by Autumn Stage
The Texas Youth Hunting Program has the slogan “Take a kid hunting” and I choose to start my
story with just that because that is exactly what my dad did.
We had heard about the opportunity to go on affordable youth hunts that were meant for kids
from all backgrounds, ages, and experience levels from a friend and decided to check it out. After
applying for the hunts on the TYHP website, I was pulled for a deer, hog, and javelina hunt at the Santa Clara Ranch in Atascosa, Texas. Being 12 years old and a first time hunter, I honestly had no clue what to expect and was already anxious, but when I came to find out that I was going to be the only girl on the hunt I became even more nervous. When we had arrived at the ranch we were met by the Huntmaster and land owners. The Huntmaster had introduced himself to me and I had done the same except for the fact that he made me do it about five times until I could do it right. He taught me how to give a good old Texas style introduction, including a firm handshake and eye contact. As much as I was embarrassed about saying my name over and over again in front of everyone, I realized that an introduction is the start of a connection and your first impression can mean everything to someone. Since then I have always introduced myself in this manner as a sign of confidence.
The next morning after our arrival my dad and I woke up at what I like to call “o’dark thirty”,
grabbed some snacks, and were on our way to the blind where I would find myself shedding tears over
what I thought were “baby piggies”. When the Huntmaster heard about my misunderstanding about feral hogs, he knew exactly what to say. He explained to me that not only were they not babies but also that they consumed
food that other wildlife like deer needed and destroyed the ranchers land. I had never really understood
the concept of conservation until that moment but when it clicked, it was go time. My hunt went from not
being able to pull the trigger to wondering what I could shoot next. The Huntmaster had joined us in the
blind to serve as our guide that evening and when we arrived we already had some critters waiting for us.
When the perfect broadside angle made itself available I knew what I had to do, so I squeezed the trigger
then… bang! The Javelina had tumbled over and I had made the perfect heart shot and harvested my first
animal. The smile we all shared and the joy I felt in that moment were so grand that words can not
Since then I’ve enjoyed many other hunts and have learned so much to the point, at 16 years old,
that I’m currently guiding other hunts for kids (with my dad in the blind for legal reasons) which brings
me to my next story. This year during Opening Youth Weekend I had the opportunity to volunteer for
Operation Orphans, a program that provides a weekend away for kids that are in the orphanage system to
hunt, and it was truly a life changing experience. The volunteers were each paired with a kid that they
would be working with over the weekend. I was lucky enough to be paired with one of the sweetest girls I
have ever met. We reached the ranch and when I spoke with her about what she wanted to accomplish that
weekend I got super excited. She shared with me that she really wanted to get herself a nice South Texas
buck and trust me when I say we did just that. Her very first hunt she harvested a beautiful 10 point and
the look on her face was unforgettable. I’m still not sure who was more excited because we were both
jumping with joy out of our seats.
If you are looking for a reason as to why to take a kid hunting or to volunteer for this impactful
organization hopefully my story comes to mind. The story of a little girl who couldn’t look someone in
the eye to a young woman that is confident in herself and is sharing the knowledge and joy of hunting
with others. Unfortunately there is a decline in my generation hunting and I hope that if enough people
will simply take a kid hunting then we can reverse this trend. Let’s work together to guarantee that this
tradition will carry on for many more generations to come. Take a kid hunting.