The florescent orange leaves may have fallen from the trees last weekend, but a different bright orange could be found in the woods — the hunting vests of young deer hunters.
A special youth firearms deer season was in effect over Columbus Day weekend this year. Teens ages 14 and 15 who had a big game hunting license were able to take a deer of either sex with a firearm if they were accompanied by a licensed and experienced adult hunter.
“Implementation of this youth deer hunt is a hallmark moment for New York hunters and represents continued efforts of DEC to engage more young people in nature and outdoor recreation,” state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said in a media release announcing the hunt.
Hunting is important to our region, economically and for controlling the deer population. The youth deer hunt helped teach young hunters the safe way to hunt — the safe handling of guns, being visible in the woods by wearing bright colors, how to navigate through the forests, and how to track and properly handle the deer after it is shot.
There is pending legislation that may impact future youth-only deer hunts.
But getting young people involved is vital to the continuing tradition of the hunt.
And if that is lost, another important program may suffer.
The Venison Donation Program of Delaware and Otsego Counties has for more than a decade donated meat to local food pantries.
Some of the meat is venison that was taken by the hunters, but most of it comes through purchases made by funds raised by the group. Late last month, the group held its annual fundraising banquet — its most successful so far, according to the treasurer of the group.
The event, held at the Holiday Inn in Oneonta, drew more than 330 people and raised $54,000, Ron Martini said. That was $10,000 more than last year.
The Venison Donation Program is a program of the Conservation Alliance of New York. The local effort spends all of the money to feed the hungry in Delaware and Otsego counties, working with Delaware Opportunities and Opportunities for Otsego to provide ground venison donated by hunters. The rest of the funds are used to buy ground beef.
In the 11 years of the program, more than 252,000 meals have been served thanks to the efforts of local hunters. It is the largest provider of meat for the food banks in each county, Martini said.
Hunting has so many benefits to the area, as the donation program shows. The results of the youth deer hunt haven’t been announced, but we hope the state finds value in it so the benefits can continue.