Hopewell, N.Y. — Meghan Geer was about ready to call it a morning as she and her dad Earl started out of the woods.
Instead, she’s now calling it a memory of a hunting lifetime.
The 14-year-old Canandaigua High School sophomore shot her first deer ever, a 3-point buck, on the second morning of New York’s second-ever youth deer hunt, held again this year over the Columbus Day weekend (Oct. 12-14).
“We were walking home and I was actually getting ready to unload my gun when I saw it coming over a little hill,” she said. “I looked up and he was right there. I shot and he didn’t go far at all.”
Meghan used a scoped 20-gauge shotgun to harvest her first deer – a day after missing a crack at a 6-point buck.
“I shot right over him,” she said.
Her story was one of several hunting successes during the three-day youth hunt for 14- and 15-year-olds. DEC officials are calling the hunt a success again this year, with a harvest similar to last season, when an estimated 1,411 whitetails were taken, including 744 bucks.
“The harvest was pretty much on par with last year,” DEC wildlife biologist Jeremy Hurst said last week. “We have about 700 reported harvests at this point. Based on license sale numbers, there seemed to be a larger group of eligible youth hunters this year, but it’s hard to gauge participation from the field. You can see a car or trucked parked somewhere, but they could be hunting so much this time of year (turkeys, small game, waterfowl and archery deer).”
Joseph Venditti of Staten Island traveled to his family’s property in Sanford (Broome County) to harvest his first deer, a 7-point buck taken while hunting with his father, Anthony.
“This is a great thing the state has done,” Anthony Venditti said. “I’ve been taking Joseph along hunting with me since he was little, and he loves it.”
Joseph Venditti said he and his dad hunted Saturday morning and saw two does that didn’t present a shot. Heading out to their setup in the afternoon, they never made it all the way.
“We were just walking to our setup, walking up the trail when we saw him,” he said. “My dad loaded my gun and handed it to me, and I made the shot from about 60 yards. It all happened in about five minutes.”
Joseph downed the buck with one shot from his Marlin 30-30 rifle. He owns a bow as well but is “still learning” with that implement.
“I really like it, and the youth hunt is fun,” he said.
Hurst said the youth hunt “provides an opportunity for the younger hunter but also allows the mentor a specific time when they can focus on taking out a kid on a designated weekend. We’ve had largely positive reports and continue to hear stories from successful and unsuccessful hunters.”
This year’s youth hunt was held without the confusion that clouded last season’s inaugural hunt and left many sportsmen unaware of the new offering.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo actually paved the way for the 2012 youth hunt by delaying action on legislation relating to crossbow use. That bill carried with it a clause that would have prohibited the use of firearms during the regular archery season.
Cuomo’s intentional inaction on the bill cleared the way for the youth hunt, and DEC officials worked feverishly just weeks before the hunt to get the word out to youths and their hunting mentors.
“I think we did a better job of getting the word out this year through the regulations guide, and there was less confusion over the status of the youth hunt this year,” Hurst said.
While the youth hunt was met with disdain by some bowhunters – its timing placed it within the Southern Zone archery deer season, which for the second year opened Oct. 1 – DEC officials discounted that concern. Hurst said the impact of youth hunters and their mentors in the field was negligible when spread out over the entire state. Indications, too, were that hunting pressure was generally low.
DEC officials said there was one self-inflicted shooting incident, but the injuries were not life-threatening. Details were unavailable at presstime.
Hurst said DEC is sending out surveys to eligible youth hunters in an effort to gauge participation in the hunt. “It’s a pretty quick and simple survey,” he said.
DEC implemented the youth deer hunt in an effort to introduce youngsters to hunting and, hopefully, develop a new legion of lifetime sportsmen and women.
Many youths today have other activities that conflict and compete with time afield. Geer plays tennis and is involved with 4-H; Venditti plays lacrosse and runs track.
“I like hunting a lot,” Geer said. “I also hunt ducks, turkeys and squirrels. And I bowhunt I’m still bowhunting now, and might try to get a doe during the regular season.”