is work, but the work that is done will pay off for generations to come. Do whatever is necessary to keep comfortable, interested and occupied. Common sense will take you a long way, that is all it takes! You may just have a life long waterfowl hunter on your hands and you can be responsible for making that happen! This season, take the time out for our future and take them hunting and fishing, our future and their future depends on it.

Editor’s Note: Jason Patterson is the owner and operator of He is on the pro staff of Buck Gardner Calls, Mossy Oak Brand Camo and Quest Outdoors, as well as the Tennessee pro rep for Tightlines, This is his first submission to 

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