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Youth deer season a time for patience, not pressure

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By The Staff

Kentucky's youth-only deer season is coming up Oct.10-11.

Safety always comes first, but for adult mentors, patience isn't far behind.

Hunting for big bucks or to fill the freezer may be an adult hunter's goal, but kids are out there mostly to have fun.

"I would recommend more than anything to make sure the young ones enjoy it," said Will Connelly, a hunter training officer with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. "You shouldn't put pressure on them to shoot something."

Letcher County hunter Casey Begley, a 13-year-old who took her first deer last fall, says the best thing about being in the woods is spending time with her dad. Her advice for adults? Be patient with young hunters.

"Help them," she said. "If they don't have a good hold on the gun, help them hold the gun up."

Begley, who uses a wheelchair, says that while she can't go some places that other hunters can, she's still able to enjoy the fun and excitement of hunting. She encourages all kids, especially those with physical challenges, to give hunting a try.

"Just go for it," she says. "Try it out because it's fun."

The youngest hunters often have the hardest time being still in a tree stand or blind. Adults can help. Connelly advises parents and other mentors to plan ahead for this restlessness.

"If it's cold, bring the hand warmers and hot chocolate. If it's hot, keep the bugs off," he said. "A good padded seat works wonders. The main thing is to keep kids comfortable."

A relaxed youth hunter who is familiar with his or her firearm is also a safer hunter. Connelly reminds adults to take kids out ahead of time to shoot their rifles. Make sure kids know their effective shooting range and remind them to stick to it, he said.

"Keep the gun pointed in a safe direction, and make sure they have a good backstop before they pull the trigger," he said. "Some parents think the little .243 won't shoot very far, but that bullet will go for miles."

Finally, parents and other mentors should be absolutely sure that kids are ready to hunt before taking them. Every young hunter is different, and some feel comfortable in the field at an earlier age than others. If you're unsure whether your child is ready to hunt, it might be better to take a camera instead of a rifle this time around.

Kentucky's youth-only deer season is open to resident and nonresident kids ages 15 and under. Adults must accompany youth gun hunters and remain in a position to take immediate control of the youth's firearm at all times. Kids under age 12 don't need a hunting license or deer permit, but those ages 12-15 must have a Kentucky youth hunting license

and youth deer permit.

Kentucky's hunter orange clothing law applies during the youth weekend. For complete hunting regulations, check the

2009-10 Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide online at fw.ky.gov or pick up a copy wherever hunting licenses are sold.

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Author Hayley Lynch is an award-winning writer and associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. She loves deer hunting, shotgun sports and introducing women to the outdoors.