NEW LONDON — There were a few nice antlers, including one set for the wall, but Sibley State Park Manager Jack Nelson is measuring the success of this hunt by the smiles, and understandably so.
Nelson saw lots of smiles as Sibley State Park hosted its first-ever Youth Deer Hunt on Oct. 27 and 28.
There were nine youth participants, each accompanied by an adult mentor. They harvested five deer, four of them bucks and one doe.
All of the youth saw deer on the move. One hunter’s dad told Nelson they counted 25 deer. Another young hunter tallied 18.
The hunt is offered as an opportunity to introduce young people to deer hunting, and to hook them. Plenty of studies show that early success is what helps galvanize a young person’s interest in hunting in later years, said Nelson.
Being able to hunt in Sibley State Park obviously improves the odds not only for success, but to see deer and actually learn by doing. The youth and their adult mentors took time prior to the hunt to find and identify deer sign and scout out their sites. They devoted time to learn about their quarry and develop a hunting strategy. They learned that preparation and knowledge can matter more than sheer luck.
There’s not always the opportunity to learn these skills during the regular deer firearm season, when there’s a hunter on every stump and deer are running with their tongues hanging. Too often in this situation, it’s luck that matters most.
Perhaps what mattered most of all during this hunt is that the youth and mentors “got it,’’ said Nelson. He was impressed most of all by the camaraderie shown by the group, their ethics and respect for the sport, and the one-on-one relationship of parent and child. It wasn’t about helping their kid get a big buck, said Nelson. “It was about getting out and passing on this hunter tradition to the next generation.’’
– Tom Cherveny