The future of hunting: Whitehorse children take part in workshop

The youth hunter education course offered children in Whitehorse the chance to learn basic hunting skills such as laws, territories, gun safety and how to survive in the woods.

Children between 10 and 16 are learning basic hunting skills through a workshop in Whitehorse

Jim Welsh demonstrates some basic hunting skills to young students in Whitehorse on Oct. 18. Welsh is the hunter educator with Environment Yukon, which offers a course for children aged 10 to 16 about hunting laws and regulations, identifying wildlife, firearms safety and how to prepare for the outdoors. (Virginie Ann/CBC News)

Some children in Whitehorse spent an evening learning about gun safety, traditional territories and how to survive in the woods while hunting. 

The youth hunter education course offered children aged between 10 to 16 a chance to learn basic hunting skills, and even for some, to strengthen what they already know. 

"My dad took me hunting not too long ago," Dylan Hodinksi said. "We got a moose and it was really fun. I like it because you have to be patient."

The 12-year-old boy said he's ready to go on greater hunts. But first, he added, he needs to get better. 

The three-hour course brought together about 20 children at the Yukon University for an evening with hunter educator Jim Welsh. It was the second time that children could attend the workshop since its creation about two years ago. 

Welsh, who works with Environment Yukon, said in a recent interview he's on a mission to change hunting's bad reputation. 

"It's an opportunity to get on the land, to get organic food," Welsh spoke of hunting. "For me, I go with my kids all the time. I'm always bonding with my family, we kind of do hard things together, which really help us get through the other things in life." 

"I really just want hunters to go out there, tell good stories about hunting and what it means to them to be on the land, and connect with the land." 

He explained one of the course's crucial components is about building confidence. While learning how to be a responsible and ethical hunter, to prepare for the outdoors and identify wildlife, children inevitably uncover courage and self-assurance, Welsh said. 

"Just recently I was at a school event, a kid had just gotten his first animal," Welsh said.

"He came and told the whole class about it. And then they made a plan to bring some in, and feed everybody in the class. It was so neat to see that kid kind of light up. It struck me about how much that can do for a kid, and kind of build them up in their confidence."

Children are learning to recognize First Nations territories and special area restrictions in the Yukon during a hunting workshop in Whitehorse on Oct. 18. (Virginie Ann/CBC News)

The youth hunter course is one of the first steps toward getting a hunting license. In the Yukon, children must be at least 12 years old to hold a big game license.

 For Whitehorse resident Tim Taylor, the course was about making hunting nore accessible to his daughter.

"She's kind of at that age where she appreciates and respects hunting, but doesn't want to hunt," Taylor said.

While hunting is an integral part of most Yukoners' lifestyle, Welsh said he's been noticing people who moved to the territory are lacking mentors, "the traditional things hunting would have like going with parents, grandparents." 

"I hope this set the kids on a new path," Welsh said.

"I want the next generation to be engaged, and be a part of it."