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As hunters take time to prepare for upcoming seasons, Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe is encouraging adults to promote the state’s hunting and trapping heritage by introducing youngsters to the great outdoors during the variety of mentored youth and junior hunting seasons.

A list of mentored youth and junior seasons and requirements for the various opportunities are outlined on page 15 of the 2008-09 Pennsylvania Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations, which is provided to each license buyer. A complete copy of the Digest also is posted on the agency’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) in the center of the homepage.

“Part of the Game Commission’s overall vision is to promote our state’s rich hunting and trapping heritage,” Roe said. “The future of hunting and trapping is directly related to the continuing participation of young Pennsylvanians in our hunting and furtaking seasons. The challenge is to successfully compete with all the other activities and recreational opportunities that vie for a young person’s time. It won’t be easy for the Game Commission or Pennsylvania’s more than a million hunters. But the future of wildlife conservation – and the $4.8 billion economic impact hunters provide to the state annually – is directly related to hunter recruitment.”

Those youth under the age of 12 were permitted to begin hunting groundhogs July 1, as part of the Mentored Youth Hunting Program, which is in its third year.

“Results from the 2007 Game Take Survey – the first year of the Mentored Youth Hunting Program – indicated strong participation by adult mentors and youth,” Roe said. “Based on the results, 32,913 adult hunters mentored 43,780 youth. Those youth reported harvesting 36,361 woodchucks and 52,788 squirrels.

“The 2008 Game Take Survey showed increased participation, as 50,851 adult hunters mentored 58,377 youth. Those youth reported harvesting 52,114 woodchucks, 61,160 squirrels, 5,199 antlered deer and 3,496 spring gobblers.”

Under the program, a mentor is defined as a properly licensed individual at least 21 years of age, who serves as a guide to a youth while engaged in hunting or related activities, such as scouting, learning firearm or hunter safety and wildlife identification. A mentored youth is an unlicensed individual less than 12 years of age who is accompanied by a mentor while engaged in hunting or related activities.

The regulations require that the mentor-to-mentored youth ratio be one-to-one, and that the pair possesses only one sporting arm when hunting. While moving, the sporting arm must be carried by the mentor. When the pair reaches a stationary hunting location, the mentor may turn over possession of the sporting arm to the youth and must keep the youth within arm’s length at all times.

The Mentored Youth Hunting Program does not require the youth purchase any license or pass a Hunter-Trapper Education course. Mentored youth can participate in any legal season for woodchucks (groundhogs), and antlered deer, as well as squirrels and spring gobbler, including the youth-only seasons.

Mentored youth can abide by the same antler restrictions as junior license holders, which is an antler at least three inches in length or one antler with at least two points. Mentored youth can participate in season in which antlered deer are legal, which are: the archery deer season (Oct. 4-Nov. 15), the firearms deer season (Dec. 1-13) and the late flintlock muzzleloader season (Dec. 26-Jan. 12). However, as mentored youth are not permitted to harvest antlerless deer, they may not participate in the three-day firearms deer season, Oct. 23-25, as that season is for antlerless deer only.

The Mentored Youth Hunting Program also requires that both the mentor and the youth must abide by any fluorescent orange regulations, and that the mentored youth must tag and report any antlered deer or spring gobbler taken by making and attaching a tag that contains his or her name, address, date, WMU, township, and county where it was taken. A sample of the field tag to be used by mentored youth is available on page 33 of the Digest. The youth must submit a harvest report card, which also is available on page 33 of the Digest, within five days for any antlered deer or gobbler he or she takes.

Starting on Saturday, Sept. 20, young hunters – age 12-15 years old – are able to take part in a special day of waterfowl hunting. Later this year is the “youth only days” at the Middle Creek and Pymatuning controlled waterfowl hunting areas. The Middle Creek day is Saturday, Nov. 15. The Pymatuning day is Saturday, Nov. 29.

For more information on the waterfowl seasons and bag limits, visit the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), and click on “Waterfowl Brochure” in the “Quick Clicks” box in the right-hand corner of the homepage.

Youth between the ages of 12-16 may participate in junior squirrel and pheasant hunts Oct. 11-17. Under the junior squirrel and pheasant hunts, participants are not required to purchase a junior hunting license, but they must pass 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. Also, all bag limits apply, including areas for harvesting male and female pheasants.

On Oct. 11, a number of sportsmen’s clubs from across Pennsylvania will host junior pheasant hunts for youth. As part of these hunts, club members will provide specific instructions on pheasant hunting, and many of the clubs have either purchased pheasants from private breeders to release for their hunts or will share in nearly 1,500 birds provided by the Game Commission for junior pheasant hunts. Also, prior to the junior pheasant hunt, the Game Commission will release 15,000 pheasants on public lands throughout the state. Details on where these birds will be stocked are included on pages 26-28 of the Digest.

Information about the junior pheasant season is posted on the website (www.pgc.state.pa.us). Choose the “Hunting” section in the left-hand column of the homepage, then click on the pheasant photo and select “Junior Pheasant Hunt Listing” or “Junior Pheasant Stocking Locations.” (Also, please see the first article in this news release.)

“These junior seasons take into account that students are off school on Saturday, Oct. 11, and most are off on Monday, Oct. 13, the Columbus Day holiday, as well,” Roe said. “The remainder of the junior squirrel and pheasant seasons takes place before the change of daylight savings time. This gives students an opportunity to go home after school and have two hours or so to hunt, which is a long-standing tradition in many rural parts of the state.”

In addition to the Mentored Youth Hunting Program and junior waterfowl, squirrel and pheasant hunts, other youth events created by the Game Commission include: a youth spring gobbler season, initiated in 2004; special antlerless deer harvesting opportunities, created in 1998 and expanded in 2001; and youth field days, established in the early 1990s.

Facts about the Pennsylvania Game Commission: Did you know that Pennsylvania was the first state to adopt a Mentored Youth Hunting Program as part of the national “Families Afield” initiative. In Pennsylvania, the legislation to give the Game Commission the authority to create the MYHP was spearheaded by representatives from the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF); the Pennsylvania Chapter of the NWTF; the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs; the United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania; Central Counties Concerned Sportsmen; the National Rifle Association (NRA); Kline Associates; Quality Deer Management Association; and the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance.