It's been 16 years since I drove to Pike County on a crisp Saturday morning in October and took part in one of DNR's Youth Deer Hunts. I'd like to say I was participating as a "youth," but the truth is I was covering it for the newspaper in Springfield.
The program, which led to other youth hunts in the state, is still doing what it does best – educate boys and girls about deer hunting.
Originally, the hunt was restricted to specific sites and would handle only a limited number of youth hunters. These days, it is open to most of the state (except for a few counties that are listed below).
As budget problems hit the state and DNR in recent years, there have been rumors of stalling the program or cutting back. Little had been said about the hunt, and I was beginning to wonder if the rumors were based on fact.
Alas, DNR announced today that the 2012 Illinois Youth Firearm Deer Hunt is scheduled for Oct. 6-7. It again is open to those who have not reached their 16th birthday by the first day of the hunt. Youth Deer Permits are available over-the-counter at DNR license vendors throughout the state. Hunters may purchase only one permit (either-sex) for one of the open counties and all participating youths must have completed an IDNR-approved Hunter Education course.
All Illinois counties except Cook, DuPage and Lake Counties, and the portion of Kane County east of State Route 47, are open for the youth deer season. Hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise on to one-half hour after sunset. The bag limit is one deer per legally authorized permit. All either-sex permits are subject to the following restrictions: no hunter, regardless of the quantity or type of permits in his/her possession, may harvest more than two (2) antlered deer during a year, including the youth, archery, muzzleloader and firearm seasons.
Successful youth hunters must register their harvest by 10 p.m. on the same calendar day the deer is taken by calling the toll-free telephone check-in system at 1-866-ILCHECK, or by accessing the online check-in system at www.dnr.illinois.gov/vcheck. They will be provided with a confirmation number to verify that they checked in their harvest.
For more details on the Youth Hunt, visit www.dnr.illinois.gov/hunting/deer.