I guess I'm a little less enthusiastic about the idea of a specific youth hunt. And, before you all jump on me, I am a NBEF instructor and am currently working with a young man this year to get him in the woods for the first time with a bow. I fervently
believe that we are responsible for getting young people involved in the hunting sports. AND, I have no problem whatsoever with kids having a "first crack" at the deer! (though I do sometimes wonder where our cultural obsession with children came from
nonetheless, I digress).
That said, I have two primary concerns regarding a special weekend for youth. First, I have a difficult time imagining that the new "early season" won't be abused regularly. I've seen it too many times with landowner permits in Indiana, and I have no doubt that there will be many deer which are taken down by many fingers that have been pulling triggers more than 16 years. That's my cynical reason.
Philosophically, I think a special youth weekend tends to play too much into the hand of our video-obsessed-gotta-have-it-now generation. Let me confess that I didn't hunt for the first time until I was twenty-six, so my view is based mostly on what I know of the experience of a good friend and my brother-in-law. Much of hunting is about learning and patience. Learning doesn't take place in the course of a weekend. If a child wants to learn to hunt and is only taken into the field on "youth weekend," then they gain very little, IMO. The "learning" of hunting takes place when Dad (or whoever the primary teacher is) repeatedly takes them into the field and continually reinforces the lessons of the hunt. Not to mention the lesson that is taught to a child whose father gives up a deer that he could have taken himself just for the prize of watching his son or daughter take their first deer.
Coinciding with that thought is the issue of tenacity. If the point (as I understand it to be--at least in part) is to help a young hunter bag a deer more "easily" without the pressure that mounts from gun season, then what happens when things get tougher as they outgrow the age of participation in a youth weekend? I would guess that many will go right back to the more exciting video game. However, what if we teach them patience and endurance up front through the same process that we each went through when we were first weaned onto our first kill? We know the work involved and the reward for a kill that was pursued patiently. At that point, it becomes less a lesson on hunting, and more a lesson on all of life.
I applaud the emphasis on getting kids into the woods; I guess I'm just a little skeptical that this is a great long-term solution to get it done.
I know I'm probably deemed evil now since I don't want to "do it for the children," but those are my thoughts!