San Antonio, Texas
Objective: To reach new hunters and promote safe hunting.
In a Nutshell: The Texas Youth Hunting Program provides volunteers to train youths in responsible use of hunting equipment through outdoor experiences. Youths can sign up for any of TYHP’s 200 hunts during the prime hunting season. A typical session includes three hunts, camping and educational activities.
Where It Happens: The program is carried out on more than 100 private ranches, farms and other properties throughout the state.
When It Began: In 1995 as the Texas Youth Hunting Association, in response to concerns that a lack of affordable and safe hunting opportunities was weakening the potential for a new generation of hunters.
Who Started It: Wallace Klussman and Steve Lewis. Klussman served as head of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Science at Texas A& M University, and Lewis is a rancher and past president of the Texas Wildlife Association (TWA). The two put together the program with help from TWA, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and Texas A & M Extension Services.
WHO RUNS IT: Executive Director Jerry Warden, a retired Army colonel. Associate Director Wendy Dahlke is the other staff member. They work with 700 volunteer trainers and 100 volunteer landowners.
Early Obstacles: Warden says the biggest challenge was to develop the program with no model to follow. Major specific challenges were establishing a core of volunteers and securing places that would allow lots of teenagers to hunt.
How They Overcame Them: An aggressive recruiting campaign, followed by an intense training period, helped to increase the volunteer corps from a handful in 1996 to its current level. Finding places to hunt was accomplished mainly by offering good insurance coverage to the landowners and requiring the youths to complete the Texas Hunter Education Program.
Cost: The total budget is approximately $250,000.
Who Pays: Funding comes primarily from two sources: the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and foundation funds raised by the Texas Wildlife Association.
Who Else Has Kicked In: Smaller contributions have come from organizations that include the National Rifle Association, the Dallas Safari Club, the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep and the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Youth Served: TYHP serves youth of all ages, but the hunting portion of the program is designed for youth ages 9 through 17. It includes programs for physically disabled youth. Warden says one goal is to attract more females and minorities. To participate, a youth must complete hunter education, have a valid hunting license and be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Youth Turn-On: “The youths enjoy being in the outdoors, camping and improving their marksmanship and hunting skills,” says Warden. “Youths frequently tell us that the hunts are some of the best-quality family time they have experienced.”
Youth Turn-Off: “One thing we require is for the youth to do their share of the chores,” says Warden. “Occasionally, youth complain when they have to clean bathrooms or wash pots and pans.” Another task that some youth detest is preparing the meat for human consumption.
What Still Gets in the Way: Warden’s wish to reach more of the state through TYHP will require a larger staff and volunteer base. “There are not enough volunteers or hunting opportunities to serve the entire state, nor are there enough organizations willing to get involved in order to better serve Texas,” he says.