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26
HARRISBURG - Although the 2004 youth pheasant hunt is several months away - Oct. 9 and 11 - Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Vern Ross wants to remind hunting clubs that they have until Saturday to register to host a mentored youth pheasant hunt and become eligible to receive agency-raised pheasants for their event.
"The future of hunting is related directly to the continuing participation of young Pennsylvanians in our hunting seasons," Ross noted. "The goal is to make hunting a priority among all the other activities and recreational opportunities that vie for a teenager's time. It's truly a challenge for the game commission, as well as Pennsylvania's more than a million hunters.

"To maximize this opportunity for young hunters, and to ensure we pass along the ethics and ideals of our hunting heritage, the game commission and Pheasants Forever urge local clubs to consider hosting a mentored youth pheasant hunt for the young people in their community."

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Those clubs interested in hosting a mentored youth pheasant hunt are asked to use the 26-page planning guide prepared by the Game commission and the Pennsylvania State Chapter of Pheasants Forever.

The applications to register a mentored youth pheasant hunt and request pheasants for stocking can be found on pages 14 and 15.

The booklet offers a step-by-step guide on how to develop an organized mentored youth pheasant hunt, and includes a sample timeline, suggested committees and assignments, general event planning considerations and several sample forms and news releases. It also includes event evaluation guides so clubs and organizations can consider changes for future mentored youth pheasant hunts.

The manual can be viewed on the Game commission's Web site ( www.pgc.state.pa.us), by clicking on "Youth Pheasant Hunt," and then selecting "Planning Guide" in the links section. In addition to the planning guide, the Youth Pheasant Hunt section features a listing of locations that the Game commission plans to stock for youth pheasant hunts, and, starting this fall, a listing of all the mentored youth pheasant hunts that are being hosted by local hunting clubs.

To participate in the youth pheasant hunt, youngsters must be 12 to 16 years of age, and must have successfully completed a Hunter-Trapper Education course. As required by law, an adult must accompany the young hunters. Participating hunters do not need to purchase a junior hunting license in order to take part in the youth pheasant hunt, but all participants must wear the mandatory 250 square inches of fluorescent orange material on head, chest and back combined, visible from 360 degrees.

To bolster the youth pheasant hunt, the Game commission again plans to stock pheasants prior to the two-day hunt. The agency will release 18,000 birds on land open to public hunting. These areas are identified on pages 26-29 of the 2004-2005 Pennsylvania Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations.

The agency will provide an additional 2,000 birds on a first-come, first-served basis to those clubs and organizations that sign up and get approved before July 31.

The only two stipulations to be eligible for clubs to receive Game commission birds are that these hunts must have registration open to the public and must be held on lands open to public hunting.

Additionally, to maximize potential participation, the game commission will post on its Web site all planned hunts.

"Holding concurrent youth seasons for squirrels and ring-necked pheasants will offer variety to youths who participate in these small game-hunting opportunities," Ross said. "The state's long-standing two-pheasant daily bag limit will apply to junior hunters participating in the season. In addition, depending on the area they are hunting, juniors will be required to comply with restrictions on hunting male or female pheasants."

Other recent game commission initiatives to promote youth hunting opportunities include an expanded youth squirrel hunt, a youth spring gobbler hunt, a youth waterfowl hunt, special antlerless deer hunts, and youth field day events.

Also, as part of the license fee increase approved in 1998, the General Assembly created a junior combination license that packages regular license privileges with archery, flintlock and furtaking opportunities for $9, compared to $39 if the necessary licenses were purchased separately.

Pheasants Forever is a national non-profit habitat conservation organization with a system of hard working local chapter volunteers dedicated to the protection and enhancement of pheasants and other wildlife populations.

Pheasants Forever emphasizes habitat improvement, public awareness and education, and land management policies that benefit private landowners and wildlife alike. For more information, visit its Web site at www.pheasantsforever.org, or contact Mike Pruss, state chapter president, at mpruss@pheasantsforever.org.

- Pennsylvania Game Commission

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