It’s important to get young people involved in the outdoors so they can develop an appreciation for Missouri’s wonderful outdoor resources.

That, in a nutshell, is the focus of the state’s youth deer-hunting opportunity that will take place Oct. 28-29. This hunting opportunity is referred to as the “early” youth deer season because there’s another youth-only firearms deer season Nov. 24-26.

These annual youth deer hunting events are for Missouri residents ages 6 to 15. Young hunters can purchase reduced-price deer permits, which are half the price of the regular adult (age 16 and over) firearms permits and are valid for youths ages 6 through 15. Individuals ages 11-15 who have hunter education certification may hunt on their own. Hunters ages 6-15 who are not hunter education certified must be in the immediate presence of a properly licensed adult who either is hunter education certified or was born before January 1, 1967.

It should be noted that youths hunting their parents’ property can receive landowner permits. Contact your nearest Missouri Department of Conservation office for definitions of resident landowners and other details regarding landowner hunting privileges.

The season limit for this weekend’s youth season is one deer in accordance with the permits held. The type of deer you can take depends on what type of permit you have. Those hunting on a firearms any-deer permit may take one deer of either sex. Those hunting on a firearms antlerless-only permit may take one antlerless deer in counties in which this permit can be used. (See the free Missouri Department of Conservation “2017 Fall Deer & Turkey” regulation booklet for details.)

The youth season will take place at a time when deer activity is heavy. The rut (breeding season) is going on and, also, deer are feeding heavily. Autumn is a time when whitetails gorge themselves to prepare for leaner times ahead during the winter.

One thing that won’t be heavy during the weekend of the youth-only season is adult hunter activity. Archery season is underway, but bow-hunting traffic in the woods will be light compared to the swarm of hunters that will take to the woods during the November firearms season (November 11-21). The purpose of the youth season is to kindle the hunting spark in young hunters by giving them a head start on deer hunting.

By giving young hunters a jump on the more experienced hunters, it’s hoped that it will result in more youths who bag a deer and, in a broader sense, more who come away from their hunt with an enjoyable outdoor experience they’ll want to try again.

It’s also hoped this will introduce and reinforce various aspects of firearms safety and hunting ethics. As stated above, young hunters who are not hunter education certified must be in the presence of a fully licensed (i.e., somebody who has purchased his firearms deer permit) adult who is hunter education certified. While it’s the kids who will be doing the hunting, it’s the adult’s responsibility to see that his/her younger hunting companion is following safe, legal and ethical procedures. Most of the time, novice hunters will do what they’re told to do – so it’s up to the adults to inform them about proper hunting procedures and set a good example with their personal hunting practices. Adults accompanying youth deer hunters must wear hunter orange.

Archery hunters should note that those who choose to bow hunt during the two-day youth season need to wear Hunter Orange.

More information about the youth-only portion of the firearms deer season can be found in the Missouri Department of Conservation’s “2017 Fall Deer & Turkey Hunting Information” pamphlet. This free publication can be found at most hunting permit vendor locations and at Department of Conservation offices. Information about deer hunting can also be found on the Department of Conservation’s website, www.missouriconservation.org

Francis Skalicky is the media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Southwest Region. For more information about conservation issues, call 417-895-6880.