September 24, 2020

Youth Hunting Days

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Today is youth deer hunting day in Maine. Maine is not alone in that many states offer some kind of youth hunt and in some cases, youth hunt weekends.

All attempts that I am aware of by states to offer a youth hunting day, do it in order to get kids interested in hunting at an earlier age. Studies have shown that the earlier you can get a kid out hunting the chances increase that they will carry on that tradition as they grow older and hopefully continue the tradition down through the generations.

These programs are good and seem to be having some reasonable success. Michigan for example was seeing such drastic drops in their sale of hunting licenses that they had to do something most states have already done or in many cases never had to do. They had to lower the age that a kid could go hunting big game from 14 down to 12 years. In the process they lowered also the minimum age in which kids can hunt small game.

At any rate, these young men and women have to be with a qualified adult while hunting until they are old enough to purchase an adult license.

I’m going to pick on Maine for a bit simply because I am most familiar with their youth hunting program. Let me say right up front that I think the program is good and it is working but it needs modification in my opinion.

Currently any youth hunter under the age of 16 and at least 10 can purchase a youth hunting license. On Youth Hunt Day, which is today, they have one day in which they can tag a deer – either sex. They don’t need an Any-Deer permit to shoot a doe. If they tag a deer today, they are finished hunting for the season unless they have received a bonus tag – not likely to happen – or they participate in the extended season archery hunt – also not likely to happen.

Here’s what I would like to see changed and also reflected in other states that are not doing these things or similar. The first thing I would like to see happen, is the minimum age at which a kid can go hunting and tag game, changed. It is currently 10 in Maine. I believe that it should be eliminated. Leave it up to the discretion of the parent as to when the child is ready. Many don’t agree with me but the vast majority of parents who are hunters, will know when their son or daughter is ready to carry a weapon. If allowing this requires the accompanyment of an adult to go unarmed, I am agreeable to that. We need to get out of the business of legislating how to be good parents.

The second thing I would like to see changed is this. I would like to let the kids be able to tag a deer of either sex on youth day and still be able to hunt and tag during the regular season. I don’t believe this would have a big enough impact on reduction of the deer herd and if it did, I would be willing to give up one of my days of hunting for some kid.

Having the opportunity to take a deer during Youth Day is fantastic but that’s one day. What can a kid learn in one day being in the woods? If allowed to take a deer during Youth Day and another during the regular firearms season, I am convinced that this kid would approach the regular season much differently than they did the Youth Hunt.

They would be able to spend more time in the woods. I would be willing to wager some youngsters would pass up a doe or a small buck in hopes of getting a chance at a bigger deer. When a kid can do that, they are hooked and when they’re hooked, it means more than can be accounted for in this article.

The last thing I would like to see changed and this can apply to kids or adults. I think that any first-time hunter, whether a child or a 98-year old woman, should be able to hunt the first season without taking a hunter safety class. Before you go jumping on my case, let me explain.

For the child, they are going to be required to be with a qualified adult – one that is licensed or who has taken the hunter safety class. There is no better teacher than experience and being with a qualified adult would pose no more of a threat of danger if the kid has or hasn’t taken a safety class. Getting a year of hunting under the kids belt would give him or her a much better appreciation and understanding of what the class means.

As far as the adult is concerned, the same similar thing could apply. I hear so often, whether true or not I’m not sure I can say for sure, that some adults will not try hunting for the first time because they don’t want to take the class if they don’t know whether they’ll like hunting.

Give them a year and put them with some kind of mentor. I don’t think an adult would need the exact same guidance as a child but some kind of program could be devised in which a willing licensed hunter would be responsible for another hunter.

After one year, the adult would have to take a hunter safety class in order to continue hunting. I think this is a reasonable suggestion.

In states that are really feeling the pinch to find new hunters, a more agressive approach needs to be looked at. We don’t want to take a step backwards from the strides we have made in making our woods safe but I believe this can be done without compromising hunting safety.

Good luck to the youth today in Maine and kids everywhere.

Tom Remington

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