River Currents

by Free Speech on October 16, 2009

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.

Lodi, WI
by Gary Engberg
©2009 Gary Engberg Outdoors

Young Hunters Take to the Woods During State Youth Hunt

Justin Juan Lara  with father, and a 13 point buck with an 18 inch inside spread.

Justin Juan Lara with father, and a 13 point buck with an 18 inch inside spread.

Last Saturday, October 10th was the opening day of the two-day Wisconsin Youth Deer Hunt in all of Wisconsin’s deer management units with the exception of the state park units and deer management unit 48. I was going to be registering deer in Sauk City at the Wilderness Fish and Game store both days of the youth hunt. I was up early on Saturday morning taking my new Labrador puppy, Katie, out to do her “thing.” I knew that the day was going to be chilly, but not the 23 degrees that my thermometer read before 6:00 am that morning.

Since I was going to be outside registering deer, I dressed for the coldest day of the fall by wearing long underwear, warm boots, a down jacket, and gloves. Before heading to the registration station, I did a tour of the public hunting grounds that surround my Wisconsin River domain. I was mildly surprised at the large number of vehicles parked around the Mazomanie Public Hunting Grounds on this first frost of the season morning. There were young hunters dressed for the weather with their fathers, grandfathers, and mentors entering the woods and fields at most of the parking areas around the 4,000 acre parcel of woods, fields, savannahs, and marsh that make up this public hunting area. Despite the chilly weather which included a stiff wind and occasional snow showers, this new generation of hunters were out in good numbers to shoot what for many would be their first deer. It looks like the great hunting tradition that Wisconsin possesses is in good hands for the future generations with what I witnessed this weekend.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources made this Youth Deer Hunt possible with its Deer 2000 and Beyond Project. This hunt was designed to give youth hunters ages 10-15 an opportunity to hunt deer and gain hunting experience early in the fall before the traditional deer season when the number of hunters out hunting are limited. The young hunters would be under close supervision by a mentoring adult under controlled conditions. This year, young hunter 10-15 years of age, with or without hunter safety certification, could take part in the Youth Deer hunt with a mentoring adult.

The bag limit was one buck with their Gun Buck Deer Carcass Tag plus an additional antlerless deer per Antlerless Deer Carcass Tag valid for the deer management unit (DMU) that is being hunted. In the CWD deer management units, youth hunters are exempt from the earn-a-buck requirements, but are allowed to only shoot one buck and must use their “Gun Buck Deer Carcass Tag” during the Youth Hunt that was held October 10 and 11 if a buck was shot. This exemption applied only during this two-day hunt and the rest of the season youth deer hunters must follow the normal earn-a-buck requirements in DMUs that are designed as CWD. Plus, the adult or mentor must not have more than two youths hunting with them. If one of the young hunters is under the “mentor’ program, the mentor may only have one other young hunter at the same time as long as the second youth is 12-15 years old and has completed hunter education course. All other deer hunting regulations apply and can be found in the 2009 Deer Hunting Regulations booklet. Be sure to check this book for all other mentor regulations and requirements. Go to the DNR website for added information and look under Youth Hunt and mentored hunts at http://dnr.wi.gov/org/land/wildlife/hunt/deer/youthhunt.htm.

Garrett Mack, age 10, with his 1st deer and buck with father, Rich Mack and Austin Perry with his first deer.

Garrett Mack, age 10, with his 1st deer and buck with father, Rich Mack and Austin Perry with his first deer.

The best and most memorable things that I saw this past weekend were the smiles, stories, and camaraderie that the Youth Deer Hunt brought to the youths and adults who participated and helped make this weekend a success. Hunting, like many other outdoor activities, has been losing numbers with the aging of baby-boomers who for decades have made up much of the hunting community. Besides the aging population, “boomers” say that they have lost access to their hunting grounds and that many of their hunting partners have aged and given up the sport for family and physical reasons.

This loss in hunting numbers is why most states have new programs allowing younger hunters into the woods with mentors. Most hunting and conservation organizations are promoting programs to bring new and younger hunters into their groups by offering many new and innovative programs like; Ducks Unlimited (DU) has its Green Wing program, the National Wild Turkey Federation has its Jakes program, and Pheasants Forever has a No Child Left Indoors Initiative. All of these quality groups are successfully getting today’s youth involved in the outdoors and away from the constant lure of computers and the internet. There is time in today’s youth’s lives to be involved in many outdoor activities and still be computer savvy. If a youth is not introduced to hunting and the outdoors by an early age, the chances of them getting involved is minimal.

I didn’t see any youngster’s that didn’t have a good time! Most of the youths were more than willing to tell me a story about their hunt whether they harvested a deer or not. You could see the fun, excitement, and bonding that the young hunters and their parents or mentors experienced this past weekend. Despite the unseasonable weather, I didn’t hear any complaints about the young deer hunters being cold. Those hunters who harvested a deer were overjoyed and beaming with pride and a sense of accomplishment.

I thank and congratulate those parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, neighbors, and friends who took the time to take a young hunter into the outdoors and teach them the basics of hunting with safety being a key component of the experience. A majority of the young hunters that I saw were boys, but there were young girls too who also shared this outdoor tradition. Most of the hunters were harvesting their first deer and the best thing that I heard was how most of the young were looking forward to next time they could go hunting. Let’s hope that more and more young are introduced to hunting and the outdoors in this safe and controlled manner. To me, it’s a win-win situation!

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