FEB 5, 2024   |   Voice of Leadership Panel


By Mark Peterson, Worldwide Trophy Adventure

It's a question that has been asked for generations, "What is the best age to start my children hunting?" Today's answer is different from what it was 20 or 30, or 40 years ago. Thinking back about myself growing up, I was the youngest of three children. I had an older sister and an older brother. All three of us, as youngsters, followed Dad when he went to the field. Because most states had minimum age restrictions when children had to be 12 years old before they could hunt, early experiences were following Dad or other family members as they hunted upland birds or sat in a deer blind. In Michigan, twelve was when the state legislature thought youngsters were mature enough to handle a firearm and hunt safely.  

When I was growing up, I was hooked on hunting years before I could hunt. One of my greatest treasures is a photo of me on a two-track near Wolverine in northern Michigan. I must have been seven or eight years old. I was wearing my orange vest, with an orange cap on my head, holding a woodcock in one hand and Dad's open 20-gauge double in my other. Even though I watched the shot and watched our English Setter do the retrieve, I was hunting. As a side note, my brother and sister still occasionally hunt, but they do it more to be with family than hunting being a passion.

Let's flashback to the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. This doesn't seem like very long ago, but wow, times were different than they are today. Times were more straightforward; young people played outdoors, watched TV, read, or listened to the radio or records.   There were no smartphones or social media, and travel sports were not what they are today.   In general, there were fewer things for kids to do than today. Young people today are pulled in so many different directions. When I was growing up, my number one goal and early passion was to be old enough to hunt eventually.   

Today, this is no longer the case. It is common to see 8-year-olds on travel sports teams, carrying smartphones, being on social media, and talking with friends non-stop throughout the day. Robotic clubs, after-school clubs, and multiple activities are just a few options kids now have. The number of activities today to choose from and to spend their time on far outnumbers what children had in the past. Children are also gravitating towards these activities at an earlier age. Simply put, this isn't your Saturday morning cartoon generation.  

What does this mean to you today?   If you want to get your children or grandchildren involved in hunting and the outdoors and instill a passion and love for it, you must start their involvement early. Because children in today's world get pulled in so many different directions, you need to assist your children in having one of those directions be hunting and the "Great Outdoors. "I strongly recommend what my dad did for me; I participated at a young age. Take your child with you to sit in the deer stand while they are young, even if it is only for an hour. Yes, doing this will decrease your chances of success, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that you're allowing your children to develop a love for the great outdoors at an early age.  

I have three amazing children, and they are all different. Of the three, I have one who loves to hunt. One loves the camaraderie of family getting together for deer camp, but he has no real desire to go hunting. Then, for my middle daughter, hunting and the outdoors are not her things. Some may wonder why I, knowing what I do for a living (I spend 150 days in the field hunting and filming each year), don't have three hunting fanatics for children. I learned that I started my oldest and middle child too late into hunting; I started them when they were 10. With the many other options, they were already engaged and in love with other things by that age. 

With my youngest, I made a conscious decision to start her earlier. At age 4, I had her in the woods with me. If we were lucky, we would sometimes see a doe while walking.   I made it exciting to see squirrels, birds, and everything others usually take for granted. I tried to hype it up. We started shooting 22s, and she liked it. I bought her a light-caliber rifle with a muzzle break to reduce the recoil as much as possible. I still remember shooting a 30-06 when I was young, and I wasn't prepared for the recoil. I didn't want that experience for my daughter. I wanted her to love every part of the experience. At seven, she could take her first buck in central Kentucky. I will remember the excitement on her face until I take my last breath. When I saw her face that day, I realized that hunting and the great outdoors will always be part of her life.  

My youngest is now 14, and she has entered the crazy world of being a teenager and active in travel sports. She is pulled in multiple directions every single day. But with this, she makes time to go hunting with her dad several times yearly. During our Michigan youth deer season and our opening day on November 15th for firearms season, she has not missed either since she turned 7. Both of us cherish these hunt times.   While she was very young, I did my best to instill in her the love of hunting and the great outdoors. As she continues, hunting will always be part of her life path. 

Mark Peterson is a father and outdoorsman first. While he’s built a business that’s uniquely positioned to reach outdoor customers, he’s defined by his love of the outdoors and the positive culture he creates as a leader. Growing up near Lake Michigan, in the rolling hills of Oceana County, Mark developed a love and passion for hunting and the great outdoors at an early age, fostered by his father Earl, who is an avid wingshooter. Starting at age 4, Mark went wilderness camping with his father in 12” of snow during January. With only a candle for heat, he’d listen to hunting tales from around the world and dreamed that someday he would create stories of his own. For the past two decades, Mark’s hunts have continued in Michigan but also expanded to other areas around the world. Mark’s hunting accomplishments range from completion of his Grand Slam of North American Sheep to Waterfowl Slams in North America, South America and most recently New Zealand. Mark continues to hunt with his father, who has appeared on his television show on Pursuit, The Journey Within. And now, there are 3 generations of Petersons out there, hunting and enjoying the outdoors together. "Success on every hunt is not measured by inches of antler, but by the journey it took to get where the hunter desires to be."

2023-2024 Voice of Leadership Panelists

Jon Zinnel, Federal Ammunition
Dan Forster, Archery Trade Association
Brent Miller, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation
Rick Brazell, First Hunt Foundation
Mark Peterson, Worldwide Trophy Adventure
Michelle Scheuermann, Bullet Proof Communications 


The Voice of Leadership Panel is an appointed group of outdoor industry leaders who have volunteered to contribute their voices on crucial hunting and outdoor recreation issues to inform, inspire, and educate participants within our community.