Minnesota Offers Youth Hunters Special Hunts

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As many as 460 first-time youth hunters can bag a wild turkey this spring during one of 32 special youth turkey hunts sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF).

"This is an opportunity for kids to learn by doing," said Jay Johnson, DNR hunter recruitment and retention program coordinator. "And it's a great chance for mentors to get out in the field with youths and help pass on Minnesota's hunting tradition."

Applications for the hunt are only available online from the DNR Web site at mndnr.gov. The application deadline is Feb. 22.

Participants will be selected randomly via lottery. A map of areas open to special youth hunts and a listing of hunts can be viewed and printed from the Web site.

"The 2008 youth hunt represents a dramatic growth in the number of permits available and the areas open to hunting," Johnson said. "Last year, 15 special youth turkey hunts accommodated 124 hunters. But an increasing turkey population, an expanding range and more youth hunt volunteers all add up to more opportunities for more youths and their mentors."

All but one of the special hunts will occur April 19 and 20, the first weekend of the regular wild turkey season. Johnson said most of the youths will hunt on private land thanks to the generosity of private landowners, who are giving the NWTF permission to use their land.

To be eligible, a youth hunter must be age 12 to 17 on or before April 19, have earned a valid Firearms Safety Certificate and be accompanied by a parent or guardian. The program is for first-time turkey hunters only. Any youth who has ever purchased or been selected by lottery for a Minnesota turkey license of any type is ineligible. Hunters and their parent or guardian will be assigned a NWTF volunteer guide, who must accompany them throughout the entire hunt.

"Without the support of staff and volunteers from the NWTF, this important opportunity for first-time hunters wouldn’t be possible," Johnson said. "This is an example of sportsmen and sportswomen taking the lead in developing the next generation of safe, ethical and responsible hunter-conservationists."