Youngsters Get the First Shot


You’ll probably hear the "crack" of a .22 or the small blast of the .410 this weekend in the hills and hollows of the Mountain State.   It’s the often eagerly anticipated Youth Squirrel Hunting day in West Virginia.

The DNR sets aside this day to allow young hunters, under the age of 15, to take part in the season ahead of the regular opening for the bushy tailed critters.

The lack of any abundant mast source has been well documented for 2009.    That will likely change the tactics of young hunters.

"Folks may want to focus or concentrate on squirrels running on the ground instead of looking up in the trees quite as much," said Keith Krantz of the West Virginia DNR.

While mast sources are in short supply, squirrels themselves are not.  A year ago, the hickory nuts were so plentiful it helped the squirrels reproduce several fold.   Krantz says it’s left plenty of opportunity to young hunters this weekend.

The point of the Saturday hunt however isn’t to load up on the ingredients for a mess of squirrel gravy, although there’s nothing wrong with that.    Krantz says the point of Saturday, plainly is having a good time.

"If the child isn’t having any fun, you need to stop," said Krantz. "You just need to focus on them and whether or not they’re having fun."

Krantz says it’s an excuse for parents to spend quality time with their kids and since they’re in the woods there will probably be plenty of "teachable moments" about a range of woodsman skills beyond squirrel hunting.

"Always take an opportunity to teach them gun safety," Krantz said. "Teach them muzzle control and how to step over logs safely and that sort of thing."

He adds showing a youngster things like buck rubs and scrapes, sharpening their eye for mast sources or game trails, and tree identification are all very good exercises to pass the day in the forest. 

Only the youngster is allowed to carry the gun.    The hunter must be age 15 or younger and must have a licensed adult hunter with them who’s over the age of 21.  That adult must be at their side in a position to observe and render assistance.

"You’re basically taking them on a guided hunt," said Krantz.  

Fewer and fewer young people are involved in squirrel hunting.   Over time, bow hunting for deer has eroded the numbers of squirrel hunters, but there are few exercises in the outdoors more perfect for getting a young boy or girl interested in hunting pursuits. 


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