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January 8, 2009

Upstate youth deer hunts offer special days afield

Five special Upstate youth deer hunts were held during the latter part of 2008, and 37 young hunters took part, many of them on their first deer hunt.

These youth hunts are designed for young hunters age 17 and under who have an interest in hunting but have no one to take them or have very limited opportunities to hunt. The goal at these hunts is to teach these young people how to hunt properly, ethically and safely. At the youth deer hunts, significant time is devoted to education and training prior to actually going hunting. Discussions are held on the hunting heritage, deer biology and hunter ethics. Firearms safety is stressed, and everyone reviews the safe and proper methods of gun handling.

The special Upstate youth deer hunts held in 2008, and their hosts, were:

"Many young people today enjoy the sport of hunting," said Gerald Moore, S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wildlife biologist. "Yet many more young people would love to learn to hunt and would greatly enjoy the hunting experience if they had the chance. However, if their parents or someone in their family don't hunt, many youngsters may never get the opportunity to even try hunting until they become adults. That's where these special youth hunts help."

It's not too early to be planning for the 2009 Upstate youth deer hunts. While the 2009 dates have not been set at this time, they will be published in the DNR's 2009-2010 Rules and Regulations booklet that will be available in mid-summer.  If you would like to receive an application for one of these special hunts, in early spring contact the Union DNR Office at 124 Wildlife Drive, Union, SC 29379, telephone (864) 427-5140. Those interested in youth hunting and fishing opportunities statewide should contact the Take One Make One program at PO Box 167, Columbia, SC 29202, telephone (803) 734-4011.

"Hunting is a traditional form of outdoor recreation that is exciting, challenging and fun," Moore said. "Various Upstate private landowners, hunting clubs, sportsmen's preserves and the DNR are cooperating to provide today's young hunters significant opportunities to experience the challenges, enjoyment and thrills associated with hunting white-tailed deer. The DNR has developed cooperative arrangements with a number of these private landowners and groups and work closely with them to co-sponsor these special events.

The Upstate special youth deer hunts that are held in Cherokee, Laurens, Spartanburg and Union counties are all conducted on private properties that are well managed and have good deer populations. The hunt sponsors and the personnel at their facilities who assist them graciously give significant amounts of their time and financial resources to provide this quality hunting opportunity for these kids. At these hunts this year, 37 young hunters were accommodated and four deer were harvested. Many of these hunters experienced their first deer hunt, and for each of the four youngsters who took a deer, it was their first deer.

"Certainly for these young people it was an experience they will never forget," Moore said. "Many of the participants and their parents have commented how much this opportunity means to them. Some of the young people indicated they could hardly wait for the next opportunity to go hunting again."
All participants then go to the rifle range and fire the rifle they will be using during the hunt. Small caliber scoped rifles are available for use by those youngsters who don't have a firearm, if prior arrangements are made. Each youth is accompanied by their parent or is assigned an adult mentor to accompany them during all activities at the rifle range and while in the field hunting. A barbecue meal and a brief devotion are provided by ATDO Ministries for the youth participants and their parents.
Youngsters are able to attend these special events at no cost. A hunting license is not required for those under age 16, but hunters who are 16 or 17 years of age are required to have a Junior Sportsman's License and must have completed the South Carolina hunter education course prior to purchasing a hunting license. The hunter education course is now available as a home-study course by calling 1-800-277-4301.

All youth who participate in the special youth deer hunts are made aware of the Take One Make One program. This is the DNR's youth/young adult hunting and shooting sports mentorship and recruitment program. It is a statewide program designed to get young people involved in a variety of outdoor activities throughout the year by assigning participating youngsters to carefully selected mentors. As more youth are finding out about this exciting new program, Take One Make One is becoming increasingly more popular. Also, there are other opportunities that include special youth only hunting days that are scheduled outside the normal hunting seasons and special youth hunts for various wildlife species that are held around the state. All these events are publicized annually in the DNR Rules and Regulations booklet.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina’s natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state’s natural resources and its people.

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