Mentor Mentality: Kids Require Thoughtful Guidance

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Becoming a Mentor Series

The future of anything has always rested in the hands of teachers. When it comes to fishing and hunting, this is especially true. Teachers, mentors, guides–call ‘em what you will, they hold the fate of the future of our outdoor traditions.
Jason Mitchell has been a fanatical fisherman and hunter since he was a young boy. He was essentially born with the “want to” that kept him out even when he was cold, tired, hungry, thirsty. You had to drag him out of the boat, off the shore, away from the hunting fields.
To this day, there is no way to pull Jason away from these pursuits. He grew up to be an accomplished fishing and hunting guide out of Devils Lake, North Dakota. Then, when legendary outdoor broadcaster Tony Dean decided to retire, he hand-picked Jason to carry his torch into the future. That was the beginnings of Jason Mitchell Outdoors television.
Along the road, Mitchell has witnessed the birth of many new anglers and hunters. He has contributed heavily, in fact, and refined a strategy for successfully introducing youngsters, and nurturing their development until they become active participants.
Going well beyond the usual cookie-cutter advice you hear about bringing kids into the outdoors, here is a glimpse into that philosophy.

Q: Do you think there is a right and wrong way to approach a day outdoors with kids, from the mental outlook of the mentors?
Jason: Definitely. You have to pace yourself, and be patient. Hooks in the carpet, pop spilled in the boat, getting hung up a lot, it all tests your patience. If you’re a high energy go-getter, throttle back and know things aren’t going to be perfect.

Q: When it comes to how long you should stay out there, you’ve said that there is no simple answer to this. What do you mean by that?
Jason: For one thing, it’s important to pay attention to the signals each youngster gives you. They don’t always come right out and say they want to go in, because they don’t want to disappoint their parents, or seem like they’re a wimp or something.
Some kids want to stay out there forever. I was like that. When I was a little kid, I would get furious because my dad wouldn’t stay out all day. There are a lot of kids who don’t want to be out there very long, but with the right mentoring, they grow up to be avid and great fishermen.
Being a kid is confusing; you don’t know who you’re going to be. You might collect baseball cards, try different sports, get interested in girlfriends or boyfriends, and just dabble at things to see what you’re good at. You find what you like by trying things. So when it comes to how long to keep kids out there, it’s a case by case evaluation. Be honest with yourself, and pick up on all the signs they’re giving you. Don’t force it. Expose them, and keep the outings short if that seems like the right thing to do. Don’t push it. Let ‘em warm up to it. Let it come over time. It’s a matter of repetition.
You just never know, and I don’t have all

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