Nothing in this world is more important than family. Some of us are fortunate in that we are made aware of this early in life and we learn to enjoy all that comes with a close knit family. Others must go through at least part of our lives before learning how important this is.
There are all kinds of families of course, your close immediate family, you may be fortunate enough to have a family at work, at your church, or through some group or organization such as a brotherhood in the military. We look forward to seeing these families, getting together with them and we know we can count on them for help when we need it.
There is in my mind at least another family which many of us hail from but probably don’t think about, and that is the family of outdoorsmen and sportsmen and women, its hunters, fishermen, shooters and others that walk the wild places on this rock.
I was reminded of all this as I made my way to the site of the annual Youth Day antlerless deer hunt being held near Gap Mills, West Virginia. This is at least the third year for me to attend this event through the kind invitation of the Division of Natural Resources Law Enforcement (WVDNR) from District Four in Beckley, West Virginia.
Several states now feature special youth hunt days during various seasons. Last week, October 20 th , a one day youth hunt for antlerless deer was held in West Virginia. I am proud to say the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources sponsored an event for young hunters, ages 8-17 to go deer hunting. Many of these young people may not have had the opportunity to go hunting if not for this event.
As you might imagine the planning and logistics to make something like this happen is extensive. Transporting the young hunters to and from the hunt, taking care of Hunter Education requirements, conducting gun safety lessons and allowing for time to be spent on the shooting range are a just of the few many items that had to be taken care of. It’s all part of being a hunting mentor and helping a young hunter get started, it’s all part of what a family does.
Fourteen young hunters participated this year. The crowd of DNR Law Enforcement Officers, Wildlife Biologists, and many local volunteers were more than up to the task and everything ran like clockwork. This was more than just a deer hunt, the youngsters learned about hunter safety, marksmanship, and heard inspirational talks from several speakers one of which was Sgt. Chris Lester.
“We want you to have a good hunt and have fun here,” Sgt. Lester told the eager crowd of new hunters. “This is something you will remember for the rest of your life, we also want you to have a good and productive life and this is done by making good choices now, at this time in your life so you will not have to deal with the consequences of making bad choices. You will hear a lot today about ethics and making ethical choices while hunting. It’s the same in life, making good and ethical choices will result in you having a good life.” The fourteen young hunters spent the morning on the shooting range sighting in and become familiar with the rifle they would use this day under the watchful eyes of Officers Josh Toner and Gabe Wood followed by some very informative talk on hunter safety concerns. Then it was off to what many consider the best part of any family event, food! Lunch was served courtesy of the Kalico Kitchen, a local restaurant, and after that it was time for everyone to hit the woods.
Again, this endeavor takes a lot of planning and this was greatly aided this year by the formation of a new group, West Virginia Youth Hunt, led by Larry Burwell, the president of the organization and James Bradley Jr., the treasurer, both from Monroe County. These two men worked very diligently to provide resources and talk to sponsors whether individuals or businesses in the area, and were able to take care of all the supplies and funds needed to make the event a success. These resources are crucial to the event and include meals, snacks, hunting gear, and firearms for the young hunters to use. Each of the participants received a nice day pack with various hunting gear inside including a set of binoculars. Once the hunters were in their respective blinds just how much help their hunting family members would help them came to light. Each hunter was accompanied by at least two adult helpers, DNR Officers, Wildlife Biologist or Manager, or other woods wise volunteers. These people assisted the new hunters in many ways, how to sit quietly and wait for a deer, how to correctly position the rifle when it came time for a shot, how to wait for the right time to shoot, and revealing the many mysteries young hunters often have with field dressing a deer. It’s all part of it and that’s part of what family does, help the younger members learn skills needed to succeed in life.
As afternoon passed into evening those of us who waited listened intently for shots from distant ridges. When those shots came and the call was made to come and pick up a successful hunter I found wide smiles all around, the young hunter standing proudly with his first deer as well as the family members that helped him. Fourteen new hunters showed up for this event, fourteen young people took a whitetail deer, you can’t ask for more than that.
I am always leery of the risky business of thanking everyone involved on such an undertaking. Usually I will forget someone but this time the sheer amount of businesses and individuals that contributed to this hunt make naming everyone impossible if only for space considerations. I will have to say that were it not for the WVDNR Officers and other volunteers providing all of their time and hard work the Youth Day hunt would not be possible, a special thanks to Governor Jim Justice for providing access to his Stoney Brook Farm, an absolutely beautiful place with lots of deer.
So there you have it, no big deal really, just a large family getting together and going deer hunting. While they are doing it they teach the younger generation a lot of great life skills, making good choices, the ethical taking of wild game to feed your family, and all while enjoying the great outdoors.
What is that I always tell my brothers in camo? Take a kid hunting!