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September 21, 2012

Columbus Day youth hunt is worth a shot

The Daily Star

---- — Last week, the Department of Environmental Conservation announced the Columbus Day Weekend Youth Deer Hunt will run Oct. 6-8.

The event is for youths ages 14-15 as the DEC hopes to “engage more young people in nature and outdoor recreation.”

This is great, but let me jump in with both feet and stir up the pot just a little.

Earlier in the year, there was a long discussion regarding the best time to offer a youth deer hunt. There was a vast difference of opinion on the proper timing of this hunt.

At that time, the idea was tabled. Now just a couple of weeks away, the announcement comes down from Albany.

Oct. 1 is the opening day of small-game season, fall-turkey season and archery season for deer in this area. That makes Columbus Day Weekend the opening weekend for these activities.

My first thought was the possible danger of having kids with guns hunting deer while bow hunters are in their tree stands and turkey hunters are hiding in the brush, dressed in complete camouflage with no blaze orange.

Yes, these kids have to be accompanied by a licensed adult while hunting, but there is a concern for safety. Basically, we are putting a lot of faith and trust into these adults. But let’s put that aside. After all, small-game and turkey hunters also will be out there with firearms.

I’ve heard from several archery hunters in the area and their biggest problem with this hunt is timing. The big, old mature bucks are in the meadows eating every evening without a concern in the world. It’s been nine or 10 months since they’ve been hunted.

Normally by the time archery season starts, they change their feeding habits because of man’s intrusion into their territory and become more nocturnal. So it’s going to be far easier for these kids to harvest a good, large-antlered buck. All they have to do is sit along some meadow where a big buck is feeding before nightfall and shoot that deer with a rifle from 300 yards away.

Look, let’s stop the griping. Youths are the future of our sport. I’m not sure this early hunt will encourage any more kids to hunt, but they do it in other states, so why not New York?

Bow hunters will say the best time to take a big buck is early in the season. They feed and bed in the same spots every day before the rut kicks in, making it easier to pattern the deer. By Halloween, these big stags are up and moving, looking for a receptive doe.

Personally, I like to bow hunt the first week of November. The woods seem to be alive with deer activity. But I don’t care about shooting a big buck. I’ve done that. I’d rather put a nice, tender, non-gamy doe in the freezer.

I actually started writing this article with some negative thoughts, but by the time I got to the bottom of the page, I couldn’t find much wrong with the idea. Maybe kids will get away from their computers and iPhones just a little longer; at least I hope so. But I do think the same kids who participate in this early hunt will be out there during the regular season with the dads.

I vividly remember the first buck I took back in 1963. That excitement still lingers in my mind. I hope these kids also will take a big buck and be hooked for life.

Hopefully you adults will take time off from your hunting and spend that extra time with your kids. It will certainly be worth it.

What’s happening?

Get your tickets soon for the CANY Banquet at Oneonta’s Holiday Inn on Sept. 29. They’re going fast. For tickets or for more information, call Al Bowers at 607-432-6398, Rich Gravelin at 607-432-6212 or Ron Martini at 607-432-5945. All proceeds go to the Venison Donation Program to feed the needy.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at robrockway