September 27, 2021
My son and I were trying to get a shot angle on a nice 2x3 coues buck when my buddy Jake hissed, “Tripp shoot that buck. Shoot that buck right now”.
A bigger coues buck had just come over the ridge two our left, and a few short seconds, later my 11-year-old son made a perfect 200-yard shot, beating out his father's record buck with ease. Thanks to my friend Eddy Corona of Outdoor Experience For All, we were all able to experience an unforgettable youth hunt in the state of Arizona. A year prior, about the same time, my son shot a great mule deer buck in Eastern Montana.
Over the course of the past few years, I have become much more aware of the great youth hunting opportunities that many states offer. On these hunts, tags and licenses are often much more reasonable than those for adult hunters. Some states offer youth their own seasons, but some also run concurrently with the regular season for all hunters. Some people think it's crazy to take your kids on hunts in other states, but with so many things grabbing our kid's attention these days, I have found that hunting is one of the best ways to spend quality time with my kids. Hunting shows youth new places and helps create lasting memories. So as one parent to another, are a few hunts to look into for getting your kids outdoors without breaking the bank.
1. Arizona Deer
In Arizona it only cost $5 to purchase a hunting license for youth from 10-17 years of age. Deer tags are just $25, and although they aren’t generally in “trophy units” these affordable tags offer a great chance to get your kids out hunting. These tags are issued through a draw system; however, the odds of drawing are quite high. Seasons vary with dates opening in both October and November, making it possible to pick hunts that best match those of you and your youth companion's schedule. The deadline to apply is early June, so start planning and researching now so you are ready for 2022. Hunters must have passed a department-approved hunter education course to hunt in Arizona.
2. Wyoming Pronghorn
Pronghorn are a great species for youth to hunt. They are easy to spot, the terrain is generally forgiving and the probability of a shot opportunity is often high. In my opinion, there isn’t a better place for a great pronghorn hunt than the state of Wyoming. Nonresident tags for youth are $110 for buck tags, and $19 for doe/fawn tags. Like Arizona deer, Wyoming antelope tags are issued through a draw system. Most hunts will take a few points to draw, so to make this hunt happen you will often need a few years of pre-planning. That being said, you can purchase preference points for youth pronghorn for just $10 from July 1-October 31 of each year. It's a simple process. Pronghorn seasons usually run from late September to mid October. Hunters must be 12 years of age to hunt in Wyoming and must have passed hunter education.
3. Nebraska Deer
This year my son and I are headed to Nebraska for whitetail deer. For only $8 you can buy your youth hunter a statewide deer tag. The state is made up of a lot of private land, but there is also plenty of public land for those willing to work for it. The youth hunters are allowed to hunt all seasons with their tags, but my son and I will be going during the firearm season that will run November 13-21, 2021. This is a great hunt for a parent and child because the parent can also purchase their tag and habitat stamp for $310; then you're both given the opportunity to shoot a buck and two does each. Hunters must be at least 10 years old and have passed their hunter’s education.
4. Idaho Cow Elk
Idaho offers several options for antlerless elk in the form of draw hunts or over-the-counter options. Draws for antlerless hunts, especially for youth, are generally good. There are a lot of over-the-counter cow hunts where tags are sold on a first-come, first-serve basis. This rule applies until the tags sell out, so be sure to purchase and plan as early as possible. These tags go on sale on December 1, and ensure a spor for hunts the next fall. Hunting licenses for nonresident youth are $91.75, and elk tags are just $299.75. Idaho is full of public land, and late-season cow hunts can often be less physical than bull hunts, which is perfect for introducing youth to elk hunting. Hunters must be 10 years of age and have passed hunter education to hunt in Idaho.
5. California Wild Pig
Although not youth-specific, many consider wild pig hunts in California as one of the best hunts for youth and adults alike. There is ample opportunity to go on hunts in California, the tags are cheap and the seasons are long. Most of these hunts are held on private land where you must either pay a trespass fee or book a two to three-day hunt with an outfitter. This can be a great way to go for introducing kids to hunting big game. Success rates are very high when hunting a more "controlled" environment. Youth wild pig tags are $84.10 and licenses are just $14.04. As always, youth must have taken hunter education to hunt in California.
Although there are many great hunts for youth across the nation, those listed here are hunts that are very “doable” for the average person without breaking the bank. Yes, it will involve planning and some travel, but the payoff you receive from these experiences with my kids far outweighs the monetary cost. Your kids will surely have a memory to last a lifetime and hopefully, you will make a lifetime hunter out of them.