Sixteen kids take 14 deer

FORD -- Sept. 23-24 was the annual youth deer season (open to youth 16 and younger) in Kansas. The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) organizes several youth deer hunts each year, and the annual hunt on the Arkansas River near Ford is becoming an eagerly-anticipated event for everyone involved, from the kids and parents who participate to the landowners who allow access to their land.

This hunt began on a farm east of Ford with a meal prepared by a group of volunteers. After a lunch of fried fish, sloppy joes, and all the fixings, participants prepared for the hunt.

The early part of the afternoon was spent making sure the youngsters were proficient in handling and shooting their rifles. When not at the shooting bench with an instructor, they enjoyed the afternoon in wing shooting sessions or on a Laser Shot computer hunting system.

Late in the afternoon, each hunter and a parent were taken afield with an experienced guide, if desired. Camouflage blinds were strategically placed and accommodated three people. The rest of the afternoon and evening were spent waiting for an opportunity to take a deer. For many of these kids, it was their first opportunity to hunt, and many of this year's participants have older siblings who took part in the first event three years ago.

The group hunted Saturday evening and Sunday morning. Sixteen kids hunted, and 14 took does. (The landowner required that only does be shot.)

"I had one mother tell me that her 11-year-old son told her on the way to the Sunday morning hunt, 'I'm 'gonna sign up for next year right away because this was the best time that I ever had in my whole life!'" said Lowell Aberson, KDWP biologist and organizer of the hunt. "He had wanted to hunt for a long time, but his parents don't hunt. His mom told me that it looked like she was going to have start hunting with him."

The youth deer season is part of KDWP's "Pass It On" program, designed to recruit new hunters and retain those who already enjoy it. The Ford youth hunt was made possible by local sponsors, including the Kansas Wildlife Officers Association, Culligan Water of Dodge City, T&T Processing, Gene's Heartland, Wal-Mart, Pepsi Company of Dodge City, Wendy's, Rainbow Bakery Outlet Store, Hitchin' Post, Burger King, Sonic, First National Bank of Spearville, Realtree Outdoors, Dave & Ann Tassett, Cabela's, and Ross Trophy Outfitters.