A youth deer hunt: Good idea or bad?

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 10, 2010 - 6:32 AM

A proposed four-day statewide youth deer hunting season is generating plenty of reaction. If there's public support, the hunt could be held next fall.


Minnesota DNR officials are proposing a four-day youth deer hunting season to be held in October, before the regular firearms season.

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Minnesota's 500,000 deer hunters usually aren't gun-shy when it comes to voicing their opinion on anything related to deer hunting.

Especially when Minnesota officials tinker with deer regulations or management.

This year, the Department of Natural Resources is floating a possible four-day statewide youth-only deer season in October, a couple weeks before the regular firearms season. Youths age 10-17 would be allowed to kill one either-sex deer. The purpose is to encourage youths to deer hunt at a time when the percentage of young hunters is declining.

The reaction thus far from hunters ranges from "Great idea!" to "Are you crazy?"

"The idea is to provide a high-quality initial hunting experience for youths," said Jay Johnson, DNR hunter recruitment and retention coordinator. And remove barriers to hunting.

"The weather is warmer [in October], there would be less competition in the woods and a parent could focus on their kid," Johnson said. "What a wonderful opportunity for a parent."

A DNR survey of hunters in southeastern Minnesota found that a majority supported a youth deer hunt, and neighboring states all offer some type of youth deer hunt.

But not so fast, says Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association.

"We're very interested in getting kids out and creating more opportunities for them, but there's real confusion of why DNR would even consider it statewide, when there are many areas that are lottery-only or bucks-only," said Johnson. "We just don't have the numbers of deer available, especially in the far northeast and southwest."

Said Johnson: "You have a half-million deer hunters out there; if you throw them to the wind and concentrate just on the kids, it doesn't make sense. If you don't provide opportunity for adults, they won't stay in hunting either. You can't give up retention and focus on just recruitment."

A deer hunters association survey of members in southeast Minnesota mirrored the DNR survey: A majority supported the youth hunt. But Johnson said that's far different from a statewide youth hunt. Neither the MDHA nor the DNR has surveyed hunters statewide about the idea.

Since the proposal was announced last month, some online forums have been buzzing. The DNR is taking comments on the youth hunt and several other hunting-related issues at public meetings around the state. The agency also is accepting comments through an online survey. (See accompanying story.)

Public comments at meetings in the southeast supported the idea. But at a meeting in Little Falls last week, there was some opposition, said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game program manager.

"Some said it will ruin the regular [season] hunt, others said youths don't need a special opportunity," he said. But there has been strong support for the youth hunt among the 1,600 people who have taken the DNR's online survey, Cornicelli added.

Cornicelli said he doesn't believe the youth hunt would impact the deer population, the regular firearms season or bow hunters, who would be in the woods at the same time. Bow hunters are among those who have criticized the idea.

"I think the impact would be negligible," Cornicelli said. "There's already people out grouse and duck hunting then. Putting some kids out for a few days likely won't impact the archery season."

Cornicelli said stakeholders at the agency's 2002 roundtable meeting suggested the DNR consider a youth deer hunt.

"We've put a fair amount of thought into this," he said.

The hunt would coincide with annual teachers' conferences, when school is out on a Thursday and Friday in mid-October. Though adults wouldn't be allowed to carry a firearm, some fear they might be tempted to shoot a deer.

"We don't think an individual who goes to the time and effort to take their kid on a special youth hunt will shoot the kid's deer," Cornicelli said. "It just doesn't make any sense. Will someone do it? Yeah, probably. But I don't think it's going to be a big problem."

Officials aren't sure how many youths would partake in a hunt. There are about 55,000 to 60,000 youth hunters now, but Cornicelli said only a percentage of those likely would hunt the youth season. Ideally, the special hunt would attract others who might not have hunted, but it's uncertain how many that might be.

And only a percentage of the youths would bag a deer, Cornicelli said.

The DNR offers a special two-day youth deer hunt in the northwest, and other youth hunts are held around the state. The idea originally was to offer a youth hunt in the southeast, too, but officials decided to consider a statewide hunt.

Jack Peck, secretary of the Bluff-land Whitetails Association in southeastern Minnesota, said his group has suggested for several years that the state launch a youth deer hunt.

"We're one of the only states that doesn't have one," he said. "It's a good way to get kids involved. It's nice and warm out then; we just thought it would be a good idea."

Said the DNR's Johnson: "Once the public weighs in, we'll make a decision."

Doug Smith • dsmith@startribune.com

  • related content

  • What's your opinion?

    Wednesday March 10, 2010

    What do you think of a four-day statewide youth deer season? Or allowing hunters age 55 and older to use a crossbow during the archery season?

  • Neighboring states offer youth deer hunts

    Wednesday March 10, 2010

    Neighboring states Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota all offer some type of youth deer hunting season.

  • Minn. Deer Classic opens Friday

    Tuesday March 9, 2010

    Deer will be the topic at the 28th annual Minnesota Deer Classic, which runs Friday through Sunday at the State Fairgrounds Coliseum Building.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.


New England 5:30 PM
Miami 72 4th Qtr 7:18
Boston 63
LA Lakers 32 2nd Qtr 3:58
New York 38
Arizona 1 3rd Prd
Montreal 2
St. Louis 3 3rd Prd
Washington 2
Nashville 2 2nd Prd
Pittsburgh 0
Minnesota 2:00 PM
Miami-Florida 54 FINAL
Florida State 55
Oakland 96 FINAL
Youngstown St 80
Cincinnati 46 2nd Half 0:11
East Carolina 48
Michigan 61 2nd Half 1:21
Michigan State 66
Marist 41 2nd Half
Canisius 35
Fordham 30 2nd Half
Dayton 47
Manhattan 42 2nd Half
Monmouth 24
Quinnipiac 39 2nd Half
Niagara 41
Utah 14 1st Half 9:59
Connecticut 2:00 PM
California 2:00 PM
North Dakota St 2:00 PM
Western Ill
Penn State 65 FINAL
(22) Rutgers 76
Coll of Charleston 49 FINAL
Towson 71
Xavier 68 FINAL
Providence 57
Drexel 61 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 44
Stony Brook 60 FINAL
New Hampshire 52
Maine 52 FINAL
Albany 44
Arizona 69 FINAL
Colorado 81
(14) Texas 57 2nd Half 0:53
TCU 60
Cornell 50 2nd Half 1:26
Yale 54
Miami-Florida 66 2nd Half 1:04
Pittsburgh 79
(21) Georgia 62 2nd Half 6:58
(10) Kentucky 63
Wake Forest 61 2nd Half 1:55
(4) Notre Dame 91
Loyola-Chicago 54 2nd Half 2:40
Illinois State 67
(24) Oklahoma 23 2nd Half
West Virginia 32
St Johns 24 2nd Half
Seton Hall 40
Delaware 37 2nd Half
Hofstra 30
Binghamton 18 2nd Half
UMass Lowell 33
Vermont 24 2nd Half
Hartford 26
William & Mary 24 2nd Half
Northeastern 23
Boston College 36 2nd Half
(16) North Carolina 34
Virginia 47 2nd Half
Clemson 32
(2) Connecticut 48 2nd Half
Temple 30
Arkansas 24 2nd Half
Alabama 16
Virginia Tech 37 2nd Half
Georgia Tech 39
Kansas 28 2nd Half
(3) Baylor 32
Canisius 23 2nd Half
Rider 25
Monmouth 17 2nd Half
Fairfield 26
Quinnipiac 35 2nd Half
Saint Peters 29
Butler 29 2nd Half
Creighton 26
Wichita State 27 2nd Half
Drake 29
Evansville 23 2nd Half
Indiana State 25
(18) Miss State 2:00 PM
(6) Tennessee
Villanova 2:00 PM
Georgetown 2:00 PM
North Texas 2:00 PM
Auburn 2:00 PM
(12) Texas A&M
(11) Arizona State 2:00 PM
Missouri State 2:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Michigan 2:00 PM
(15) Nebraska
Minnesota 2:00 PM
Wisconsin 2:00 PM
Bradley 2:05 PM
Southern Ill
Florida 3:00 PM
(20) Iowa 3:00 PM
(5) Maryland
(1) South Carolina 3:30 PM
Ole Miss
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question