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January 4, 2010

Upstate youth deer hunts - a great opportunity

Many young people today enjoy the sport of hunting.  Many more kids 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.
Hunting is a traditional form of outdoor recreation that is exciting, challenging and fun.  Various Upstate private landowners, hunting clubs, sportsmen's preserves and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (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 very well managed and have good deer populations.  Those individuals hosting youth hunts in the Upstate during 2009 were as follows:
Hosts of Upstate Youth Deer Hunts:                                    

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, 63 young hunters were accommodated and 11 deer were harvested. Many of these hunters experienced their first deer hunt and for each of the youngsters who took a deer, it was their first deer. Certainly for these kids it was an experience they will never forget. Many of the participants and their parents have commented how much this opportunity means to them.  Some kids indicated they could hardly wait for the next opportunity to go hunting again.
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.  There are discussions of the hunting heritage, deer biology and hunter ethics.  Firearms safety is stressed and everyone reviews the safe and proper methods of gun handling.
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 SC 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 (TOMO) 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, TOMO is becoming increasingly more popular. Additionally, 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 Rules and Regulations brochure.
It is not too early to be planning for next years' Upstate youth deer hunts.  The 2010 dates are not set at this time, but they will be published in the DNR's 2010-2011 Rules and Regulations brochure 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, S. C. 29379, telephone (864) 427-5140 or download an application from the DNR website. Those interested in youth hunting and fishing opportunities statewide should contact the TAKE ONE MAKE ONE program at P. O. Box 167, Columbia, S. C. 29202, telephone (803) 734-4011.

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