It’s no secret that the future of hunting and even fishing is going to be in the hands of today’s youth.
According to the Arizona Game & Fish Department, the numbers of hunters is declining all across America. The department is making a huge effort to recruit and retain young people in the shooting sports through various activities, including hunter education.
But one thing the department is counting on is that family members – fathers, mothers, aunts and uncles, along with grandparents, are mentoring youngsters on the sport.
This is exactly what Kingman residents Kenny Robison and his wife Denise are doing for their son, who is aptly named Hunter.
Hunter is just 10 years old, but he has accomplished a lot in his young hunting career. Starting with his graduation from an Arizona Hunter Class in August 2016, Hunter has been on a roll when it comes to hunting and has taken almost a third of Arizona’s Big 10 game animals in less than a year.
After Hunter graduated from Hunter Education, he and his dad went to Yuma o participate in a pheasant hunt that Hunter had drawn a permit for. Yes, we do have limited pheasant hunting in this state.
Despite some help from very friendly Arizona Game & Fish officers, and even some Border Patrol officers, the young man and his dad were unable to locate and bag any pheasants on his hunt.
But there was a lot more hunting to follow and there were a few friends that offered to help on the hunts.
Hunter and his father went on a combination fall bear and turkey hunt and they hunted in Unit 7. While they saw some bear sign, they never put eyes on one. They did see one flock of turkeys, but again did not bag one. The young man got the turkey tag after his mother Denise signed hers over to him. It was the start of a process that would result in Hunter getting to go on a lot more big game hunts.
Next on the agenda was a muzzleloader deer hunt in the nearby game management units of 15A, 15B, 15C, and 15D. Hunter did not draw the tag. It was his mother Denise who had drawn the tag but she again decided to sign it over to her son.
Hunter’s father Kenny had put out some game cameras on waters, and he had found that there were two big bucks coming almost like clockwork to one particular water.
So on opening day the father and son team was in place before dawn and patiently waited. The bucks did show up, but Hunter wasn’t able to get a shot.
Kenny decided to move and stalk, glassing the nearby mountains for the ever elusive bucks.
As they were driving on an old two track road, Lady Luck smiled on them. There close to the road were three small bucks.
Robison drove past them and stopped a short distance away.
With Hunter ready and holding a Thompson Center Endeavor 50-caliber muzzleloader, the pair went into stalk mode and was able to get close to a couple of the bucks.
It took just one shot at 42 yards and Hunter had his first buck, a 21-inch-wide 2x2. The young man’s trophy buck is going to be mounted, with local taxidermist Amber Kirby from Down and Mount Taxidermy getting the call.
Assisting Hunter and his dad on the hunt were Kingman residents Tony Campbell and Dr. Jerry Sullivan.
With deer season over, next up was an antlerless elk hunt in Unit 10.
Once again it was Hunter’s mother Denise who had drawn the tag, and like with the deer and turkey, she decided to sign it over to her son.
On this hunt, they were assisted by friends Dan Napier and Avery Cantwell, along with Campbell and Sullivan.
The men and boy left on Thursday night and on opening day they found a small group of elk. They made a long 2 ½ mile hike to get the wind right, only to have some other hunters, who didn’t even see the elk, spook them while the elk were still out of range for Hunter.
Saturday they changed locations and the only highlight of the day was when Kenny found a group of Canada geese on a pond and was able to take a pair of the big birds.
They spotted a group of over 100 elk, and Hunter and his dad moved in for a shot at the lead cow.
They had to make a fairly long stalk, and using his dad’s custom rifle, a 300 Winchester Magnum caliber, Hunter was able to make a one shot take at 352 yards.
Now there were just a couple of hunts left to do.
Kenny, who also is a lion hunter, knew there was snow coming in the Hualapais in December. He told Hunter they would go out on Christmas Day to see if they could cut some tracks.
Hunter had an almost sleepless night between the excitement of Christmas and getting to go lion hunting.
The Robison family got up very early and exchanged presents, and then Kenny and Hunter were off. With them were five lion dogs just in case they found a fresh track.
It was about 9 a.m. when Kenny saw a lion track in the snow.
He turned out the dogs and off they went. It would be two hours before they heard the sounds that told them the dogs had treed the most ruthless killer of wildlife on the Arizona landscape.
As Hunter and his dad moved in, the lion jumped out of the tree and ran over a half mile before once again it climbed up a tree.
The going was tough and the snow deep and it was a while before they got close again, but once more, the lion jumped from the tree she had climbed. This time she went only 100 yards before she climbed into yet another tree.
Using a handgun, Hunter took aim and fired. It was a hit, but a second shot was needed to finish off the lion, which was aged by the Arizona Game & Fish Department at 4 years old.
On the way back, Kenny fell and tore the meniscus in one of his knees. To make matters worse, once back at the vehicle, Kenny noticed that his best dog was no longer with the rest of the pack.
Despite his injury, Robison went back the next day to search for the dog. The snow made it easy to track and eventually Kenny found him. The dog, which was valued at $5,000, had walked out on the edge of an icy, snow-packed waterfall, and had slipped and fell. The dog had died instantly in the rocks below.
Losing a valuable dog in accidents or fights with wild animals is part of what lion hunters experience.
After the lion hunt was over, it was time to go duck hunting.
Kenny and Hunter went to the Topock Marsh where Hunter bagged his first duck, a hen greenwing teal.
Next on his list is a javelina hunt in Unit 16A. This will be a HAM (Handgun-Archery-Muzzleloader) hunt and once again Hunter will be using the TC 50-caliber.
That hunt starts Friday and if I was a betting man, I’d say there is a really good chance that Hunter will fill that tag, too.
Hunter is fortunate to have parents that are willing to make the effort to let him experience all he has in such a short time in the great outdoors.
It’s like the old saying, “If you hunt with your kids, you won’t have to hunt for them.”