For those who are lucky enough to hunt out West, two things are certain. First, western hunting is one of those experiences filled with ups and downs that has you leaving every hunt wanting more and feeling fulfilled whether you punch a tag or not. The second certainty is that more and more hunters are heading out West every year and getting bit by the western hunting bug. So, it goes without saying that the future of hunting and the availability of tags seem to be scarcer and harder to draw year after year. This is why I have been looking at my kids as the future of hunting and worrying about what opportunities they will have. This is why I started building them points and planning western hunts for them wherever I can. These plans and points will be invaluable to get our kids into some excellent early hunting experiences that will allow them to fall in love with the sport we love.
You may be thinking that your son or daughter is only 10 years old or younger and they are not ready for the harsh climate or the steep terrain of your hunting spots. You know your child better than anyone and you are most likely correct. Even though your child may not be ready for your spots, it does not mean they are not ready to hunt. Many youth opportunities available in the West are even better than your spot. Your child may have opportunities to hunt some units or species that you may never be able to draw or take part in high opportunity hunts set up by different states for residents and nonresidents alike. If you are like me, your goal as a parent is to give your child the best opportunity to fall in love with the outdoor world that you love. Part of doing this is giving them the best opportunities at animals and hunting in high opportunity hunts.
There are very few western units that will be easy public land hunts, but some have higher harvest success rates. These are the units you will want your kid to hunt first to learn the value of working hard as well as the feel of success. Children are different from adults because they do not appreciate the views, camaraderie or little things adults do. They enjoy seeing animals and having an opportunity to get close to them. These are the types of units that will help your kids get obsessed with hunting and keep them wanting to follow in your footsteps.
GOHUNT’s Filtering 2.0 does a great job showing units where you can apply for youth hunts to begin your planning. Here is a breakdown of when you can apply for points or hunts for your child in most western states.
Start early and build as many points for your kids as you can afford. You won’t regret it.
You can purchase points for your son or daughter as long as they turn 10 years old before the application deadline. A youth hunter must be 10 years old to hunt in Arizona.
At age 11, youth may buy or apply for a license if they turn 12 before the end of the season on the license; however, they cannot hunt until they turn 12. They must have a hunter’s education card. Colorado also offers special allocations to youth hunters and has a minimum of 15% of limited licenses for doe antelope, antlerless and either-sex deer and antlerless elk for each Game Management Unit available for youth ages 12 to 17.
Idaho issues controlled hunt tags through a random lottery draw and does not use any type of points. Youth can apply for tags in Idaho as long as they turn 10 years old before hunting and have completed a hunters education course. Over the counter options are also available.
Montana used to allow you to purchase points for your children as long as they are over the age of one; however, that changed this year with House Bill 120. Youth can now only purchase points if they are eligible to apply for a license which they can do as long as they will turn 12 years old by Jan. 16 of the license year, which means that for the 2021 seasons, youth will have to be turning 12 years old before January 2022. Montana also has an apprentice program for youth 10 years old or older that is worth checking out.
In Nevada, a youth hunter must be at least 12 years old before the first day of the season they are applying for. Youth must also have completed hunter’s education before applying. There are some great resident only youth deer tags available in Nevada.
To apply and hunt in New Mexico, your youngster simply needs to pass a hunter education class — no matter their age. New Mexico does not have any preference point systems, so it’s a random lottery. They cater to youth hunters and offer them their special season dates during some excellent times of the year.
To apply in Oregon, a youth hunter must be at least 12 years old before the hunt. Oregon allows hunters as young as nine years old to buy preference points.
Youth must be at least 12 years old to hunt big game or antlerless animals. You need to have a hunting license to purchase preference or bonus points.
Washington does not have a minimum age in which you have to wait to apply for your youth hunters; however, they will have to pass a hunter’s education course by the time they apply.
An applicant must be at least 11 years old when submitting an application to purchase a preference point and be at least 12 years old by Dec. 31 of that year.
Overall, whenever you plan or apply for points for yourselves or others, it is essential to have a goal associated with your applications. If you do not ever plan on hunting a particular state or a species that is out of reach, don’t waste your money. Instead, plan other hunts. When it comes to applying for points for our kids, you can conclude that you may need to fork out a few hundred bucks year after year, depending on your plans. You can also conclude that once you see the smile on your kid’s face when he or she harvests an animal, it will be worth it. It is essential to understand and remember that some states need you to apply every few years or you will lose your points, so do not just start or stop applying without looking into the details of each state. Apply early and get your kids on a great western hunt or two before they turn 18.