Youth Firearm Deer Hunt Proposed in Whitewater State Game Refuge

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The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is proposing a special youth-only firearms deer hunt in the Whitewater State Game Refuge during the state teachers' convention weekend, Oct. 16-19. The hunt would be limited to 50 young hunters selected by a lottery. Hunters with a valid Zone 3 deer hunting license and who are ages 12 to 17 as of Oct. 16, 2003, are eligible to apply. The hunters would have to be accompanied by an adult mentor who would not be allowed to hunt or carry a firearm, muzzleloader or bow.

The Whitewater State Game Refuge, which covers approximately 2,300 acres, is located within the Whitewater Wildlife Management Area in southeastern Minnesota.

Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA), and Chris Kolbert, president of the Bluffland Whitetails Association (BWA), say both of their organizations support the special youth hunt.

"Providing quality opportunities for young people entering the sport is very important to the future of hunting," Johnson said. "Youth hunts are a great way to give young hunters positive experiences enjoying our outdoors."

BWA members who live near the Whitewater WMA initiated the youth hunt proposal. In May, BWA directors approached local DNR wildlife manager Jon Cole with the proposal.

"The DNR has been open to our suggestions and MDHA has been very supportive of the idea," BWA's Kolbert said. "It has been gratifying to participate in such a cooperative venture."

The proposal will be included in a special rulemaking process that DNR uses to make seasonal adjustments. Additional details on the hunt and specific application procedures will be available in July. Successful applicants will be notified by mail by mid September.

Special youth hunts were first authorized by the Minnesota Legislature in 1997, but according to DNR Hunter Recruitment Coordinator Ryan Bronson, this is the first deer hunt that has been organized under the statute.

"We hold a number of youth archery deer hunts within the existing season framework, as well as the early youth waterfowl hunt," Bronson said. "This is the first time we have expanded it to firearms deer hunting."

The DNR and conservation organizations such as BWA and MDHA support special youth hunts as positive outdoors experiences for young people. According to Bronson, the goals of youth hunts are to give young people a quality hunting opportunity with a mentor to foster safe habits, and to develop skills for lifelong enjoyment of the outdoors.

"Doing it outside of the regular hunting structure enables the mentoring adult to focus on the young person's experience, and not their own success in the field," Bronson noted.

A regular season firearms special deer hunt in the Whitewater Game Refuge is also planned again this year. The refuge has generally been open to deer hunting by special permit during the Zone 3B deer hunting season, with between 75 and 100 antlerless-only permits available in recent years. This year, plans are to offer 50 permits for the Whitewater Game Refuge special hunt during the Zone 3B season. The hunt is planned for both weekends of the expanded Zone 3B season, Nov. 22-23 and Nov. 29-30.

Public comments on the proposal can be directed to Ryan Bronson, DNR hunter recruitment coordinator, at [email protected], or by calling (651) 296-0776.