2008 YOUTH HUNTERS OF THE YEAR

The Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association (LOWA) and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) recognized the 2008 Louisiana Youth Hunters of the Year at the LOWA Annual Conference on Oct. 17.

The Louisiana Youth Hunter of the Year Award is part of the Louisiana Youth Hunter Registry Program that was initiated by LOWA and LDWF. The Youth Hunter Registry Program was designed to recognize the state’s youth hunters and their efforts to keep the tradition of hunting alive in LA. The Youth Hunter of the Year Award is presented to a boy and girl who participate in the registry program and submit a story and photographs about their hunting experience.

Alyson Hetzel, 10, of Crowley, and the daughter of Eric and Catherine Hetzel was selected as the 2008 Female Youth Hunter of the Year. Alyson harvested her first buck with a bow and arrow during the 2008-09 hunting season while hunting with her dad in Deer Park, La.

Alyson has been hunting since the age of five, but this was her first hunt with bow and arrow. Hunting in a ground blind, Alyson fell asleep during the early morning hours and her dad woke her when the buck came into the area near their blind. Although she missed with her first arrow, she connected with the next arrow. Alyson was very excited upon finding her buck, after tracking him for about 100 yards, according to her father. Alyson said the keys to her success were practice, patience and help from dad. She added that she hopes to improve each time she hunts and she looks forward to the 2009-10 deer season.

Fourteen year-old Brandon Soileau of Krotz Springs, the son of Robert and Julie Soileau, was recognized as the 2008 Male Youth Hunter of the Year. During the 2008-09 hunting season, Brandon harvested three deer from the Sherburne Wildlife Management Area (WMA). One of these deer was a 240-pound, eight-point buck, one of the largest bucks killed on the Sherburne WMA last year. He also harvested two deer on the Indian Bayou Tract owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Brandon does all of his hunting from a wheelchair because he was born with spina bifida which paralyzed him from the chest down. He has use of his arms and hands and this allows him to hunt with his .270 rifle. Brandon participated in the Physically Challenged Hunter Program on Sherburne, which provides wheelchair-accessible blinds to hunters.

Brandon knew he had made a good shot on the 240-pound buck even though it ran off. He waited anxiously while his godfather, Tim Bourque, brought the buck to him.

Lots of tears and smiles followed as Brandon enjoyed the moment with his godfather. He noted that the buck is much bigger than the one his dad and brother have hanging in their house. His story was reported in the Outdoors Section of the Baton Rouge Advocate and in the Spring 2009 issue of the Louisiana Conservationist.

Both youth hunters were presented certificates and plaques recognizing their achievement. In addition to the recognition, each received a $200 gift certificate from Bowie Outfitters to help get them ready for the next hunting season. All youth hunters who participate in the Registry Program receive a certificate from LOWA/LDWF recognizing their achievement.

Participants are also eligible for the drawing to win another $200 gift certificate from Bowie Outfitters. This years’ winner was Charles Jesclard of Port Barre. This 13- year-old was hunting with his dad in Area 2 and harvested a buck that was chasing a doe during the November rut.

The 2009 Turkey Season marked the beginning of the Registry Program for the 2009-10 season. The registry is open to all youth hunters, 15 years of age or younger who participate in any hunting activity during the season. To participate in this year’s Youth Registry Program, simply go to the LDWF Web site at www.wlf.louisiana.gov/hunting/biggamehunts and fill out the form and send it in.

LOWA and LDWF acknowledge the support of Bowie Outfitters, the Bayou State Bowhunters Association, the Louisiana Wildlife Delta Waterfowl-Baton Rouge Area Chapter, the Louisiana Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, South Louisiana Branch-Quality Deer Management Association and Harrison Law, LLC for making this important youth program a success.