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JIM WARD: Young Guns

Kids who spend time in the woods hunting often learn to appreciate all the other creatures not intended for the game bag. (Jim Ward photo)
Kids who spend time in the woods hunting often learn to appreciate all the other creatures not intended for the game bag. (Jim Ward photo)
Once New Year’s resolutions are set in motion, sportsmen begin thinking about upcoming hunts. Tag applications and reserving vacations for autumn adventures are on the agenda. If you have young hunters in the family, efforts begin to address their desires. 

I still remember getting my first rifle at age 8 — a 30.30 Winchester. Wow — in 1960 game was plentiful and the hunting  seasons lasted for months. You could hunt almost anywhere. My first buck, a nice forked-horn, seemed monster-big. A lot has changed since those days.

Today, more hunters applying for the limited number of tags has forced drastic changes in hunting 
opportunities. 

Sportsmen often wait several years to enjoy a five-day hunt on much less open acres than in the ’60s. And, it’s much more costly. 

This writer must confess to being a bit spoiled as a young hunter. Now, youths participate in the hunt lottery system and may not even get a chance to hunt their first couple of years. Not so long ago, a large family nearly had to take out a  second mortgage just to afford all the tag fees. That hasn’t gone unnoticed. With a sharp poke in the ribs by sportsmen groups like the Oregon Hunters Association, our game department has set up many programs to aid young hunters.

Most license and tag fees have been cut in half for youths. The mentored youth program allows kids to take game on their parent’s tag — even before they’re old enough to participate in the regular hunt programs. Youths can apply for  first-time hunter permits and better their odds. And, many hunts have been designed just for kids — allowing them to hunt days before the general season and on areas not open to adults.

Those early years as a young hunter taught me many things — how to navigate in the dense woods and how to pit my skills against wily game. It gave me an active role in putting food on the family table. I learned to appreciate the other creatures not on my hunt list — things you can’t learn in front of a video game. But, even with all the modern things  that pull today’s kids from the autumn woods, there’ are still good reasons to grab the camo and get kids involved with hunting. And, if parents are willing to seek out all the youth programs available, our state still has a lot to 
offer for those interested.

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