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How young hunters - and adults - should prepare for youth hunts

Getting the next generation of hunters into the fields, forests, and marshes of New York should be the most important objective of the current fraternity of sportsmen and women. Thanks to a recent push by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and groups like the New York State Conservation Council, special Youth Hunts have been established to provide unique opportunities that make it all about the future hunters. It’s an outdoor stage where they are the main actors, guided by mentors who serve as a supporting cast.

From Oct. 1 through Oct. 10, three different youth hunts are being held in Western New York, starting with the Western Zone Waterfowl Youth Hunt Oct. 1-2. Junior hunters 12 to 15 years of age possessing a junior hunting license may hunt ducks, coots, mergansers, Canada geese and brant. They must be accompanied by a licensed adult hunter (including current duck stamp and Harvest Information Program registration). Adults may not shoot unless a respective season is open. Mentors are mostly there for instructional purposes only, such as setting out decoys, calling or establishing a blind. The regular season starts Oct. 22.

Next, Oct. 8-9, is the Youth Pheasant Hunt in Western New York. In an effort to help the upland game hunting experience along for the next generation of hunters, the DEC will be stocking birds at 10 locations in the six counties of Region 9 in Western New York.At three of those locations, all in Niagara County at Golden Hill, Joseph Davis and Wilson Tuscarora state parks, a lottery drawing will take place on Oct. 3. Contact the park of your choice for details.

Arnie Jonathan of Lockport shows Emily Eaton of Newfane how to try and call a deer into range from their portable blind.

Arnie Jonathan of Lockport shows Emily Eaton of Newfane how to try and call a deer into range from their portable blind.

In Allegany State Park in Cattaraugus County, the stocking section off Wolf Run Road requires a permit, but it is free and can be picked up at the Administration Building. Go to the DEC website at for a complete list of stocking sites. The regular pheasant season opens on Oct. 15. Special permits may be required for high traffic days like opening Saturday.


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October. 8-10 brings the Youth Big Game Hunt in the Southern Zone. New this year, junior hunters will also be able to harvest a black bear as part of the big-ame hunt in addition to whitetail deer. Junior hunters ages 14 and 15 may use a firearm to take either big game quarry … but not with a crossbow. That’s another story. Again, youth must be accompanied by a licenced adult at least 21 years of age (with at least three years of experience) and must be adequately licensed. The junior hunter must stay on the ground and not hunt from an elevated stand. Be sure to use the Mentored Youth Hunter Permission Form from the Hunting Regulations Guide or the DEC website.

Jonathan gives a lesson in deer calling

Jonathan gives a lesson in deer calling

“Put yourself into the shoes of the youth,” says Arnie Jonathan with A.J. Guide Service (716-439-8333). “It has to start prior to the actual hunt, starting with making sure they have shot their gun or bow – whatever they are hunting with. And shoot from a variety of positions such as sitting, standing and off sticks. It’s important that they have a certain confidence factor with their gun or bow.

“Get them involved with other preparations for the hunt, be it scouting, getting the gear ready. Make sure they are as comfortable as possible, including both clothing that fits properly and a seat that keeps them off the ground. Manufactured ground blinds are a great option with kids for comfort and to help with a variety of other concerns.”

Let’s face it, kids can be fidgety. Sitting still can be very difficult at times and Jonathan feels that a blind will conceal much of that movement. It will muffle sound and help mask soft whispers for those junior h

unters that ask a lot of questions. It will also help protect you from the elements.

“If a young hunter is getting bored or tired, don’t be afraid to move around,” says Jonathan. “Sometimes a change of scenery is all that it takes. And if the toes are getting a little cold, a brisk walk can make a huge difference. Mentors need to take all of this into consideration when hunting with the incoming stewards of our resources. We have to get it right the first time.

"Kids can do their part in preparing themselves by going on the internet and finding instructional videos on places like YouTube. Quaker Boy has some good videos available at to help with calling tips and tactics. Practice your calling before you get out into the fields or forests. Listen to whoever your mentor is and learn from their expertise. They are passing on a tradition that is near and dear to their hearts."

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