For the past 18 years, since Maine instituted its Youth Deer Day in 2002, a generation of young hunters have enjoyed heading afield for one day a week before the residents-only opening day of deer season.
On Saturday, thousands of junior hunters who haven’t reached their 16th birthdays will return to the woods and observe that tradition, joined by adult mentors who won’t be allowed to carry firearms or archery equipment, but who will teach valuable safety and ethics lessons.
Here are a few tips and high points of Youth Deer Day, provided by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:
Who can participate? Hunters younger than 16 who hold junior or lifetime hunting licenses, and who will be accompanied by an adult, are allowed to hunt on special youth hunts, including seasonal opportunities to hunt deer, wild turkey and migratory waterfowl. Since a Families Afield law was passed in 2015, Maine does not have a minimum age requirement for hunting. Parents and guardians are allowed to decide when their child is mature enough to hunt.
There are different rules for younger junior hunters. Junior hunters between the age of 10 and 15 “must be in the presence of, and under the effective control of, a junior hunter supervisor,” according to the wildlife department.
Those younger than 10 must also be within 20 feet of their supervisor.
What is a junior hunting supervisor? A supervisor is defined as “the parent or guardian of the junior hunter, who holds or has held a valid Maine hunting license, or who has successfully completed a hunter safety course,” or “A person who is 18 years old or older and is approved by the parent or guardian of the junior hunter, and who holds or has held a valid hunting license, or has successfully completed a hunter safety course.”
What if the deer don’t cooperate? Hunting is not a sure thing, and there’s no guarantee that deer will participate in your hunt. One way to ensure an enjoyable day is to make sure the junior hunter is prepared for any eventuality, the wildlife department said.
“Always make sure they are dressed for the weather, pack snacks, and don’t plan a long day – start short and see how it goes,” the department said.
Looking for grub?
It seems that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a bit of a toll on hunter’s breakfasts, as I haven’t been inundated with breakfasts announcements this year. In fact, I haven’t received a single one.
But groups are still staging their annual events, and during a drive earlier this week, I saw a sign that made me smile: The Eddington Salmon Club will welcome youth hunters (and others) to their annual breakfast from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. Saturday.
On the menu: Chocolate chip or blueberry pancakes, eggs to order, bacon, sausage, biscuits, baked beans and home fries. Youth hunters eat for free. And to top it off, one lucky youngster will win a .22 Savage rifle in a free raffle.
New tagging station open
If you’re a Bangor-area hunter, you may be interested in taking your Youth Deer Day hunter to a new tagging station, Dill’s Outdoors on Broadway, just past Tractor Supply.
Byron Dill, the owner of the store, said he’s got state-certified scales ready to weigh deer all season long. And youth hunters will be eligible to win a special prize.
“We’re giving a Wild Game Innovations trail camera. All the youth that tag a deer with us, we’re going to put the names in a hat and draw for the camera and a Buck knife,” Dill said.
Have fun, and be safe.
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