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Youth and Apprentice Day is Sept. 28

Buddy Fines, one of King George’s most avid hunters and sports organizers, sent a message last week reminding me that the Outdoor Report did not include Sept. 28 as Youth Deer Day which is a statewide open season day for youth 15 years of age and under.

Buddy was correct to point this out to me, because it is extremely important that we take advantage of the short time we have with our children. Life goes very quickly, and youth tends to be a fleeting moment of that time.
Over the past few years, a number of studies have been done concerning the drop-off of hunting licenses sold, hunter numbers and so on. Obviously with rural America shrinking, urban and suburban America growing and people losing touch with the land, we are going to see such figures. However, what other losses are we experiencing as a symptom of this change?

 One could argue that we are less healthy because so many more kids spend time indoors versus outdoors. Another argument could be made that kids understand life sciences less than they used to. The whole shift away from the outdoors, the land and nature comes with a price. I don’t want to pay the price.

I don’t want my kids to pay the price and frankly I don’t want any kids to pay the price of not being knowledgeable about the outdoors, life, the environment and the ecosystem, not to mention possibly being less healthy than they could be.

The studies I have read have all pretty much agreed that the best way to increase hunting numbers is to get hunters started early in life. That means youth hunters. Some adults can be encouraged to take up hunting, but the success rate is lower because fewer of the adults have mentors to stick with them and show them how it is done, start to finish.

One small part of changing things to encourage kids, and now adults, to get back outside is the Youth Deer Day. VDGIF has given us a tool, and we should use it. New for this year is the addition of apprentice license holders to partake of the deer hunting on this day. Any youth 15 or younger and holders of a valid apprentice license may hunt deer on Sept. 28, when accompanied by and directly supervised by an adult hunter who has a valid hunting license (or is legally exempt such as a landowner).

Why have the special day during September? The hunting day falls on the last Saturday prior to the opening of archery deer hunting season statewide. This gives new hunters and youth hunters the first whack at taking a deer before the deer become pressured. One key to successfully recruiting new hunters is that they be successful. Allowing them to take a deer or try to take one when the woods are unspoiled was a great call by VDGIF, in my opinion. Sure, it may be a bit hot but the potential rewards are worth it.

We really don’t have any excuse not to take someone afield that day. There are no big bucks we will miss. The day is not open to regular hunters. We won’t miss a thing except possibly a good squirrel hunt and if that is your thing, get your new hunter out squirrel hunting!

I am challenging readers of this column to make a point this year to take a youth or new hunter under your wing and get them afield. I have personally told two adults that I would assist them in gearing up and even hunting, choosing locations on their property to hunt, and even field dressing and butchering any deer they get. Time is tough to come by, and I think I completely understand that fact as I work two jobs. But, we can all get someone out a few times this season.

My guess is that if you ask a long-time hunter, many of them will tell you that the person who introduced them to hunting likely showed them a past-time that taught them responsibility, ethics and good skills that can be used elsewhere in life. Some will say that because of hunting, they steered clear of trouble. Hunting kept them so busy that they were not tempted by bad things that some kids get into.

The same could be said for fishing. There are many people reading this column right now who know this is true and those same people are already mentoring a youth or new hunter. Local farmer and hunter, Larry Carr, has mentored Carter Lewis over the past few years. This young man probably never dreamed he would spend time writing an article about anything because, like most young men, school is not his favorite way to spend seven hours of his day. Yet he was published in The Journal  with an article about his experiences in the field as a result of Mr. Carr’s time invested in the young man.

I know we have run photos of Chris McCall with hunters, both young and old, who were successful because of the time he took to show them how to hunt. You never know the difference you may make in a person’s life by taking time to show them how to hunt or fish. You know the saying about giving a man a fish or teaching him to fish? Well, you could say the same thing about giving a man a bag of meat or teaching him to hunt. The results are immeasurable.

Facts about Sept. 28:

Resident youth hunters under 12 do not need a hunting license or hunter education course to hunt when accompanied and supervised by a licensed adult. Hunters 12 and older do need the course and the license. VDGIF sells a youth combo license that is a good deal for them.

Nonresident youth hunters do need a license.

Apprentice hunters having never purchased a hunting license previously, may purchase a license good for two years. Appropriate deer tags are needed in addition to the apprentice license. Hunter education is deferred for this period of time. The idea is to let an adult try hunting first before spending the time getting the coursework completed.

All hunters on this day must be properly licensed unless exempt.

Blaze orange is required of all hunters.

Does are legal.

All locally legal weapons are able to be used. King George, Westmoreland and Caroline do not allow high powered rifles. See regulations.

All other normal deer regulations apply.

Supervising hunters should ensure that all safety and ethical rules are followed to a T. This is the purpose of this special day. It is our job to teach the new hunters how it is supposed to be done.
Last—Try your best to take your new hunter to a place where they can be successful in taking a deer. Give them the best chance possible. Someone did that for us when we started. Time to pay it forward.

Mark Fike

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