Florida Youth Hunting – First Deer for Kingston, 11-years old

  • Learning to shoot well, whisper in the stand, control our scent and be there at the right lucky time…made it all happen.
  • Face camo adds to the youth hunting fun, making that first shot good sure makes it unforgettable.
  • The crossbow allows a friendly introduction into accurate shooting potential at the very young age of 11 for my son.
  • An unbelievable experience, for dads and moms too!
That first moment of deer hunting success is hard to capture, but my son Kingston overcame the odds (trembling) to make an accurate shot on this healthy 7-point Florida buck in south Florida. My heart rate might have been a bot elevated too! 

By Jeff Liebler

Kingston, my 11-year old son, has always been in love with the outdoors. Fishing, hunting, campfires and more. So this summer, I made a deal with Kingston – if he completed his Florida Hunter Safety Course, put in some serious practice dialing in his crossbow – from the ground and in the treestand, we could hunt deer together and he could try for his first-ever deer. I was excited that he was excited from the get-go! Together with his cousin (Hunter), we needed to rebuild the old tree platform at his grandmother’s house where we hunt. It was a big chore, but Kingston was all in.

Last year, when he was just 10, we hunted the same stand together and he became familiar with watching for deer and using the range finder for yardage. He was my lucky charm, he helped me take a beautiful 11-point archery buck from that stand. It was fun, sharing with him in whisper-tone things about scent awareness and sound control.

Our trail cam allowed to understand there were some good bucks in the area, and lots of doe as well.

This year, he completed his hunter coursework and after practice shooting his crossbow dozens of times, checking trail cams, replenishing food sources, and hours of tree stand bonding, Kingston made it happen. 

Here’s how it went:

On Saturday, Oct. 3rd, two days after the harvest moon, we decided to try our luck in the light rain. We’ve actually spotted more deer together on rainy days than we do on dry days. We knew that day we had a chance for good luck if we could ride out the afternoon precipitation. We threw on some light camo gear and scent blocker, then snuck into the stand at 3:20PM. The black-bellied whistling ducks were sounding off above us, and eastern gray squirrels scurried around the tree trunks below us. We were crunching down on our treestand favorites, red apples, and cracker jacks. A quiet first hour, then another quiet hour, and I was becoming doubtful. Then suddenly, just before six o’clock, a doe and her yearling came by to sniff out some corn but didn’t hang out long. This was a fortunate opportunity to study their reaction to our scent and position. With optimism, we adjusted and used their presence to prepare for a shooter buck to come by. The woods went silent for a bit, the light rain kept on, and we finally ran out of things to whisper about as we approached “buck time,” usually about 6:30-sunset this time of year. 

We were right this time, and just two minutes past seven o’clock, the usually nocturnal antlered king of the swamp used the damp woods floor to silently creep into our whole corn and apple buffet feeder area. The northwest wind was on our side as the brute showed us his target zone long enough for Kingston to set his crossbow for a good shot. I picked up my phone to record the action as I watched Kingston’s elbows tremble. I mumbled, “30-yard shot, breathe, exhale, hold, then take your shot.” He squeezed the trigger.

Taking the shot in the rain, and then Kingston’s reaction. Unforgettable!

THUMP! Then a massive kick from the buck as Kingston sent the most perfect bolt home. We watched the burly buck hit the turf only 40 yards from us, and we cheered with each other.

Kingston was still shaking as he properly approached his downed deer from behind.

We celebrated his life and shared that special bond and heartfelt feeling of harvesting his first deer together. Ecstatic would be an understatement at this point, so we took extra precaution and waited a bit while we gathered our gear to safely climb down from the tree stand. When we aren’t in the woods together, Kingston and I enjoy watching Buck Commander and other hunting videos on YouTube. I took out my phone again for a video of our own. I was able to record Kingston walking up (from behind, like he learned in his hunter safety course) on his first harvested deer, a beautiful buck. The excitement on Kingston’s face as he wrapped his hands around the chocolate-colored antlers and burst out with, “It’s the 7-point!” It’s a moment I will never forget. After talking about shot placement and recording our official Florida harvest report, we snapped a quick interview to talk about how it all came together. He was so excited! Then the work and after-celebration began. Kingston’s cousins, who have also been hunting since they were kids, came by for moral support and heckling too, with his first buck, and they helped us field dress and quarter the deer and into the cooler. The rituals and shenanigans were flowing. Some of those stories are better left at deer camp with the guys if you know what I mean.

Days after a successful hunt, the work is still ongoing, but there’s something about it that doesn’t feel like work at all. On Sunday, “Mama”, as Kingston calls his mom, cut up and vacuum-sealed a little under 10-pounds of backstrap butterfly steaks and tenderloins from this Florida stud buck. Yesterday I surprised Kingston by signing him out of school early so we could go back and walk the footsteps of that first-deer memory at the tree stand one more time. Then we stopped to drop off some critical cargo, the deer head, and rack, to JC Taxidermy in Lithia. Kingston was overjoyed to now be “one of the boys” with his cousins and have his very own trophy on the wall coming soon. To complete the hunt and harvest, we drove to Riverview to stop at Al’s Wild Meat Processing, where they will be packing up roasts, maple venison sausage, and ground meat, that we will eat and share over the next year. Now that my little guy took down his big guy buck, I’m hoping to look for similar good fortune with my compound bow, as I set my sights on adding to the freezer with more local organic deer meat.

We shared that special bond and heartfelt feeling of hunting together, and sharing the outdoors.

As you know, hunting and sharing the outdoors is a true gift from our Creator.

We thank God for hunting, fishing, and wild animals every day during dinner grace. I’m happy to have a next-generation hunter as the numbers of hunting support enthusiasts are in decline. Indeed, I have high hopes that there will never be a food shortage in our family. 

Family Hunting Background:

I am fortunate enough to have my Uncle Dave, Forrest Fisher, NYS Hall of Fame Outdoorsman (and many more titles) teach me everything I know about archery hunting, starting with ethical hunting. “There’s no better way to do it than the right way – we follow the rules,” he would say every year as we walked the woods together, then we would discuss how to stay quiet, movement control, safety, how to stay warm, and more. Numerous years hunting with him have taught me about patience, silence, scent block, and how/when to let an arrow fly. Thanks to my favorite Aunt Rosalie Barus, for providing years of lodging, meals, and hugs of encouragement while I came up to visit East Aurora, NY. It’s where I could slow down and learn to hunt with arrows. I always picture her great smile in the mornings before hunting, when she would say, “Go get ’em Jeff-waa! I can’t wait to see your text that brown is down!” Graciously, I want to thank my good buddy Michael Garrido for sharing his hunting knowledge with me for the last 10 years and providing hunting opportunities to experience and ultimately pass down the tradition. I’m blessed to share our hunting enthusiasm and appreciation for harvests. Cheers to many more, Mike! 

Huge thank you to Kingston’s Granny Lois Johnsonfor providing our hunting spot and her encouragement each year for a successful hunt. Granny always reminded Kingston, “I love venison, get me some.” Kingston said he knows his late Papa was with him on this hunt, and I told him I was sure Kingston made him proud! Venison steaks headed your way soon, “Granny”! Lastly, to my amazing wife, Tiffany, who does so much to help make it possible for us to spend time in the woods together? Her excitement and “you got this” texts, while we hunt are always encouraging and makes this proud dad moment event sweeter (I needed to turn off the beeper). Her venison chili is out of this world, too! 

It takes friends, family, the right equipment, and shared passion to carry out successful hunts, especially with youngsters. Learn more about the Florida hunting rules at MyFWC.com/Deer, including the new deer harvest reporting requirement.  I’ll leave you with some product knowledge of the gear we used.

Our Gear: CenterPoint Archery, crossbow – 20” bolt with 100gr G5 Outdoors, fixed broadhead; Quaker Boy, doe bleat; Thermacell Hunting, Sawyer permethrin spray for deer ticks/bugs; Fyland UV tracker flashlight; Vortex Optics, Diamondback HD binoculars; HALO Optics, XL600-8 range finder; Wildgame Innovations, trail cam; Under Armor Hunt boots; Hunting-Made-Easy truck hitch game hoist; Wildlife Research Center, Scent Blocker; Outdoor Edge Knives & Tools, swing blade skinning knife.

New York is Open for Hunting, Spring Turkey Season Starts May 1

Joe Forma Photo

  • Youth Spring Turkey Hunting Weekend is April 25-26
  • Regular NYS Turkey Season opens May 1
  • Hunters Should Always Follow Safety Tips to Prevent Injuries and Limit Spread of COVID-19

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today that spring turkey season opens May 1 in all of Upstate New York north of the Bronx-Westchester County boundary. In addition, DEC’s annual youth turkey hunting weekend will take place on April 25-26. The youth turkey hunt for junior hunters aged 12 to 15 is open in all of Upstate New York and Suffolk County.

The big gobbler “tom” struts in. Photo by Joe Forma

“Many New Yorkers are eager to spend time outdoors and turkey hunting is one great way to reconnect to nature,” Commissioner Seggos said. “Whether participating in the upcoming youth hunt with your children or heading out on your own in pursuit of a wary gobbler, be sure to hunt safe and hunt smart by following the important guidelines in place both to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to support hunting safety.”

Turkey hunters took about 17,000 birds in New York during the 2019 spring season. Spring harvest success is often tied to productivity two years prior, as hunters like to focus on adult gobblers (i.e., two-year-old birds). While the cold, wet start to the 2019 breeding season meant low reproductive success and poor recruitment in many areas, conditions were better in summer 2018. The population gains made in 2018, combined with good overwinter survival because of abundant food in the fall and relatively mild winter conditions this year, may offset 2019’s poor reproductive success.

Important Details for the Youth Turkey Hunt on April 25 and 26

  • Hunters 12-15 years of age are eligible and must hold a hunting license and a turkey permit;
  • Youth 12-13 years of age must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or adult over 21 years of age with written permission from their parent or legal guardian. Youth 14-15 years of age must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or adult over 18 years of age with written permission from their parent or legal guardian;
  • The accompanying adult must have a current hunting license and turkey permit. The adult may assist the youth hunter, including calling, but may not carry a firearm, bow, or crossbow, or kill or attempt to kill a wild turkey during the youth hunt;
  • Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to noon each day;
  • The youth turkey hunt is open in all of upstate New York, north of the Bronx-Westchester County boundary and in Suffolk County;
  • The bag limit for the youth weekend is one bearded bird. This bird becomes part of the youth’s regular spring season bag limit of two bearded birds. A second bird may be taken only in Upstate New York, north of the Bronx-Westchester County boundary, beginning May 1;
  • Crossbows may only be used by hunters age 14 or older. In Suffolk and Westchester counties it is illegal to use a crossbow to hunt wild turkeys; and
  • All other wild turkey hunting regulations remain in effect.

Other Important Details for the Spring Turkey Season, May 1-31, 2020:

  • Hunting is permitted in most areas of the state, except for New York City and Long Island;
  • Hunters must have a turkey hunting permit in addition to their hunting license;
  • Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to noon each day;
  • Hunters may take two bearded turkeys during the spring season, but only one bird per day;
  • Hunters may not use rifles or handguns firing a bullet. Hunters may hunt with a shotgun or handgun loaded with shot sizes no larger than No. 2 or smaller than No. 8, or with a bow or crossbow (except crossbows may not be used in Westchester County);
  • Successful hunters must fill out the tag that comes with their turkey permit and immediately attach it to any turkey harvested;
  • Successful hunters must report their harvest within seven days of taking a bird. Call 1-866-426-3778 (1-866 GAMERPT) or report harvest online at DEC’s Game Harvest Reporting website; and

For more information about turkey hunting in New York, see the 2019-20 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide or visit the “Turkey Hunting” pages of DEC’s website.

Hunt Safe, Hunt Smart!

While statistics show that hunting in New York State is safer than ever, mistakes are made each year. Every hunting-related shooting incident is preventable, and DEC encourages hunters to use common sense this season and remember what they were taught in their DEC Hunter Education Course:

  • Point your gun in a safe direction;
  • Treat every gun as if it were loaded;
  • Be sure of your target and beyond;
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot; and
  • Stalking stinks! Set-up with your back against a tree or other object wider than your shoulders and call birds to you.

DEC also encourages all hunters to wear blaze orange or blaze pink when moving between hunting spots to make themselves more visible to other hunters. A blaze orange or blaze pink vest or other material can be hung in a nearby tree when you are set-up and calling birds so other hunters are alerted to your presence.

A hunter education class is required for all new hunters. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, hunter education courses have been cancelled through April 30. To find a hunter education class in your area, visit DEC’s Hunter Education Program website or call 1-888-HUNT-ED2 (1-888-486-8332).

“Hunting Safe” now means following social distancing /other guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Purchase licenses and/or turkey permits online to avoid visiting busy stores or because stores may be closed or have limited hours. Licenses and tags purchased online take 10-14 days to arrive, so online purchases for the youth turkey hunt should be made by April 10, and for the regular season by April 16;
  • Hunt close to home. Opt for day trips instead of staying at a hunting camp to avoid close contact with other hunters;
  • Avoid crowds at parking areas and other locations where people congregate. Keep a distance of six feet or more from others;
  • Avoid high-traffic destinations. If a hunting location is crowded, choose a different spot or time to visit. For alternative hunting locations visit DEC’s website.
  • Hunt alone. If hunting with someone not from your household, whether an adult or youth, practice social distancing, take separate vehicles to the hunting location, and make sure to maintain at least six feet of distance. Only share a hunting blind with someone from your household;
  • Carry hand sanitizer and avoid touching your face and wash mouth calls after handling; and
  • If hunters do not feel well, they should stay home. Anyone 70 and older or with a compromised immune system should postpone their trip.
  • For more information about getting outdoors and #RecreateLocal, go to DEC’s Website.

Buy Sporting Licenses Online

DEC is encouraging hunters, trappers, and anglers to purchase sporting licenses online to help further limit the community spread of COVID-19. Sporting licenses may be purchased online at any time, and anglers may use their privileges immediately by simply carrying their transaction number (DEC-LS#) with them while afield. Anglers, hunters, and trappers may also use the HuntFishNY mobile app to display an electronic copy of their license. The HuntFishNY app is available for download through the Apple App or Google Play stores. Back tags and carcass tags must still be mailed, and customers should allow 10-14 days for receipt of their tags. Please visit our website for more information about sporting licenses.

Citizen Science Opportunity: DEC Seeks Turkey Hunters for Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey

Turkey hunters can record the number of ruffed grouse they hear drumming while afield to help DEC track the distribution and abundance of this game bird. To get a survey form, go to DEC’s website or call (518) 402-8883. To participate in DEC’s Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey or other wildlife surveys, visit the “Citizen Science” page of DEC’s website.

Youth Ready for Big Game Hunt in New York

– 3-Day Columbus Weekend Special Firearm Season (Oct. 8-10, 2016)
– For Properly Licensed Youth – 14 and 15 years Old

Anticipation and excitement are among reasons why NYS holds a special, early youth firearms season. NOTE: Since this hunt occurs during the second full week of the 6-week regular archery season in NYS, all hunters are encouraged to wear some form of orange for safety/visibility while accessing the woods. Forrest Fisher Photo

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation reminds us that this weekend brings a new opportunity for junior hunters, as New York’s annual Youth Big Game Hunt on Columbus Day weekend has expanded to include Black Bear as well as Whitetail Deer.

From October 8 through October 10, properly licensed 14- and 15-year-old youth may use a firearm to hunt big game while accompanied by an experienced, NYS licensed adult hunter.

Each eligible junior hunter is allowed to take one deer (either sex) and one bear. During the youth hunt, antlerless deer taken with a firearm may be tagged with a regular season tag, Deer Management Permit, or Deer Management Assistance Program tags; antlered deer may only be tagged with the regular season tag.

Though junior hunters may have multiple deer tags, they may only take 1 deer with a firearm during the Youth Big Game Hunt.

This special hunting opportunity takes place throughout New York State, except in Suffolk County and specially designated bowhunting-only areas.

Additional rules that apply to junior hunters and their adult mentors can be found in the NYS Hunting & Trapping Guide (pages 36-37) or on the DEC website.

The Youth Big Game Hunt is a great way for experienced, adult hunters to help the young people in their life have an enjoyable and successful hunt. Get out and enjoy the nice weather and beautiful foliage this weekend while you teach young family members and friends the fine points of big game hunting.

Create memories that will be cherished for a lifetime.