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Youth Hunting Seasons

By Jim Collins 10/03/2004

One of the neatest things to do in all of my outdoor activities is to take a youth hunting, fishing or hiking. The rewards are worth the time to give to a boy or girl and teach them some of the things you know.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission has set up several Youth Hunting Seasons for an adult to take a youngster hunting. The youth squirrel season will be Oct. 9-15. The youth pheasant hunt will take place Oct. 9 and 11. Age limits are ages 12 through 16. Since Oct. 9 is a Saturday, youths will not have school. Monday, October 11th is Columbus Day, another school holiday. Since the rest of the week offers at least a few hours of hunting time after school, youths can take advantage of the entire week to hunt squirrels.
The rules are that youths are not required to purchase a junior hunting license. However, they must have passed a Hunter-Trapper Education course. As with all junior hunting, those participants 12- and 13-years old must be accompanied by a parent, guardian or other family member 18 years or older, and those 14- and 15-years old must be accompanied by a person 18 years or older. Youth hunters age 16 may hunt within adult supervision.
A great gift for a youth would be to receive their first hunting license as a gift from an adult. I know many folks who do just that.
The idea behind these hunts of course is to introduce young folks to the sport of hunting. Did you know that nationally, only 7 percent of our population is composed of hunters? Pennsylvania has lost hundreds of thousands of hunters in the last 30 years. I remember reading an article in the 1970's that Pennsylvania had 1.3 million folks, including non-residents, afield for the first day of buck deer season. I remember also that the article stated that more folks were in Penn's woods that first day than were on active duty in all the branches of the military of the United States.
Today, that hunter total in Pennsylvania is closer to 900,000. Without youth hunters coming into our ranks, in time there will just be a small bunch of older hunters. It is just like a church. Without a youth program; that church is dying. We have all seen that.
There is usually an abundance of squirrels for any hunter. Starting a kid out hunting squirrels makes great sense to me. I took a lad out two years ago on his first hunt in the summer for woodchucks. Then we went again in the youth squirrel season. We also went fishing in the afternoon. Quite an enjoyable day for both of us.
I remember being able to give Nathan some pointers on squirrel hunting and wildlife identification as we sat mostly for squirrels. He did very well on bluegills and crappies too. You might be surprised at all the knowledge you have to give to a youngster.
The Game Commission is stocking several State Game Lands sites with pheasants for the youth pheasant. There are three sites in Bradford County. You can find the entire listing for the state on pages 26-29 of the Pennsylvania Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations; or you can go on the Game Commission website
In addition, 30 sportsmen's clubs will get birds to stock for their mentored youth hunts. I do not know if we have any clubs in our area. It should be noted that bag limits of six squirrels and two pheasants apply. Also, the rules apply in the appropriate areas of the state for harvesting cock and hen pheasants.
I give the Game Commission a "well done" on the youth hunt idea.
Did you know that there is also a youth waterfowl hunt initiated in 1996; antlerless deer harvesting opportunities initiated in 1998 and expanded in 2000? Also, a youth spring turkey hunt was initiated in 2004 with much success.
We will have a future column devoted to that subject in March 2005.

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