WOODS & WATER FEATURE SECTION
Later this month, Lizzie Sheldon, 10, of Howard City, will be among the first to take part in Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) new Mentored Youth Hunting program.
She plans to head into the woods with her dad, Mark Sheldon, on some private land the family owns near Big Rapids. When she comes out again, she hopes to have a deer in tow.
“I’m hoping to get a whitetail deer,” Lizzie said. “I love venison; we can eat it every year and make jerky.”
Lizzie, the oldest of six children, is home-schooled by her mother, Joannah Sheldon.
“Lizzie’s really excited about the youth hunt,” Joannah said. “So’s her dad. They’ve both been talking about it for months. Mark has always been a hunter and he’s anxious to share that with Lizzie.”
In order to qualify for participation in the youth hunt, Lizzie attended two eight-hour hunter safety classes at the Conservation Club in Howard City.
“Mark took her to those,” Joannah said. “Now she’s got her certificate and is ready to go. I’m glad they’ll be going to our own property in Big Rapids. I wouldn’t have been comfortable with her hunting on state land. I mean, there will be all those other kids out there with guns, too.”
According to Dennis Fox, DNR recruitment and retention section manager, participation in the hunt state-wide is a bit more sluggish than anticipated.
“I believe there have been around 3,200 licenses statewide so far,” Fox said. “The bulk of hunting licenses are sold in November, though; that’s when most hunters buy them. The closer we get to hunting season, the busier we’ll get.
“This is the first year for the youth hunt, so we’re still kind of waiting to see how it goes,” he added.
The youth hunt was instituted last year by the legislature, with the Natural Resources Commission charged with putting the final touches on the program and directing it.
“This fall will be the first season the youth licenses have been available,” Fox said. “We’re very anxious to see how it’s going to work out.”
For Fox, who has six children, the youth hunt is more than just another DNR project. It’s a chance for him to share his fondness for the outdoors with his kids.
“I do everything I can to get them out in the woods,” Fox said. “I’ll be more than happy for them if they harvest a deer, but in the end it’s not really about filling tags, it’s about passing on the knowledge the adults have gained through their experiences. It’s about passing along the heritage.”
That’s a sentiment likely to be shared by many fledgling hunters this season. Lizzie, for one, hopes it takes a little while to find a good deer.
“If I see something, I’ll shoot it,” Lizzie said. “But I might want to wait a day so I can spend more time out there with my dad.”
Mentored youth hunting laws and regulations
• The DNR sells a $7.50 Mentored Youth Hunting license for children ages 9 and under.
• The license is a “package” license that entitles the youth hunter to hunt small game, turkey (spring and fall, any hunt period/location, on private or public land), deer (two tags, any deer); trap furbearers and fish for all species.
• A mentor must be at least 21 years old and have previous hunting experience and possess a current Michigan hunting license.
• A limit of two hunting devices (shotguns, rifles, bows, etc.) per mentor in the field.
• No limit on the number of children a mentor can have with him or her in the field.
• The mentor is responsible for the youth hunter’s actions in the field.
• When handling a hunting device and when in the act of hunting, a youth hunter must be within arm’s length of the mentor at all times.
• The mentor shall ensure the hunting device is properly fitted and appropriately suited for the youth hunter.
• The youth hunter’s deer tags can be used to hunt with archery or crossbow equipment on public or private lands, or with a firearm on private or Commercial Forest lands only.
Source: Michigan Department of Natural Resources
FROM MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES:
DNR’s Mentored Youth Hunting program
If you have treasured childhood memories like these — from time spent in the company of family members or friends who wanted to share their love of the outdoors with you — count yourself lucky. Want to keep that tradition going strong? Good news! The Department of Natural
Resources is proud to offer the new Mentored Youth Hunting program (starting March 1, 2012) for the 2012 hunting season — an easy way for experienced Michigan hunters and anglers to inspire the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts.
The Mentored Youth Hunting program is designed to introduce youth under the age of 10 to hunting and fishing, offering a “package” license for just $7.50. For one low price, youth hunters under the age of 10 will be able to hunt turkey (spring and fall, any hunt period/location, on private or public land), deer (two tags, any deer) and small game, trap furbearers and fish for all species.
By eliminating the minimum hunting age in Michigan, the Mentored Youth Hunting program is geared toward parents and other adult mentors who want to teach children under the age of 10 how to hunt and fish. It lets parents determine if and when their child is ready to hunt.
The Mentored Youth Hunting program is an easy way to introduce children to Michigan’s rich outdoor heritage, teach them about the importance of conserving our state’s unmatched natural resources and help ensure that our hunting tradition continues to thrive. Every license purchased means important funding for wildlife habitat improvement and restoration, wildlife research, programs that provide access for public hunting, hunter safety education and much more.
Learn more about DNR’s Mentored Youth Hunting program online at www.michigan.gov/dnr.