(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Since he was five years old, Collin Murphy has been tagging along with his dad every chance he could to go hunting.
"(I like) shooting the guns," Murphy said, "spending time in the woods and getting to camp out and hanging out with my dad, too."
Murphy, who bagged his first deer at six-years-old with his father Patrick Murphy, is just one of the many youth hunters in Missouri who take advantage of the father-son time that hunting provides.
They had their first chance to tag out last weekend, when Murphy and the countless other youth hunters took to the woods for the first weekend of the fall youth hunt.
"It gets kids out of the house and gets them in the outdoors," Missouri Department of Conservation agent Leother Branch said. "The whole process of killing a deer, tagging it and field dressing it is satisfactory for the kids and the parent that took them hunting."
According to the Missouri Department of Conservation website, during the first two days of the youth season, which fell on Oct. 30-31, 13,263 deer were tagged. In Scott County, 42 total deer were taken, while 115 were bagged in Stoddard County. Mississippi and New Madrid Counties totaled 12 and 17.
"The statewide numbers are pretty good," Branch said. "Although the immediate area's like Scott County are down, there are still several that were taken around the Bootheel as a whole."
The total number of killed deer statewide is up from 9-10,000 last year. Branch said the cooperation of the weather may have resulted in the increase.
Those under the age of 11 are considered a youth. Youth hunters cannot have hunter education certification, by may hunt in the immediate presence of a qualifying mentor with a regular firearm deer hunting permit.
Branch also pointed out that although it's always a concern, safety should be first and foremost on the minds of adults when dealing with children and firearms.
"That's why we put so much emphasis on the hunters education courses," he said. "It's to practice safety precautions while hunting and to teach kids all the right things."
Although some may not get to tag their first, Branch said that the youth portion is a great period for kids, and adults, to view deer because it is the primary time of the rut.
"It a time to get kids engaged before most hunters get involved in the adult firearm season," said Branch. "Deer are moving pretty good about that time so kids have a great chance to see (deer)."
The next youth hunt will run through Jan. 1-2, giving Murphy, and those like him, another chance to claim that once-in-a-lifetime, first deer.