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Young Hunter's Educational Program
Annual Blackpowder Doe Hunt

Denny L. Vasquez

Reprinted by permission of the Longhunter Journal of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association.

For a number of years it has been my dream to provide an educational experience for young people that was directed at shooting and hunting with blackpowder firearms. In January of this year I realized my dream as 17 young people, ranging in age from 12 to 18 years, participated in the first annual Youth Hunter's Educational Blackpowder Doe Hunt and Blackpowder Encampment.

This event took place on the YO and the Ponda Rosa ranches located near Mountain Home, Texas. The schedule consisted of three days devoted to hunter safety instruction, interactive outdoor-related fellowship, blackpowder firearm shooting and safety skills, and wildlife education. The culmination of the event was when the youngsters had the opportunity to hunt several of the many big-game species that populate this part of the scenic Texas Hill Country, which is located west of San Antonio, Texas. As part of their herd and range management practices, and in order to maintain a proper balance of herd to habitat, both of these ranches periodically cull a specified number of dry does (without fawns) and anterless bucks.

This culling requirement coincided with the program's blackpowder doe hunt needs, so the event went forward through the sponsorship of such firms as Thompson/Center Arms, White Shooting Systems, Gonic Arms, Dixie Gun Works, Swarovski Optik, Buffalo Bullet Co., Blount Inc., Buck Knives, Bushlan Camo, Hodgdon Powder Co., Pb Custom Bullets, Ox-Yoke Originals, Butler Creek, and Venco Industries, among others. The Texas Baptist Men's Association provided additional manpower, coordination, and leadership, while the YO's Outdoor Adventure Camp provided the facilities.

This event was the culmination of planning and coordination among a number of organizations and industry sponsors who are interested in providing deserving young people with the opportunity to learn about wildlife, camp craft, and firearm safety and use in the field by hunting in a fair-chase environment. Each of the young participants enjoyed this new experience while under the tutelage of one of the many volunteers who have devoted their time and resources to make this event one that the kids won't soon forget.

On day one, all of the participants, both young and old, gathered for lessons in hunter safety, firearms familiarization, marksmanship, and camp crafts. Most of the teenagers had never handled or fired a blackpowder firearm before, so this was a new and exciting experience for them. Special attention was given to teaching the youngsters that a muzzleloader is a one-shot-at-a-time firearm and not a modern, multi-shot hunting firearm. It was stressed that loading a single round normally takes from half a minute for an advanced shooter, to several minutes for a novice. So, naturally, good marksmanship is critical since the blackpowder hunter normally only gets one shot at a game animal, and reloading usually takes too long to be effective for a quick follow-up shot.

Days two and three were spent in pursuit of the game animals, in the blackpowder encampment learning about primitive camping, in hunter and wildlife education classes, or just in touring the exotic wildlife exhibits at the YO ranch. Each night, a campfire was held with various forms of entertainment provided for the youngsters, from professional musicians to skits performed by the participants themselves.

The hunting of game animals for food is an intrinsic part of the human experience. It is a recorded part of our history as creatures who walk upright,have binocular vision, canine-like teeth, and opposable thumbs on each hand for using tools and weapons. Most importantly, as hunters it is our ability to reason from which the concepts of sportsmanship and the ethics of fair chase have evolved. These principles must be learned by all involved in our sport and passed on to future generations in order to insure the continuation of legal hunting and related activities. This, basically, is the goal upon which the Young Hunter's Educational Program is founded.

Of the 17 young people who attended our first event, all were successful in harvesting an animal and were able to return home with their bounty to share with families and friends. Along with the lessons learned, the new hunters took with them memories that they will cherish for the rest of their lives.

Jim Morey of Swarovski Optik N.A., Ltd., one of the sponsors, commented on the program, ``All of us who have been fortunate enough to be raised in the traditions of hunting and fishing must make an effort to pass these traditions and principles on to our young people whenever we have the opportunity. That is all we are really doing with the Young Hunter's Educational Program. It is especially enjoyable for all of us to work with these youngsters, many of whom would probably not have the chance for this first, imprinting experience. It is also very rewarding for me to work with Louie Schreiner and the fine people of the YO Ranch, Jack Burch of the Ponda Rosa Ranch, the Texas Baptist Men's Association, Denny Vasquez and his people, and my fellow members of the Shooting Sports Industry.''

Those interested in more information on this hunt or how they might conduct a similar event in their area should contact Executive Director Denny Vasquez of the Young Hunter's Educational Program at

(713) 859-6884