South Carolina – Private landowners cooperating with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) hosted 10 special youth deer hunts in the Upstate during 2013. Fifty-five youth attended these hunts and 5 deer were killed. These hunts were conducted in Cherokee, Laurens, Spartanburg and Union counties and there is no cost to attend these special hunts. The hosts accommodating youth deer hunters on their properties during 2013 are listed below:
Host – Area – County
Benji Peterson – Broken Arrow Hunt Club – Cherokee
Chip Brownlee – Brownlee Farm – Laurens
Steve Johnson – Johnson Farm – Laurens
Chris Grant – The Clinton House Plantation – Laurens
Tommy Eubanks – Horseshoe Falls Hunt Club – Spartanburg
Greg Jones – Ten Point Hunt Club – Spartanburg
Bryan Yelton – Yelton Farm – Spartanburg
Steve Koskela – Laura Lyn Farm – Union
Bob Jeter – Chufa Ridge Farm – Union
Terry Shockley – Trophy Buck Hunt Club – Union
All the youth hunts but one was conducted on Saturday afternoons. One hunt was cancelled because of heavy rain but the host offered the six youth at that hunt an opportunity to come deer hunting on any morning or afternoon of their choice prior to the close of deer season. Youth attending these hunts must be 17 years of age or under and must be accompanied by an adult. Young hunters are selected for these hunts because they generally have no one to take them hunting or because of their limited hunting experience.
ATDO Ministries provides a brief devotion and a barbecue lunch at each hunt. Firearms safety, deer biology, sportsmanship and ethics are discussed prior to going to the rifle range where each youngster shoots their firearm. Youngsters get into their deer stand with their father or whoever brings them to the hunt by mid-afternoon and they hunt until dark. Most of the kids who take a deer at these hunts indicate that it was their first deer.
In the South and most rural regions of our country, hunting is a long, established tradition and it’s difficult for many of those people to imagine that hunting could ever end. However, today only about five percent of the nation’s population buys a hunting license. Hunters as a group are a very small minority and fewer young people are getting into hunting each year. Many kids that grow up in urban areas or in non-hunting families may never have an opportunity to experience the thrill and excitement that hunting can offer.
As our older generation gets too old to hunt or passes away, today’s youth must be available to take their place. With a trend of declining youth participation over time, hunting could very well die a natural death from lack of interest. If hunting is to survive as we know it now, more non-hunting youngsters need to be exposed to hunting. The goal of these youth deer hunts is to show more youngsters who do not have a hunting connection or have limited hunting opportunities that deer hunting is an exciting, challenging and fun sport. We want to give more kids an opportunity to try hunting and see if it is something they may like and want to pursue. The hosts of these special youth deer hunts are doing their part and are making a meaningful contribution toward helping to ensure the future of our hunting tradition.