The next eight days will provide the essence of all that the outdoors is and means to tens of thousands of Louisianans.

These are the final days of the special teal season and, starting Saturday, the first youth hunts of the year.

OK, “year” means the hunting season, which is really not a year because it begins in September and, with the exception of a couple of weeks, runs well into May 2012.

Saturday, 17-and-younger hunters have a special seven-day-long deer season on private lands in State Deer Areas 3, 7 and 8.

Note the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission extended all private-lands youth deer hunts from two to seven days this “year.”

For next weekend (Sept. 24-25) — and in advance of Oct. 1’s statewide opener of the squirrel season — youth hunters will be able to take squirrels on 11 state wildlife management areas and the federal Indian Bayou Area.

To this mix, we can add National Hunting and Fishing Day activities at four sites around the state.

In the Capital City area, the celebration will run from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Waddill Wildlife Education Center on North Flannery Road.

And the U.S. Forest Service will waive fees at hundreds of recreation sites across the country Saturday for Public Lands Day.

All the while, there is first-rate freshwater and saltwater fishing.

No hurry here because those catches likely will linger far into the fall and early winter.

It’s next weekend where all you hard-core adult hunters and fishers enter the picture: The future of hunting and fishing depends on how you react to next weekend.

Far too many adults believe they’re furthering whatever hunting or fishing cause by contributions to their favorite hunting and/or fishing association.

True, your donations and your volunteer hours spent for one or another cause is important, but not as important as guiding a youngster on a hunt.

While the future of activities like squirrel and deer hunting — duck hunting, too — rely on you purchasing licenses and buying the appropriate stamps, and donations to causes, what does the future hold without hunters?

Studies abound with information about declining numbers of hunters. In Louisiana, we’re fortunate (for one of the rare times) to be behind this curve. Our numbers are falling, but not at near the rate as a large majority of other states.

Make time next weekend for the youngsters. Take them hunting at the crack of dawn — Sherburne, Sandy Hollow and Pearl River WMAs are within an easy drive from the Capital City area — then get them to Hunting and Fishing Day, where they can have lunch, grab a cool drink then paddle, shoot, learn to call a duck and a goose, and so many other things that could infect them with the love you feel for Louisiana’s special outdoors paradise.