We all know where the future of hunting lies, but if you have any doubts about how hunting can impact the life of a young boy or girl, just take a close look at the expressions on their faces when they are posing with a deer, turkey or other game they have just shot.
The words proud, happy, successful, admiration, thankfulness and much more are written all over their faces, and in every event where a young boy or girl has gone hunting, whether they shot anything or not, much of the credit goes to an adult who not only understands the importance of introducing a young person to hunting but also puts that understanding in motion.
With that thought in mind, it nevertheless surprises me when an adult hunter with children tell me they know little or nothing about Texas Special Youth Only hunting seasons. Fortunately, however, the tide seems to be changing.
For those not familiar with the special youth seasons, they were established in 1997 so people age 16 and younger could hunt deer the weekend prior to the opening of the general firearms season as well as the weekend following the closing of the general season.
Colby Shaw with his Rusk County buck. Photo: Bob Hood
The special youth seasons were expanded in 1998 by adding special seasons for turkey and quail along the same lines. In more recent years, a special Youth Only season for youths age 15 and under has been held for ducks and other waterfowl.
The deer seasons held in 2012 will long be remembered by many of the almost 144,000 hunters who purchased Youth Only hunting licenses for that season as well as those who continued to hunt during the general season, but few have more to remember about it than Colby Shaw, 15, of Overton, Susan Muncrief, 9, of Pineland, and William Evans, 15, of Fort Worth. They each shot bucks you probably only dreamed about.
Colby Shaw was hunting with his dad, Jeremy Shaw, on opening day of the 2012 Youth Only season in late October from a homemade blind made by curling a piece of cattle paneling into a half-moon shape and wrapping it with camo netting. They were hunting on a 40-acre tract near Overton in Rusk County and had poured a pile of corn on the ground about 60 yards from the blind.
Although Colby has hunted previous seasons, he still was looking for his first deer. His opportunity came when a big buck emerged from the nearby woods about 60 yards from their blind. Colby shot the buck with his .25-06 Savage. The buck ran, leaving no blood trail, but the shot had been well placed, and the buck went only a short distance before going down.
"I knew it was a big buck the moment I saw it but I didnt realize just how big it was until we began pulling the pine needles off the antlers where it fell," Jeremy Shaw said. "It had 20 points with a 19-inch spread and grossed 216 B&C points, 202-7/8 green net."
William Evans had much more time to anticipate a chance to shoot a big Throckmorton County buck that he and his dad, Mike Evans, had spotted bedded down about 500 yards from their ground blind in a big mesa overlooking a creek and a feeder.
"We spotted the buck bedded down in a dry creek bed and watched him there from about 3:30-4:30 p.m., " Mike Evans said. You could only see its horns glimmering in the sunlight. At 4:30, the deer got up and ran away from us. When we saw the body and its big horns, it took the wind out of our sails."
The buck, however, was not gone. It showed up about 6 p.m. right in front of the Evans at a rub. Using a single-shot, break-open .243 ordered for him a year earlier by Robert Cantrell of Texas Outdoors in Fort Worth, William dropped the buck in its tracks. It scored 145 B&C points.
"William has been hunting since he was four years old but has only been big enough to shoot a rifle since he was nine and shot a smaller deer a year ago with the break-open .243," Evans said.
Susan Muncriefs buck involved patience past hunting guidance and even some family team effort that resulted in the nine-year-olds fourth, and largest, deer she has taken in the last four years.
Opening day of the 2012 Youth Only season near her home at Pineland, Susan and her dad went to the oat field for an evening hunt. At about 4:30 p.m., a big buck emerged into the field, obviously in the rut and trying to scent a doe.
Susan shot the deer with a .22-250, but it did not immediately go down and left no visible blood sign. After a brief stint of tracking, trailing, and searching, they found it at the edge of a creek."
Susans buck sported 10 heavy points and scored 150-1/8 gross B&C points.
Yes, these young hunters have a lot of things to remember about their first hunts, and it has involved more than just how to aim a rifle and pull a trigger. Their parents said they are instilling hunting safety, wildlife conservation, hunting ethics and the multitude of other ingredients that define a responsible hunter into their trips outdoors with children. What about you?