(PA) New opportunity for junior hunters


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Drizzt
May 30, 2003, 10:59 PM
INTELLIGENCER JOURNAL (LANCASTER, PA.)

May 29, 2003, Thursday

SECTION: SPORTS, Pg. C-2, WOODS AND WATERS

LENGTH: 1043 words

HEADLINE: New opportunity for junior hunters;
State approves one-day spring gobbler hunt one week before season opens

BODY:
New hunting opportunities spring up every year for Pennsylvania's youth.

First, there was the early squirrel hunt.

Next came an early waterfowl hunt, followed by an early antlerless deer hunt.

Last fall, Pennsylvania held its first youth pheasant hunt.

Next spring, junior hunters (ages 12-16) in Pennsylvania will be permitted to hunt spring gobblers for one day a full week before the general season opens.

It's a good time to be a kid in Pennsylvania.

And most kids around the state who have taken, or will take, part in these hunts probably don't realize who they have to thank for their special opportunities.

Since he took office as a member of the game commission's board of commissioners in 1997, Stephen L. Mohr of Bainbridge has been the champion of youth hunters.

The October firearms antlerless deer hunt? Mohr's idea.

The youth pheasant hunt? First pitched by Mohr four years ago.

Heck, back in 1998, when the state's firearms deer seasons were still split between a two-week buck season followed by a three-day doe hunt, Mohr pushed a proposal to allow junior hunters to shoot antlerless deer throughout the two-week buck season.

The game commission eventually agreed only to let junior hunters shoot doe on the two Saturdays of buck season.

Three years later, all hunters were permitted to shoot both bucks and does when the state's traditional two-week firearms buck season was replaced by a new "deer" season.

The approval of the early spring gobbler hunt by the game commissioners is Mohr's latest achievement on behalf of Pennsylvania's hunting youth.

"I think I first suggested it about three or four years ago, but I didn't have enough support for it," he said. "I figure this gives the youth one more reason to go hunting rather than play computer games."

If you'll notice, the game commission keeps increasing the level of special hunting opportunities for youth -- squirrels to waterfowl to does to pheasants to turkeys.

The next logical step would seem to be to approve a special youth buck hunt prior to the general firearms deer season.

Is such a hunt somewhere out there in our future?

"I surely wouldn't be against it," said Mohr.

That's the topic of another column, though. For now, let's stick with the youth spring gobbler hunt.

It was a year ago that Mohr asked for the formation of a committee within the game commission to study the ramifications of an early spring gobbler hunt for junior hunters.

In a report dated March 18, 2003, the committee wrote that it "believes it is feasible to offer a youth turkey season in the spring of 2004. We believe that this initiative has the potential to have some positive effect on hunter retention and perhaps on hunter recruitment as well."

The report stated that 18 states already hold youth turkey hunts, and 15 of them hold their youth hunt before the general season.

Among those states that hold youth turkey hunts are several of Pennsylvania's neighbors. Maryland and New Jersey each hold a one-day hunt before the statewide spring season. And Ohio has a two-day hunt prior to the opening of its general season.

According to Mohr, Pennsylvania's youth turkey hunt committee considered a number of options for our youth spring gobbler hunt, ranging from a single day to a full week.

"Personally, I liked the idea of giving them a full week, but I didn't have enough support on the board for that," Mohr said.

The committee's report stated that the youth hunting seasons for squirrels and waterfowl in Pennsylvania have had minimal impact on hunter recruitment and retention. But those are poor examples to study.

Nobody hunts squirrels anymore, and the youth waterfowl hunt is held in early October, long before the best goose and duck hunting kicks in from late November through December.

The committee didn't look at youth participation during the week-long firearms doe hunt in October, which has been in place for two seasons, even though Mohr said the game commission has figures on that hunt.

"We get a lot of kids out for that hunt," Mohr said. "It's been a big success."

Turkey hunting undoubtedly is much higher up on the sporting food chain than squirrel hunting.

And many hunters certainly consider it to be a greater thrill than waterfowl hunting.

(As a fanatical goose hunter, and a run-of-the-mill turkey hunter, I would have to take exception with that position, but I understand the concept).

During its study of youth hunts in other states, the game commission committee discovered that "Missouri believes its youth turkey hunt is recruiting new hunters. The youth season has been in place for two years... Their junior turkey hunter permit sales have increased from 10,000 to 17,000 in those two years."

Mohr believes Pennsylvania's youth turkey hunt, which is scheduled for the Saturday before the general spring gobbler season opens, will be immensely popular with junior hunters.

"They're going to get first crack at the birds," he said. "There will be a lot less competition out there, so that will increase the chances that if a kid and the adult he's with hears a bird gobbling, they can work that bird without anyone else coming in on them."

So here's the scenario. Imagine you're a 12-year-old kid out hunting for the very first time.

It's early morning on a spring day, and you and your dad or mom or aunt or uncle have just heard a turkey gobbling on the roost.

The two of you set up at the base of a broad tree, exchange your orange hats for camouflage facemasks and get comfortable.

Your adult hunting partner starts calling softly, and the gobbler responds heartily. He flies down and makes a beeline toward your position.

You steady the shotgun on your knee as your heart races with excitement.

The gobbler appears in full strut some distance out, and your hunting partner gives a few soft yelps.

The gobbler hammers back his reply and trots closer to you -- his thick, long beard swinging with each step.

You ease the safety into the "fire" position, press your cheek tight to the stock and slowly squeeze the trigger.

At the gobbler's fall, a new hunter is hooked for life.

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P95Carry
May 31, 2003, 01:09 AM
True Drizzt .... it ain't bad at all for the young hunters round here!:)

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