The Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) recently hosted 11 young hunters at its 10th annual National Youth Hunt, designed to introduce hunting to those who have an interest in it, but would otherwise not have an opportunity to participate. The youths had terrific success, harvesting nine deer and one coyote over the enjoyable and rewarding weekend.
QDMA's mission with this event is to teach young hunters the importance of safety and ethics in becoming good sportsmen and sportswomen, as well as the significance of being good stewards of our natural resources. For the third straight year, QDMA presented the "Sportsman of the Group" award to the National Youth Hunt participant who best demonstrated the qualities of good sportsmanship. Voted on by the group of young hunters, their guardians, the hunting guides and QDMA staff, this year's award went to 16-year-old Keith Morin of New Hampshire, who took home a CVA muzzleloader for earning the honor.
More than 50 nominations were submitted by QDMA Branches and other members for the 2014 hunt, and those selected included:
- Lydia Armstrong, 15, of Kentucky, nominated by the Barren River Branch
- Preston Carroll, 12, of Oklahoma, nominated by the Eastern Oklahoma Branch
- Maggie Cogdill, 15, of South Carolina, nominated by the Lakelands Branch
- Kylie Funk, 15, of Pennsylvania, nominated by the Southeast Pennsylvania Branch
- Lawson Heidingsfelder, 12, of Louisiana, nominated by the Bayou Branch
- Johnathan Herrera-Castillo, 15, of South Carolina, nominated by the Lakelands Branch
- John Kuryla, 14, of New York, nominated by QDMA member Jordan Berti
- Keith Morin, 16, of New Hampshire, nominated by the First New Hampshire Branch
- Thatcher Rortvedt, 12, of Wisconsin
- Dylan Schapansky, 13, of Georgia, nominated by QDMA member Mark Lovell
- Dutch Woyat, 13, of Ohio, nominated by QDMA member Tracy Woyat
Each youth hunts with a guide, and throughout the weekend learning opportunities are plentiful. The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) out of Fort Benning, Ga., works one-on-one with each youth to teach rifle safety, proper use of the rifle, marksmanship and shot placement including practice shots from an actual deer stand at deer silhouettes at various distances. Additional learning opportunities from the three-day hunt encompassed educational sessions at the skinning shed, with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and about Quality Deer Management. Guides from the host property provided a bird dog hunting demonstration. Throughout the event, the youth hunters were also exposed to the field-to-table cycle with many of the meals including venison, and new to this year's hunt, LEM Products led the group in a hands-on jerky making demonstration.
The QDMA National Youth Hunt is made possible by major financial and material support from Plum Creek Timber Company. Additional companies provided material support including Badlands, Cabela's, CVA, the Georgia Forestry Commission, LaCrosse Boots, Jager Pro, LEM, Leupold Optics, Remington and Winchester.
A special thank you also goes out to the Bayou Branch of QDMA for donating the rifles used at this year's hunt. Previously, new rifles were obtained for the hunt each year. Now, thanks to the Bayou Branch, the full set of Ruger American Rifle compact 7mm-08 guns will be available for youth hunters in future years as well.
QDMA will hold its 11th annual National Youth Hunt in October 2015. The nomination period opens in January of 2015. A QDMA member or Branch must submit nominations. For more information on the nomination process or to become a sponsor, please contact QDMA's Youth Education and Outreach Manager Hank Forester by e-mail or by calling 800-209-3337.