December 07, 2007
WATERBURY, VT -- Nearly 6,500 youth quietly stood watch over Vermont’s fields and woods the first weekend of November, and they were far more successful than they might have realized.
Whether or not a deer emerged from the shadows, the 2007 Youth Deer Weekend was a great success, and by all accounts, this year’s hunt was safe and trouble-free. However, up until this year’s hunt, the State of Vermont could only guess at the hunt’s success at accomplishing one of its primary goals -- recruiting and retaining young hunters. First-in-the nation research now confirms that Vermont’s current youth hunts represent more than an additional opportunity.
“The future of hunting in Vermont is directly related to the continuing participation of young Vermonters in our hunting seasons," said Vermont Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Wayne Laroche. “Now we have information that they are indeed learning to hunt safely and responsibly during the youth weekends, and, as a result, they are hunting more."
The research was conducted by Responsive Management, an internationally-recognized natural resource survey firm, on behalf of the Fish and Wildlife Department. Remarkably, no other state agency had evaluated youth hunts, despite their rising popularity across the country. The survey measured current youth hunters, past youth hunters and the general hunting population to gauge the effectiveness of the youth deer, turkey and waterfowl weekend hunts at meeting their recruitment and retention goals.
The results are clear. Current youth hunters, past youth hunters and their mentors were highly satisfied with their experiences, and this is translating into an increased desire to hunt in the future. Perhaps most telling was that for the majority (69) of youth hunters, the youth hunting weekend represented their first time hunting.
“This is not surprising,” says Mark Scott, Education Manager. “By design, the youth weekend hunts reinforce the route of initiation that other social research suggests is critical in recruitment -- through the family.”
In addition, the study indicates high support among Vermont hunters for the youth hunts with 87 of all the hunters surveyed supporting Vermont’s youth hunts, even if they thought the hunts were impacting their chance of success. However, concerns that youths are racking up the deer before they hit sixteen years-old proved unfounded. The majority (61) of youth hunters hunt only one or two youth deer weekends, and most (75) fail to get a deer.
Another common concern about the youth deer weekend is that some mentors are killing the deer for the youth. A number of respondents, though not the majority, agreed that is occurring. However, only a handful – two percent – of those surveyed had actually witnessed this occurring in field. This suggests the problem exists but not at the frequency most suspect.
“We take these incidents seriously and will investigate them with the same energy and determination as any other wildlife crime,” said Commissioner Laroche. “We want these youth hunts to be exemplary models of behavior for our new hunters.”
Regardless of whether illegal activity during the youth hunts is real or perceived, it is not impacting support for youth hunts. The survey found little could impact support, even if the results had found that the youth hunts had no value as recruitment tool. Vermonters like the state’s present youth hunts.
For the complete Youth Hunting Report, go to www.vtfishandwildlife.com. In the Library Section, click on “Reports and Documents” and then “Hunting and Trapping.”
Source: Agency of Natural Resources
Last Updated at: December 07, 2007 09:00:29