Scouting for chances to promote our sport
Shooting Times & Country|July 14, 2021
By simply giving up a few hours of your time to volunteer with young people, you could help secure shooting’s future, believes Mike Swan
Mike Swan

Hey mister,” said the slightly breathless young lad, “can you please tell me where people are getting the mouse body parts?” Well, it was from me; another crazy Swan idea that happened to work out.

I was running a small GWCT stand at a schools’ countryside day in Suffolk. For this sort of audience, promoting shooting directly was likely to meet teacher resistance, so I was after a more gentle approach. Simply reminding people that the whole of nature is not vegetarian, by pulling apart barn owl pellets and showing how to tell mouse, vole and shrew skulls apart is perfect. The fact that owl pellets are regurgitated remains and not poo, even though they look like it, also fascinates the children — and many of their teachers.

The only thing that I got wrong the first time I did this was failing to anticipate the demand to take skulls and bones home to show mum. I ended up running out of pellets, but that was rectified for future events and it was a joy to watch the young carefully packaging their souvenirs in their empty sandwich wrappers for safe transit.

Almost wherever I go, people lament the lack of youngsters in our sport and ask “how do we recruit the younger generation?”

A few years ago, I had an interesting conversation with our new vicar on this subject. “Every parish I join says we need a youth group,” he said. His response was to say, “No, what we need to do is join in with existing groups.” So he made himself available to the local Scouts and now, through his leadership activities, he is known as Rick the Vic, and familiar to all.

“It was a joy to watch the young carefully packaging their souvenirs for safe transit”

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