Devin Lane is 12 years old, and he is tagged out.
That’s a deer hunting phrase – tagged out. It means the limit has been reached for the season on a particular species or in a certain zone. In Devin’s case, the sixth grader at Guy-Perkins School has taken all the deer he is allowed in Zone 8. He can move to another zone and go for another doe but no more bucks this season.
In recent years, youth hunts and young people going after big game have been a priority in Arkansas. Part of the push comes form quite a few people, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission included, believing that’s it is a healthy and positive thing to get kids interested in hunting as opposed to lounging around playing video games and such.
There are now special youth hunts for deer – two of them. There are youth hunts for ducks and for turkeys. There are elk permits reserved for people 15 and younger. But so far, the youth movement has not spread to bear hunting and alligator hunting. Somebody may push for these, though.
In the youth hunts, the basic rule is a kid 15 or younger must be accompanied by an adult even if the young person has hunter education certification and could go after game on his or her own during regular seasons. Get the boy or girl out there with a parent or a grandparent or an older sibling or an interested neighbor. Hunting is, or should be, a positive learning experience and not just for the kid.
Devin Lane’s third deer this season was part of a family outing. In the blind with him were mom and dad, Starr and David Lane, and younger brother Noah Lane.
Devin had become familiar and comfortable with his .243 caliber single shot rifle, a youth model but effective enough that his dad has taken deer with it. The 8-point buck came within view, turned, walked off then came back. It did this again. Devin rested the rifle on the edge of the stand, took careful aim and fired. The buck went down.
In the recent elk hunt in the Buffalo River country, four youngsters had permits and all four got bull elk.
Two of the four elk permits were ones designated for youths; the other two came through the regular application and random drawing process open to hunters of any age.
Jarret Yingling of Judsonia took a 6X6, meaning six points on each side of the antlers, bull elk. Jeffrey Phillips of Wilburn scored with a 5X5 bull. Hunter Easterling of Harrison brought down a 5X8 bull, and Rip Finley of Mountain Home got a 4X4 bull.
Finley made another mark. He is 8 years old and now the youngest hunter to take an elk in 15 years of hunting after elk were restored to the state.
Finley’s full first name is Ripken – yes, named for the baseball player.
Rip Finley and Devin Lane can serve as hunting examples to a good many adults. They practiced with their rifles before going hunting. Rip’s gun was a .270 Tikka bolt action, a grownup rifle for sure. He worked with a lightweight tripod stand and in the standing position, a step toward steadiness just as Devin used the edge of the blind for a rifle rest.
Many, far too many, are the Arkansas hunters who go after deer with absolute no advance target practice or with the old "three shots at camp" routine. Shooting practice makes better deer hunts of us all.
Youth hunts began several years back, and there were abuses. Deer were checked in the name of kids as young as 18 months. Yeah, kids weighing diapers supposedly killing deer. The Game and Fish Commission created a regulation making 6 years old the minimum age for hunting big game, meaning deer, turkey, bear and elk. And, as you can imagine, there is fussing because some parents think their 4- or 5-year-old should be able to kill a deer.
This is secondary to the basic concept of introducing youngsters to hunting through the special youth hunts. In deer hunting, another benefit to young people is that they can kill any type antlered deer without following the statewide rule of the minimum three points on one side of the antlers.
Another youth-only deer hunt, statewide, is coming up Saturday and Sunday, Jan 5-6.
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org