Young Blood: Erika Larsen Photographs the Future of Hunting

kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Photographs by Erika Larsen
Interviews by Thomas McCafferty and Brian McClintock If hunters are a dying breed, no one told these kids. That was the message Erika Larsen returned with after more than a year of photographing young hunters all over the country. In the face of studies that cite fading interest among youth in traditional outdoor sports, Field & Stream dispatched Larsen during last year's hunting season to get beyond the numbers. Her goal, she says, was to capture the intense connection that kids have with the natural world, to tap into their raw enthusiasm, and to get at the pure, unfettered joy of the hunt. "These kids were all hunting for the experience of it," says Larsen. "To them, anything they shoot is a trophy. They weren't looking to make it into the record books; they were just excited to be out there." If you read the latest U.S. Fish and Wildlife study, you might think there soon won't be an American child left who wants to spend time in the woods. But on the following pages are 20 future sportsmen and -women who don't care about statistics yet. They want to go hunting, and from the look in their eyes, they'll be doing it for a long time. -The Editors
Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Enrique Cordova, 7
Santa Fe, N.M. "Enrique is the eighth generation of our family to hunt this land," says David Cordova, Enrique's father. "We call it la mesa de las viejas-"the plains of the old women. When Enrique was a year old, I put him in my backpack and hiked in and shot a bull."
Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Enrique and David have hunted together ever since. "You have to stay quiet," Enrique explains. "The kids at my school don't hunt. They're too loud." Instead, Enrique saves his voice for bugling.Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
"He's my scout bugler," says David. "He talks to bulls. He's called them in. When he kills his first elk, he'll say a prayer of thanks to show respect, and we'll streak a little blood on his face. We're very traditional."Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Nick Yost, 9
Denton, Md. "I usually don't have any problems waking up early to go hunting. I just jump out of bed," says Nick Yost, who bagged around a dozen squirrels in his first season hunting last year. "I'm a pretty good shot. We shoot clays a lot for practice." Nick's marksmanship also led him to a successful year of whitetail hunting. "The day I got my 6-pointer was probably the most exciting day ever. I just wanted to run out of my stand as soon as I shot it." Nick hunts with his father and younger sister on land owned by his family and friends. "She goes out goose hunting with us, which is fun, but she can be sort of loud in the blind."
Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Corey & Casey Bond, 17
Tower City, Pa. "I love being anywhere with Casey," says Corey Bond (above left). "We have competitions to see who can shoot the biggest deer or which one of us gets something first. It's better than having just a friend-"he's there all the time." Between football and basketball seasons, the 6-foot 7-inch twins find time to squeeze in as much hunting as they can. "If it was my choice, I'd be out in the woods every day."
Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Casey (in the foreground above) and his brother have been hunting with their father since they turned 12. "We'll hunt rabbits in the coal banks and thornbushes around our house until it's deer season," says Casey. The high school juniors are hoping their time together in the woods won't end after they graduate. "We'll probably end up at the same college, and we'll just have to make the hunting happen."Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Corey carries out the rabbit shot on their hunt with Larsen last winter.Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
The Reid Brothers
Williamson, N.Y. "Hunting is in my blood, there's no way around it," says Jason Reid, 15 (above, third from left). Jason has been hunting with his father, Peter (left), since he was 2 and now is joined by his two younger brothers, Andrew, 13 (second from left), and Benjamin, 10 (right and holding flag). "I'm bowhunting now, but my brothers are always pushing for us to do more waterfowl hunting," says Jason.
Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
"It can be pretty cold out there," says Andrew (above, left). "But when you hear them honking, you get too excited to notice it because you're thinking, -¿I'm going to get a goose.'"Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
"It can be pretty cold out there," says Andrew (above, left). "But when you hear them honking, you get too excited to notice it because you're thinking, -¿I'm going to get a goose.'"Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
While his family packs up, Andrew practices his calling.Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Benjamin takes a quick break from the day's action. His rabbit-fur hat ended-up being torn to shreds by the family dog, Murphy, after the hunt.Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Cody Doughman, 12
LaGrange, Ga. "It's just so fun-"to spend time in nature, to enjoy God's creation," says Cody Doughman (above). He and his older brother Justin (next slide) have grown up close to the land, plowing and tending food plots on their family's 3,000 acres after school, and hunting whenever they get a chance. So far no turkey has come in range of either brother, but with 17 years of hunting experience between them already, they've had great success with ducks and deer.
Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Justing Doughman, 15
LaGrange, Ga. "I hunt to relax and to think about how good the woods look," Justin says. "I bring the handheld Yahtzee with me to stay awake, stay quiet. But I see a bird and I get to jiggling."
Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
The United Sportsmen's Youth Foundation
Freeport, Ill. The United Sportsmen's Youth Foundation (usyf.com), based in Freeport, Ill., provides children with hunting opportunities and aims to get them excited about the outdoors. The USYF youth hunts start with the kids gathering around the fire (above), and then they divide into groups and head into the field.
Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
P.J. Senn, 11
Wonder Lake, Ill. Its success is apparent in P.J. Senn (above) of Wonder Lake, Ill., who travels two hours to participate in the hunts. "I was hyped up from shooting that pheasant," he says. "When I go pheasant hunting I can get really wild and do crazy things because it's so fun."
Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
"We had a guide telling my sister and me where the birds were, which I've never had anyone do for me before, except my dad," says P.J. "And I helped my little sister, Caitlin (above, left), get her first bird. She was so proud of it."Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Katie & Nicole Walsh, 8 & 13
Freeport, Ill. "It's great to have a dad who helps other kids," says Nicole Walsh (below right, with her sister, Katie). Her dad, Brendan Walsh, heads up USYF. "I get to pass some of the tricks he taught me to other kids and my little sister." Nicole and Katie have both been hunting pheasants with their dad since they were 3.
Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
In addition to running USYF, Katie (above) and Nicole's father opens his private land to host youth hunting trips. This hunt was held at his camp, Rock Hollow.Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Will Freiburger, 14
Pecatonica, Ill. "The first time I really went hunting was at Rock Hollow with Brendan, and I just had a fantastic time," says Will Freiburger. "I think I might have started hunting eventually, but Rock Hollow gave me a boost." Since his first trip there two years ago, Will has started hunting whenever he can. "We just got back from a fishing and grouse hunting trip to Canada, and I'm going to North Dakota to hunt ducks this fall. Hunting makes me closer to my dad, and it gives me some time to relax and have fun."
Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Josh David Keith, 15
Jesup, Ga. "Your adrenaline gets pumping when you have to throw that big boar hog," says Josh David Keith (right), shown straddling a live boar on Boyle's Island, across the river from his property. He's caught and released nearly 200 hogs for sport and hunts old bar hogs to eat. "A bar hog's one we've cut the testicles off," he explains. "He just tastes better-"doesn't have all that testosterone running through his body." Josh and his father neuter some shoats to check the population, but when the river floods they rescue hundreds of hogs from the island, ferrying them back to mainland pens until the waters drop.
Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Ruth Dennis, 13
Newnan, Ga. "A hog's scary," says Ruth Dennis (above). She went hog catching with the Keiths this July, and later hunted hogs for the first time with her .22. "You have to be careful to hit the right spot and make sure it doesn't stay alive and charge you." At 7, Ruth started hunting with her father and older brother, taking her first whitetail two years later. "My dad actually made me find the blood droplets that lead you to it. And I found it."
Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
"If a deer is walking off, you can whistle and he'll stop," says Ruth (above, with her father, Paul). "But I can't actually whistle."Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
Mary Dennis, 10
Newnan, Ga. Ruth's younger sister, Mary (above, with her father), is anxious now for her first deer. "I think about what we'd do if we got one, how we'd eat it. I like using them for barbecue steaks." Mary has been hunting for three years and knows how to judge a buck's size at a distance, how to identify tracks, and how to recognize food sources such as acorns. She shot a gray squirrel once with a .410. "Now I want to kill a buck," she says. "When I see one, I get kind of nervous because I want to take it home."
Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
The sisters often hunt together. "I think it's fun to have another kid with me," says Mary. "She tries to scare me sometimes, but she tells jokes too."Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
When Ruth was younger she accompanied her father to Botswana, where a family friend was doing missionary work. She toured on safaris, viewing lions and elephants, and was even charged by a rhino. Her father shot an impala, but she was too young to hunt. Ruth hopes to return to Africa as a missionary herself in the future. "I'd want to hunt wildebeest and impala," she says.Erika Larsen
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the future of deer and big game and small game and waterfowl and bird hunting
kids with guns and the animals they killed with those rifles and shotguns and pistols are the young hunters who make up the futu
"Out there I just think my thoughts and think about songs and the books I'm reading," Mary says. "Sometimes I try to sleep. When I'm older, I want to take my kids hunting. I want to show them how."Erika Larsen

Contributing photographer Erika Larsen has been documenting the landscape of hunting and fishing since her first Field & Stream assignment in 2004. For the past year, Larsen has been traveling the country capturing the hunting experiences of children on camera. Her first photo essay for F&S, "How We Hunt" (December 2005-January 2006), garnered her a National Magazine Award nomination. Larsen's work has appeared worldwide in over 30 publications, including Time, Fortune, Golf, and Best Life.