CARROLLTON - Seventeen-year-old Jessica Capestrain has a hard time getting up early for school. But when it comes to deer hunting, she was up at 4 a.m. to participate in a special youth deer hunt.
"You can`t beat the feeling of being alone in the woods with all the anticipation of getting a big buck," said Capestrain, a senior at North Canton Hoover High School. "And there is no feeling like the incredible adrenalin rush you get when you shoot a deer."
Capestrain was among the growing number of young people who participated in the special hunt for youth under 18 as the
Ohio Department of Natural Resources continues to add programs and hunting weekends to bolster the number of hunters in Ohio. The regular deer-gun season runs through Dec. 2 with an additional weekend Dec. 15-16.
"The kids are the future for hunting," said Vicki Mountz, executive administrator for information and education for the
Ohio Department of Natural Resources. "And we realized there was more and more competition for their time every year with all the things like video games, computers that were evolving."
The youth season was created in 2003 and it`s proven to be popular, Mountz said. The preliminary deer kill statewide for the weekend surged 19 percent to 10,515, according to data released recently.
It`s also safer, despite the fact that hunters as young as 7 can be found toting, aiming and firing a 12-gauge shotgun in the woods, according to Jamey Graham, Wildlife Communications Specialist for 19 counties in northeast Ohio.
Pat Tilton, a longtime Stark County hunter and father of a teen hunter, agreed.
"It`s great to get the kids out there on their own because you don`t have a lot of lead flying around," he said. "I think it`s a lot safer than the regular season."
Capestrain became interested in hunting from stories told by her father, Carl.
She started spending time in the woods at age 3 or 4 and at 7 was shooting with a scaled-down bow and arrow. She shot a 7-point buck with a 12-gauge shotgun in her first deer-gun season in 2004.
The peak in Ohio deer hunting came in 1949 when 737,675 licenses were sold, about one license for every 10 Ohio residents.
Sales slumped throughout the next three decades, bottoming at 216,055 in 1980 and rising last year to about 440,000 for all forms of deer permits - or about one in every 26 residents.
The state`s first effort to turn around the hunting decline was the creation of the half-price youth deer-hunting license in 1992, available to anyone under age 16.
Young hunters also must complete the eight- to nine-hour hunter training course that all first-time hunters must attend and must be accompanied by a non-hunting adult at least 18.
In 2006, the qualified age was raised to 17, accounting for a sharp increase last year.
A third change was made last year - an apprentice license - with a cost of $10 and temporary exemption from the hunter-education course. The apprentice does have to be accompanied by a licensed hunter at least 21.
A youngster may purchase an apprentice license three times. There were 33,817 youth deer-hunting permits sold in Ohio in 1996. A decade later, the number had nearly doubled to 66,626.