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First annual youth hunt educates novice hunters

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In October 2013, the Noble Research Institute hosted 16 youth and their guardians for the first annual youth doe hunt. The event was sponsored by Noble Academy, Walnut Bayou Deer Management Association (WBDMA) and Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC). Noble Academy is an education and outreach program of the Noble Research Institute, and WBDMA is a group of land managers in Love County, Okla., who collectively manage wildlife as well as participate in educational activities. The goals of the hunt were to expose youth to hunting opportunities, harvest does for white-tailed deer population management, and teach hunting safety and ethics.

The youth hunt partnered with ODWC's Private Lands Hunt program. It is a successful program that creates hunting opportunities for youth who might not otherwise have access. During the summer, ODWC advertises several youth hunting opportunities on private lands across Oklahoma. Youth who are 12 to 17 years old can send in their information and location preferences to ODWC, and then names are drawn by lottery or assigned to the participating properties.

Youth Hunt16 Youth participated in the first annual youth hunt.

Our hunt started with an evening orientation where the youth met their guides and learned about the upcoming hunt. Hunter education and safety training issues were discussed to help make the hunt safe. The next morning, the youth and their guardians met their guides in the field for a morning doe hunt on Noble Research Institute and WBDMA properties. After the hunt, everybody gathered at a local ranch for a deer processing demonstration. We showed participants how to eviscerate, skin and quarter one of the does that a youth harvested and also discussed white-tailed deer anatomy.

After lunch, the youth, their guardians and the guides participated in the ODWC Shotgun Training and Education Program where we discussed shotgun safety and participants shot sporting clays. In addition, participants learned about and practiced archery. After a few hours of shooting shotguns and bows, everyone headed back out into the field for an afternoon doe hunt. After the hunt, youth and their guardians went back home tired after a full day of hunting and camaraderie.

The youth hunt was a big success. Educational goals were accomplished, seven does were harvested, and we exposed 16 youth to the positive experience of hunting and spending time outdoors with their guardians. For every youth who harvested a doe, it was their first. We hopefully created lifelong hunters and instilled the importance of hunter safety and ethics.

If you would like to participate in our youth hunt in coming years or if you are a landowner who would like to offer an opportunity for youth to hunt, watch for press releases and information on ODWC's website during the summer. We look forward to hosting many more youth hunts.

Will Moseley has worked as a wildlife and fisheries consultant at Noble Research Institute since 2008. He received his bachelor’s degree in wildlife and fisheries management from Texas Tech University and his master’s degree in range and wildlife management from Texas A&M University – Kingsville. His primary interests are centered on using prescribed fire and grazing to improve ecosystem health on rangelands to benefit biodiversity.