By PATRICK SLACK
Hunting season officially kicks off Sept. 16 in Minnesota, but several camps have given Morrison County youths the opportunity to prepare throughout the summer.
One place to hold annual summer camps is LeBlanc’s Rice Creek in Little Falls, which hosted several young participants this summer with Pheasants Forever helping sponsor some of the young hunters.
Each summer, 11 – 13 year olds have a chance to achieve their firearm safety certificates in a camp held during the middle of June at Rice Creek.
Once this is achieved, hunters can return to one of the two advanced camps held at the end of July and the middle of August for 12 – 15 year olds to practice shotgun shooting and participate in many other outdoor activities.
“Campers are youths that have a desire to learn gun safety, shotgun shooting and experience outdoor activities,” Rice Creek co-owner Joe LeBlanc said. “They may or may not come from homes where there is a tradition of hunting and doing shooting sports.”
One of the major goals of these camps is to get campers “involved by doing,” LeBlanc said, instead of only sitting in a classroom or learning from a handbook.
“Campers will experience shooting a shotgun, shooting muzzle loader guns and trying their hand at bow shooting, learning how a paddle works as they canoe down a river, teaming up with a hunting dog to harvest a pheasant on a hunt and much more,” he said.
Getting youths involved early is important not only because they have a better chance of getting involved and interested, but because it makes it easier to learn and retain necessary information and skills.
“Young shooters and hunters have the ability to soak up the proper training and use these skills the rest of their lives,” LeBlanc said. “A young person enjoys learning the proper way to shoot and handle a shotgun properly and learning about and doing outdoor activities that they can do their whole lives.”
One of the reasons for camps like these are to pair young hunters up with experienced guides in order to provide immediate and beneficial feedback and instruction.
“There is a real need for mentors in the shooting sports activities and we have the facilities and the proper personnel to instruct and give lifetime lessons that will give youths a chance to become the future sports persons,” he said.