The number of deer taken during the archery season is up 23 percent in Ohio. That's in the first month-and-a-half of the season compared to the same period last year. This weekend, hunters under the age of 18 can start using guns. For Ohio Public Radio, Michael Locklear reports.
It’s the third year Gary Comer, Jr. is going to take his son on this special weekend of hunting before gun season starts for other Ohio hunters.
COMER: “The first year we went, he was successful in shooting a tree. He missed a nice buck. It was a good lesson for him. He got excited, and we had a really good time, saw a lot of deer, and that was when he was nine.”
Comer works for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife. That’s the state agency that oversees the youth deer-gun season, which is in its 10th year.
Karen Norris is also with the agency and says there are a few options for children who want to hunt. They can take a test.
NORRIS: “But if you do have a child that might be interested in going deer hunting this weekend, and they haven’t been able to take their hunter education course, they can get a youth apprentice license, which means that they can go out into the field and go hunting legally as long as they are with a licensed non-hunting adult.”
Norris admits the rules can get confusing. That’s why the ODNR has a website and a hotline to help folks understand hunting regulations.
Erica Walsh oversees the call center, which is open year-round. But the hours you can call are longer during gun season, and about half a dozen employees are on hand to field questions while youth are hunting this weekend.
WALSH: “They have questions regarding the different zones, how many deer they can take in those zones, what type of deer permit they need.”
Youth deer-gun season is an important recruitment tool as the population of hunters decreases. That’s according to Comer whose son killed a doe last year.
COMER: “It doesn’t matter if it’s a boy or a girl, a nephew, granddaughter, grandson, niece. It’s really important, I think, as a hunter and a mentor, to get those youth out there, and I think this is a very good way to spend some quality time.”
Youth hunters killed nearly 9,000 deer in Ohio during the two-day season last year. Adult hunters can start using guns on the Monday after Thanksgiving.