REGIONAL— The traditional mid-October break from school, known as MEA weekend, has long been a great time for young people in the North Country to spend time in the outdoors. Starting this year, …
REGIONAL— The traditional mid-October break from school, known as MEA weekend, has long been a great time for young people in the North Country to spend time in the outdoors. Starting this year, however, they’ll have a new reason to head to the woods from Oct. 17- Oct. 20.
The first annual youth deer season, recently approved by the Minnesota Legislature, is a four-day special firearms deer season designed specifically to allow young people to learn the ropes of deer hunting during a great time of year.
Youth ages 10-17 qualify to take part in the hunt, although there are a number of rules that apply. Young hunters ages 10-13 must be accompanied by an adult mentor at all times during their hunt. The adult need not be licensed. Older kids can hunt on their own, but they must have a firearms safety certificate or apprentice hunter validation to do so. They must also have a valid deer permit. For young people between the ages of 10-12, the license is free.
The usual requirements for wearing blaze colors apply to youth hunters, as is the case with all deer hunters. Party hunting is not allowed during the youth hunt and young people must tag their own deer. The bag limit is one.
“This is a neat opportunity,” said Tower Area DNR wildlife manager Tom Rusch. “At that time of year, the deer are undisturbed and you can’t beat the potential for great weather. The leaves are generally down and the hunt can really focus on the kids, rather than the usual deer camp experience.”
The youth hunting season has been available in some parts of Minnesota in recent years, but this is the first time the hunt will be offered throughout the state. It comes at a time when DNR officials and many hunters’ organizations are working to encourage young people to take part in traditional outdoor pursuits, like hunting and fishing.
“The hunter recruitment part of this is huge,” said Rusch. “It’s about getting them involved in deer hunting at an early age. And it’s nice to give them the experience when the weather is likely to be warmer.”
Youth hunters who are unsuccessful during the youth hunt will still have the opportunity to fill their tag during the regular firearms season, which kicks off Nov. 9 in northeastern Minnesota and runs through Nov. 24.