by Chris Chaffin - Thursday, October 10, 2019
The Texas Youth Hunting Program (TYHP) “gives young Texans the opportunity to participate in youth hunting activities safely, legally, and ethically, while learning about the valuable role landowners and hunters play in wildlife conservation.” Based in San Antonio, the popular program is celebrating its 20th anniversary of success.
Developed by the Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD,) TYHP was organized in 1996 in recognition of the declining numbers of young hunters in the state. Since that time, over 55,000 Texans have participated in TYHP hunts where they have been introduced to hunting under the program’s guiding principles, accounting for including 225 hunts held in 2017 alone.
Working with literally hundreds of private landowners and volunteers, TYHP offers introductory, instructive youth hunts that are safe, educational and very affordable. The program includes hunts for deer, turkey, hogs, javelina, exotics, dove, small game, waterfowl, varmints and other species. TYHP events usually provide mentors, lodging and meals.
TYHP Director Col. Chris Mitchell (U.S. Army, Ret.) thinks the program is successful, in part, because so many Texas hunters have reached the “give back” stage of hunting, and the program is well organized. “We have 20 years of experience now in both conducting the hunts but also in training the huntmasters, who host the kids,” he explained.
Volunteers, landowners and TYHP staff create a strong team, according to Mitchell. “I view the program as having a hunting season and a training season,” he said. “In the training season we use a curriculum that is very good and has been developed through sharing ideas with our partners.”
Mitchell also explained that the TYHP hunts typically run from Friday through noon on Sunday, with an average group of seven to eight hunters, offering more close bonding time than a quick one-day hunt. And, although the TYHP hunts prioritize new hunters, “We have enough landowners and volunteers that youth hunters are able to participate in additional hunts as space permits,” he shared.
All TYHP hunts require participants to first complete an approved hunter education course. The hunts are viewed as an extension of the course, allowing young hunters to “put into practice what they learned in the classroom.”
A Moving Video Explains How the Program Works
This video outlines what participants will experience on a TYHP hunt, but it also explains the bonds that develop between parents and kids and also between mentors and participants.
It is relevant to note that TYHP’s organization includes a strong, easy-to-use website to learn more about the program, including how to register, what to expect and the cost. Clarifying details beforehand enables participants and families to be prepared. Families are allowed to attend with the youth in some cases. The website also includes information and forms for becoming a TYHP volunteer or huntmaster.
The TYHP is looking toward the future as it continues its focus on engaging new young hunters. To generate additional interest among hunters who already have experienced an introductory hunt or hunts, TYHP offers Adventure Hunts where increased hunting opportunities are offered.
Mitchell reports TYHP administrators have experimented with adding a different kind of New Hunters hunts to their offerings. They look to expand this effort that allows them to connect more readily with new but somewhat older hunters who, once initiated, have even better potential to become lifetime hunters.
Youth hunting through the TYHP is supported by many good partners, including both the South Texas and West Texas Friends of NRA Chapters.
“Both NRA Chapters have consistently helped us make this program successful, noted Mitchell. “They regularly provide us with grants that make it possible to gear up for the events, including event trailers and all the gear inside to outfit our participants and haul the educational material, food, etc. we use to the field. They have been very generous in supporting us.”
The TYHP has a standing offer to assist others in following its model, which can be found on the R3 website at the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports. In addition, interested parties can contact Mitchell directly [email@example.com; 210-260-6802] or call the Texas Youth Hunting Program toll free at 800-460-5494.
About the author: Chris Chaffin has been an outdoor communicator, educator and partnership manager for more than 40 years. On the national scene, he has represented several prominent companies in the outdoor community and served two terms as treasurer of the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), eventually taking on the roles of vice-president, president and chairman of the board. In 2007, he launched Chaffin Communications, Inc., a communications consulting company focusing on the outdoors. In 2012, with support from the Outdoor Adventure Dream Giveaway, Chaffin founded and currently manages the Outdoor Adventure Conservation Fund, a Florida non-profit established to encourage and facilitate more people participating in traditional outdoor activities.
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