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2009 Youth Hunters of the Year

The 2009 Male and Female Youth Hunters of the Year were recognized at the 2010 Louisiana Outdoor Writers Conference on August 7, 2010 in Covington. The Youth Hunter of the Year Program is part of the Louisiana Youth Hunter Registry Program that is sponsored by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association.

The Louisiana Youth Hunter Registry recognizes youth hunters, 15 years or younger, and their hunting activities across the state.  The program is for all hunting activities, small game, waterfowl, deer, turkey, hogs, etc.  Participating youths receive a certificate recognizing their hunting achievements and for keeping the hunting tradition alive in Louisiana.

Participants can compete for the Youth Hunter of the Year Award by submitting a short story of their hunt along with photographs of the hunt.  This award is not about recognizing what or how much game was killed, but about enjoying the true hunting experience with family and friends.

This program is also sponsored by the Bayou State Bowhunters Association, the South LA Branch of the Quality Deer Management Association, Bowie Outfitters in BR, the LA Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, the BR Chapter of Delta Waterfowl, the Louisiana Wildlife Federation and Andrew Harrison, Harrison Law, LLC in Baton Rouge.

Thirteen year-old Tori Kessler of Pineville is the 2009 Female Youth Hunter of the Year.  She is the daughter of Kenny and Nicki Kessler of Pineville. Tori participated in the youth lottery hunt on Buckhorn Wildlife Management Area in December.  Hunting with a .270 rifle, Tori killed a nice eight point buck that weighed 209 pounds.  The biologist working the check station told Tori and her dad that it was four years-old.  Tori said she really enjoyed the weekend hunt; camping with her dad and friends at Lake Bruin, the morning sunrise on the day of the hunt and having the opportunity to kill the buck-of-a-lifetime.  She thinks the special youth hunts are great and no doubt will be participating in future hunts, should, as she puts it, be lucky enough to be picked for the hunt.

Kenny Ribbeck, Chief of the LDWF Wildlife Division, presented the award to her at the banquet.  Prior to becoming Chief, Kenny was the Forester for LDWF and was responsible for the development of the timber program on Buckhorn WMA and the reforestation of the site where the special youth-hunting only area is located.

The 2009 Male Youth Hunter of the Year is eleven year-old Adam Bernard of Opelousas.  He is the son of Joey and Christy Bernard. Adam went turkey hunting for the first time during the 2009 Youth hunts on Sherburne Wildlife Management Area.  Adam was introduced to hunting by his uncle, Verbis Lafleur.  Uncle Verbis let Adam use one of his shotguns and together they did some target shooting in preparation for the hunt.  Adam and his dad Joey were guided on the hunt by Chance Babin.  The turkey youth hunters go out with experienced turkey hunters who are familiar with the area and have been out locating gobblers.  Adam was surprised when three gobblers flew down toward them and probably being a little nervous made him miss with his first shot; two gobblers flew off but the third stayed around long enough for Adam to shoot again and he bagged a nice 15 pound tom with a 8 ½ inch beard.  Uncle Verbis met them back at the WMA Headquarters and immediately dubbed Adam with the name “Dead-eye Red.”

Jimmy Stafford, Turkey Biologist for the LA Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, presented the award to Adam.  Jimmy commented that Adam really was not nervous, he was simply firing a warning shot to scare two of the birds away!

In addition to the plaques recognizing their achievement, the two winners will receive a gift certificate from Bowie Outfitters in Baton Rouge.  Tori and Adam were also interviewed by the outdoor writers attending the banquet.

All youths who enter the Youth Hunter Registry are eligible for a random drawing to win a gift certificate to Bowie Outfitters. This years’ winner of the drawing was Austin Tweedy of Clinton. Austin turkey hunted during the 2009 Spring Turkey Season.

At the LOWA Banquet the Youth Journalism Awards were also presented to the young outdoor writers and photographers from across the state.  Joe Macaluso, Outdoor Editor for the BR Advocate, conducted a random drawing among the many youths attending the banquet with the prize being a muzzleloader rifle that he had won at the banquet raffle.  Adam Bernard’s number was picked and now Adam will be in the woods this fall hunting during the primitive season.