Over the last decade, the Arizona Game and Fish Department has expanded the youth hunts for a variety of big game including deer, elk, turkey and javelina. During the specified season, only young hunters between the ages of 10 and 17 are allowed to carry a firearm provided they have successfully drawn a tag in the lottery drawing. It is required that all youth between the ages of 10-13 have completed the firearms hunter safety course prior to being in the field.
The Payson area will have another firearms safety class that will be offered this spring with the dates still to be determined. This class will be open to everyone, but the emphasis will be on the 10- to 13-year-old who may be hunting this fall. The next big game drawing application will be in the late spring with the emphasis on fall deer hunts, so examine those booklets closely if you are interested in one of the popular youth hunts.
Youth hunts have grown and become very popular in Arizona for a variety of reasons. Most of these young hunters are accompanied by adults who are usually their parents or close family friends. In many cases, dads can have the chance to teach their children about the outdoors by actually being in the field observing nature. Quality time away from the busy schedules of work and other obligations can only enhance the bonding of the family unit which is so important in today’s world.
Just a few short weeks ago, Shad McNeeley, a 14-year-old middle school student, went on his first javelina hunt. In preparation, he spent many days with his dad, Tony, glassing the hillsides in the lower elevations hoping to find the right area to hunt on the opening day of the season. They pinpointed a few spots for the opening morning trip Needless to say, these “little critters” wander the hills and were nowhere to be seen for a few days. Like many hunts, sometimes there has to be a plan B, which was to relocate and invite a couple more sets of eyes behind good optics.
Shad and Tony were joined by Clayton Haught and middle school teacher/coach Jeff Cochran bright and early on Super Bowl Sunday where they were glassing the southern, sunny warm slopes and finally found their quarry. A mature javelina was feeding on the far hill about 250 yards from where Shad was positioned. A well placed shot from his 300 short mag rifle and the hunt was over with plenty of time to get back to town and watch the Super Bowl.
Shad is planning to get his trophy mounted and has plans to hunt other big game in Arizona. At the young age of 13, he already has to his credit a whitetail and mule deer buck, a couple of bull elk and a bear. He has his sights on tagging a lion soon while hunting with his dad and their pack of hounds.
If he hunts javelina again, he wants to do it in the pistol hunt which demands a stalk to get into a close position for a shot. Shad is also an honor roll student, loves baseball, but participates in most of the athletic programs provided for young men his age at the middle school.
This weekend, spend time with your children in the great outdoors, the Rim Country, God’s creation.