Department of Fish and Wildlife
Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Taking a youth hunting creates memorable experiences
FRANKFORT, Ky. – She sits on a plastic bucket
in a field with her toy wooden gun, admiring the caterpillars and butterflies, while
her father waits alongside and hopes for doves to fly into shotgun range.
They are creating
a memory and nurturing a seed planted a couple of years ago. She was 3 then and
her dad had taken a deer during the modern gun season. Seeing the harvested
animal up close intrigued her.
The daughter may
decide when she is older that it would be more fun to participate than watch.
If that’s the case, and her parents agree she’s ready, little stands in her
Each fall, Kentucky
offers youth hunters special opportunities to take deer, doves, elk,
furbearers, waterfowl and, now, bears. A hunter is considered a youth if they
are age 15 or under at the time of the hunt.
everyone to take a kid out hunting this fall,” said Steve Beam, Wildlife
Division director for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “We
have some amazing opportunities for our kids out there.”
Among the most
popular is the statewide youth-only firearms deer season that runs for two
consecutive days starting the second Saturday in October. This year, the dates
are Oct. 10 and 11. The appropriate hunting license and deer permits are
required, and all other zone restrictions and hunter requirements apply. Most
of the state’s Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) are open for this special deer
hunting opportunity for youth hunters, including some of the most sought-after
locations, Beam said.
years building preference points to draw the quota hunts on places like Big
Rivers and Ballard,” he said, “but if you have a child who wants to deer hunt
there, just load them in the car and head that way for the October youth deer
A new youth-only
bear season coincides with the free youth weekend for deer, which this year is
scheduled for Dec. 26 and 27. The youth-only bear season harvest quota is five
bears of either sex. A hunting license and bear permit is required. The
seven-day free youth hunting and trapping week also starts the Saturday after
Christmas. It represents a great opportunity to mentor young hunters and
trappers. Furbearers may be hunted or trapped and small game hunters may pursue
rabbits, quail, grouse and squirrels.
hunting in general is a good place to start with youth hunters,” Beam said.
“You don’t have to go on an all-day hunt in winter weather. Get out and have a
good time, bring home a few squirrels and make some dumplings.”
Children under the
age of 16 are not required to have licenses, permits or hunter education
certification during the Free Youth Weekend for deer and the Free Youth Hunting
and Trapping Week.
Outside of these
special opportunities, any hunter born on or after Jan. 1, 1975 must carry a valid
hunter education card or hunter education exemption permit while hunting. Pre-registration
must be done on the department’s website (fw.ky.gov) in order to receive the orange hunter education card.
“Right now is the
peak time to try to get into a Hunter Education class,” said Jamie Cook, Hunter’s
Legacy program coordinator for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “It allows plenty of
time for the card to be processed and the students to have their card in hand
before they go into the field. It takes at least three weeks for their cards to
Children must be
at least 9 years old to take the hunter education exam, but aren’t required to
take the course until they are 12 years old.
Small game and
furbearer hunters under 12 who do not have a hunter education card must hunt
with an adult regardless of the hunting method. Youth hunters age 15 and under also
must hunt alongside an adult if using a firearm to hunt deer, bear, turkey and elk
(if drawn). In both cases, the adult must be in a position to take immediate
control of the youth’s firearm or bow.
Taking a child
along during a regular, non-youth specific season can be a special experience,
too. Often, being there can be just as much fun as letting them be the hunter.
It’s also an opportunity to stress hunter safety and ethics.
“It is so
important that we pass on our heritage and legacy,” Beam said. “On a more
fundamental level, it is my personal philosophy that people need to know where
our food comes from. We are more likely to value soil health, clean water and
healthy wild habitat if we make that direct link to our kitchen table. Whether
we are growing tomatoes in the back yard or harvesting a deer and making a
burger, we are actively participating in that link to the earth, and our
children make that connection.”
Before taking a youth
hunter afield this fall, consult the department’s website and the Kentucky Hunting
and Trapping Guide, available online and wherever licenses are sold. These
resources detail special youth hunting opportunities, general hunting seasons,
public lands information and more.