It wasn’t that many years ago that sportsmen and sportswomen were lamenting a decline in participation in hunting.
The demographics weren’t good. The aging population of hunters in America was threatening its future: Fewer hunters means fewer license sales, fewer purchases of outdoor gear. And that means less tax money collected — tax money that fuels many programs benefiting habitat and in turn, hunting.
We haven’t heard much about the state of hunting in North Dakota in recent years.
It seems, at least in our little corner of the world, young people are still interested in and getting involved in not only hunting, but other outdoor pursuits.
It doesn’t happen on its own, though. There are groups out there that are taking the lead in keeping the outdoor traditions alive and well and growing.
I’ve had the chance to be along for the ride with a couple of such groups, like the Knife River Chapter of Pheasants Forever for their youth hunt.
Ducks Unlimited has its own youth program each summer to introduce kids to waterfowling.
The Game and Fish Department’s Archery in School’s program has been such a big hit that this past winter, it outgrew the facility that had hosted the state shoot, and they had to move into a bigger place.
Another such group, the Northern Badlands chapter of the Mule Deer Foundation, is planning its sixth annual MULEY Day Camp for July 13.
The camp is held at the Fried Family Marksmanship Complex near Moffit from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. And while the day is all about kids, it’s become more than that, said Ryan Krapp, state chairman of the foundation.
Krapp said last year, more than 100 youth took part in the event and just as many adults.
The event is free and the sponsor list is growing every year, Krapp said.
MULEY stands for “Mindful, Understanding, Legal, Ethical Youth” — and that, more than hunting and shooting, is what the event is about, Krapp said.
Volunteers — also a growing number — teach youth gun safety, rifle, pistol and archery shooting. Everything is provided, including lunch.
Perhaps as important as the skills taught, Krapp said, is the heritage, tradition and ethics that are such a big part of hunting.
It’s been a wildly successful event. Krapp said it began with a grant from the Game and Fish Department’s Encouraging Tomorrow’s Hunters Program.
The success of the event resulted in a major donation from Midway USA that has allowed the Mule Deer Foundation to hire a full-time youth education coordinator. And the program here has been used as a template for similar events in other states.
Sponsors, both local and national, have ponied up and kids receive a goodie bag with a variety of gear. And there are some nice prizes like bows and rifles that are given away each year.
Preregistration for the event is encouraged. You can get more information by checking out the Mule Deer Foundation website at www.muledeer.org/state/north-dakota; by contacting Ryan Krapp at email@example.com or call at 701-471-8788.