Youth Hunting and Involvement
I think it is safe to say that the far majority of hunters realize we must encourage young men and women to get out in the outdoors and see what it is all about. Several years back Texas Parks and Wildlife was looking for ways to increase youth involvement in hunting. One of the solutions was to develop a youth only season where youth 16 years of age or younger were the only hunters allowed to harvest certain animals at that time. It was hoped that parents would take their kids afield and focus on the youth, rather than the youth tagging along on dad's hunt. This started as the weekend prior to the general season for deer, and later added one weekend at the end of the season. There is also a youth only season for squirrel, turkey, and waterfowl in various Texas counties. Chances are youth hunting seasons will continue to expand to allow more opportunity.
While youth only seasons are a great idea, it does not solve the basic problem on lack of access to hunting land without great cost to the hunter. Therefore, I would say that if you are a concerned hunter and have access to hunting land where you could take youth hunters, don't just do it during the youth only hunting season. Take a kid hunting whenever you can, throughout the whole season. Without a constant influx of new hunters, kids growing up will not understand natural systems and the contribution that sport-hunting makes, both financially and biologically, to those systems.
Various programs exist within TPWD and their partners. For starters, TPWD offers Drawn Youth Hunts by Special Permit for deer, feral hogs, javelina, turkey, and alligators. Hunts are schedules to occur when youth are out of school, normally weekends and holidays. Each hunting season, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department publishes Special Drawing and Regular Permit Hunting Opportunities. If you wish to have a copy mailed to you, please call 1-800-792-1112 to receive an application booklet through the mail. The booklet contains charts, a calendar, descriptions of areas open to Public Hunting through the Public Hunt Drawing System and other information regarding hunting permits.
Also, TPWD offers the Annual Public Hunting (APH) Permit valid from Sept. 1 through August 31. The APH permit allows adults access to designated public hunting lands across the state. Once purchased, holders of the permit can take youth under 17 hunting free of charge on these lands.
Lastly, in cooperation with the Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) there is the Texas Youth Hunting Program (TYHP). To join the TYHP, youth must be between 9 to 17 and complete and submit an application. Once on file, youth or selected to participate in various hunts. During the hunts, mentors, lodging, and meals are normally provided by a host of volunteers. Goals of the TYHP are: 1) to preserve the hunting heritage, 2) promote high ethical standards in hunting, 3) give youth an initial, positive, safe, educational, mentored hunting experience, 4) teach the basic skills, values, techniques, and responsibilities of hunting, 5) instill practical conservation measures, and 6) encourage wildlife habitat access, enhancement, and management. If interested, just browse for Texas Youth Hunting Program online.
Getting kids in the field and having them experience active participation in the predator-prey relationship will go far to secure the responsible management of our natural resources for years to come.
If you would like to contact your local biologist, see our website at; http:// www.tpwd.state.tx.us/wildlifebiologist.