Bright and early Saturday morning, young hunters across the state will roll out of bed, gather up their gear, and head into the woods for their own special opening day of deer season.
Called “Youth Deer Day,” the tradition of giving junior hunters a special day of their own is now in its 12th year. And it’s been a huge success, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s deer biologist, Kyle Ravana, said.
“I think it’s a great experience for kids. They seem to really enjoy it, being out there with their family and harvesting their first animal,” Ravana said.
And while not all youth hunters will harvest an animal, Ravana said there are benefits to spending time outdoors, whether a tag is filled or not.
“It’s a time for them to bond with their family, learn something new and get outdoors, to get away from electronics,” Ravana said. “Youth Deer Day really provides the youth of the state of Maine the chance to get away from [computers and video games] and get outside and experience the great outdoors in Maine.”
Youth hunters who have reached their 10th birthday but have not yet turned 16 are allowed to take part in Youth Deer Day. Those hunters must have a junior hunting license and must be accompanied by a parent, guardian or by someone who possesses a valid Maine hunting license. The adult is not allowed to possess a firearm while accompanying the youth hunter.
In Wildlife Management Districts where the state has allotted any-deer permits, a youth hunter is allowed to shoot a deer of either sex on Youth Deer Day. In all other districts, the youth hunter must target antlered deer.
Ravana said the fact that adults aren’t hunting alongside youngsters on Youth Deer Day is a key component.
“A really important aspect of Youth Deer Day is that it’s really centered on [the youths]. What kid doesn’t like being the center of attention?” Ravana said. “Their parent’s attention is focused on them .. and then, when they come back to the tagging station, if they’ve harvested an animal, all the attention is on them. They’re getting pats on the back, congratulations, high fives, and they’re getting told how good a job they’ve done.”
Good news for this year’s youth hunters: The weather forecast is favorable, with little chance of rain and a good chance of chilly temperatures that deer will favor. Not that the weather discourages many of the youngsters, Ravana said.
“Regardless of how wet it was and how hard it rained [last year], those kids were having a lot of fun,” Ravana said. “They all had smiles on their faces, which was good to see.”
Send us your youth tales
Every year plenty of young hunters enjoy successful hunts on Youth Deer Day. Luckily, some of those kids (or, more accurately, their proud parents) get in touch with us here at the BDN and share those stories.
We hope that trend continues this year.
If you’re taking a kid afield on Youth Deer Day and want to share some thoughts about the hunt, we welcome your submissions.
Email us your photos. Write a few words. Better yet, turn it into a cooperative effort between you and your child, and let them write down some of their thoughts, too.
What did you see? What was your reaction? Did you get a shot off? Did you fill your tag?
Deer hunting stories — especially youth deer hunting stories — come in many forms. In many cases, the actual harvest of a deer is a mere afterthought. The real story is much bigger. It’s about lessons learned, memories earned, traditions observed or established.
You can send your tales to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to hearing how your Youth Deer Day went.