This weekend, the young guns can have a go at whitetails with Kentucky’s early youth deer season.
The Saturday-Sunday season, always the second full weekend of October, Oct. 10-11 this year, is for kids younger than 16. The youngsters get the opportunity of the first firearms deer hunting of the hunting year.
An asterisk of the youth season is that each kid hunter must be accompanied by an adult (at least age 18) overseer, who must stay in position to take immediate control of the junior hunter’s firearm for safety purposes.
A youth hunter’s adult advisor and chaperone can also deer hunt at the time — but only with archery or crossbow gear. No adult accompanying a youth hunter can take a deer via firearm. And frankly, youth hunters are better served if adult overseers just stick to their supervisory roles and let the kids do the deer hunting.
Deer hunting regulations are the same during the youth season as during other firearms season. That includes the mandatory wearing of solid fluorescent (blaze) orange on head, chest and back for the young hunters. The orange attire safety mandate, however, also includes the adult assistants during the youth hunt.
Kentucky’s harvest limits on deer are unchanged this year from the 2019-20 hunting year. They are the same, too, for youth hunters and adults. It varies through four zones, but in counties designated as Zone 1, which includes all our far western counties, there is no limit on antlerless deer but a maximum of just one antlered buck.
In a liberalized change made last year, the basic or youth deer hunting permit allows the taking of as many as four deer. Again, only one can be an antlered buck. In Zone 1, where more antlerless deer may be taken, a hunter can add to the harvest by purchasing an additional antlerless deer permit, each of which is good for two more deer. There is no limit to the number of these additional permits that can be purchased and used.
Youth hunters ages 12-15 must have a youth hunting license and a youth deer permit. Kids younger than 12 can hunt without hunting license or deer permit.
Those junior hunters of 12-15 also are required to carry with them certification of completing an approved hunter education course.
Those who lack this certification have the option of purchasing a one-time hunter education exemption good for one year, available only online from the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife at www.fw.ky.gov.
Kids younger than 12 are not required to have completed a hunter education course. Guidance from required adult overseers is expected to carry them safely through youth season experiences.
While early October deer hunting lacks the advantages of later in the fall when bucks are more active, increasing their movements because of onset of the breeding season or rut, youth hunters are given the edge of being first. The second weekend of October gives the juvenile hunters the benefit of being the initial firearms deer hunters.
With no previous gun season, the youth hunters do not follow any rush of others into the deer woods. Having only a light trickle of earlier archery and/or crossbow hunters out there, the early youth season has the potential advantage of catching whitetails generally undisturbed. Early October deer cannot be expected to be gullible, but they should be less wary than they will be later in the year after a succession of seasons. The youth season coming this weekend means that another set of hunters (of all ages) gets another early shot at whitetails next weekend, in this case, Oct. 17-18. The standard of the weekend starting with the third Saturday brings Kentucky’s early muzzleloading firearms deer season.
This season provides adult hunters their initial opportunity of the year to pursue whitetails with firearms.
Those firearms, however, are limited to rifles, shotguns or handguns of the muzzleloading variety. No breechloading weaponry is allowed in this deer hunting period.
• The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has announced 20 state and federal areas that will be open to junior duck and goose hunters during the downstate South Zone Youth Waterfowl Hunt on Nov. 14-15.
At the designated sites, participants age 17 and younger may hunt ducks, geese, coots and mergansers. Each hunter must be accompanied by an adult to serve as an adviser and assistant. The accompany adult cannot hunt the targeted species but can participate in other open seasons at the time.
Bag limits during the youth hunt are the same as those of regular waterfowl seasons.
Some of the South Zone sites open to youth waterfowlers include Fort Massac’s Kerr Farm Unit, Mermet Lake State Fish & Wildlife Area, Dog Island, the Shawnee National Forest, Horseshoe Lake SFWA in Alexander County, Saline County SFWA and Cache River State Natural Area.
All open areas to youth waterfowl hunting and site-specific information is available on the website www.dnr.illinois.gov under the header for hunting and the Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations 2020-21.