Special Youth Hunts Provide Numerous Opportunities for the Inexperienced

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According to Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials, a booming deer herd and a strong commitment to the future of hunting, have led to the expansion of special youth deer hunting opportunities this fall. Seven special youth deer hunts and one special youth deer season will be held in October at locations throughout the state.

"Youth hunts are a tool for recruiting and retaining young hunters because they give us an opportunity to provide high quality, safe, mentored hunting experiences," said Ryan Bronson, coordinator of the DNR's recruitment and retention program. "With all the competition for kids time these days, providing positive experiences early in a hunter's development are critical to keeping them involved. Plus, by holding these hunts outside of the regular hunting season frameworks, it is easier for adult mentors to participate."

Applications for the three archery hunts and four firearms deer hunts are available on the Electronic Licensing System. Applications for the hunts are due Aug. 20. Lotteries will be held to select participants.

Youth ages 12-17 as of Oct. 7, who have their Firearms Safety Certificate, are eligible to apply for one of the special youth archery deer hunts. Hunts will be held at: Camp Ripley, Oct. 9-10; Arden Hills Army Training Site A, Oct. 21-22; and Arden Hills Army Training Site B, Oct. 23-24. Participants will have to obtain a valid archery license at least two days prior to the hunt.

Youth ages 12 to 15 as of Oct. 20, who have their Firearms Safety Certificate, are eligible to apply for one of the special youth firearms deer hunts.

Hunts will be held at Whitewater Wildlife Management Area Refuge near Winona Oct. 21-24; Lake Bemidji State Park, Oct. 21-24; Rydell National Wildlife Refuge near Crookston, Oct. 30-31; and St. Croix State Park near Hinckley, Oct. 30-31. Blaze orange requirements will be in effect for these areas during the youth hunts. Participants will have to obtain a valid firearms license prior to the hunt. Youth may hunt with bow and arrow or a shotgun in the Whitewater Wildlife Management Area Refuge hunt.

Participating youth must attend a pre-hunt orientation and safety session, and must be accompanied by a parent or guardian during the hunt. If the parents or guardians are inexperienced hunters and would like help during the hunt, volunteer mentors from sponsoring organizations are available to accompany the hunter/parent teams in the field. Sponsoring organizations include the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, Minnesota State Archery Association and the Bluffland Whitetails Association.

"The research on youth participation in hunting and fishing is conclusive," Bronson said. "Youth become hunters and anglers because they are taught how by someone close to them, so we require a parent, guardian or other adult mentor to accompany kids on these hunts so they experience the hunt together. Usually participants report that the time they spend together is the most valuable part of the hunt."

Northwest Minnesota Early Youth Antlerless Deer Season

A special youth antlerless deer season was established by the Minnesota Legislature for Kittson, Roseau, Lake of the Woods, Marshall and Pennington counties on Oct. 23-24. Youth ages 12-14, with a valid Minnesota firearms deer license, valid for any zone or season, are eligible to hunt antlerless deer in these five counties.

Participating youth must be accompanied by a non-hunting adult and must get a free Northwest Minnesota Youth Antlerless Deer Season endorsement from an Electronic Licensing System agent prior to the hunt.

There are no limits on the number of youth who may participate. Participants may take only one antlerless deer during the hunt. Party hunting is not allowed.

While the special hunts have been on fairly limited parcels of land that are largely closed to hunting, the northwestern Minnesota youth season is open in an area that encompasses more than four million acres.

Deer hunting organizations in the area, including the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association and Minnesota Quality Deer Management, will be working to pair willing landowners with young hunters. Later this summer, a Web site will be available that both landowners and potential hunters can access to get together.

Detailed information about the youth deer hunts and seasons are available on the DNR Web site at: www.dnr.state.mn.us.