Perry's Buckarama helps inspire interest in hunting among youths

wcrenshaw@macon.comAugust 17, 2013 

PERRY -- For years the number of hunters in Georgia has been declining, which is often attributed to youngsters’ preference for video games and computers over rifles and shotguns.

But some think interest in hunting among youths is making a comeback, and Saturday’s Buckarama offered some proof.

Many youths were among the thousands who didn’t let rain keep them from the annual event that heralds the start of deer season. And the kids didn’t seem as though they were unwillingly dragged along by their parents. The event is held at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter.

Mitchell Whitfield, 10, of Macon, was among many children trying their hand at shooting a bow and arrow, but it wasn’t his first time. He shot his first deer when he was 8, using a crossbow. He even butchered the deer with the help of his father.

“I just love to do it,” he said. “I like killing a deer.”

His father, Alan Whitfield, said he believes more youths would be interested in hunting but they have no one to introduce them to the sport. He started taking Mitchell hunting with him when Mitchell was 2 years old.

“It gives them a good activity to do,” Whitfield said. “It’s important in our family. It’s a good alternative to video games.”

John Trussell, an outdoors writer from Warner Robins, comes to Buckarama every year and brought his two grandchildren, Jack Trussell, 5, and Ava Trussell, 8. They also took a try at shooting a bow and arrow, with instruction from the FFA Wildlife Camp.

“This is a great opportunity to expose them to it,” said Trussell, who recently took his grandchildren dove hunting, and didn’t have to twist their arm to do it.

He also believes too many children never get a chance take up hunting.

“Most of the kids are pretty much urbanized and don’t have the opportunity to go out into the woods like I did when I was a growing up,” he said.

The Buckarama has been held in Perry each year since 1991. Put on by the Georgia Wildlife Federation, its proceeds are used to support the organization’s programs. Those include hunter safety training and Hunters for the Hungry, in which hunters donate deer carcasses that are processed and distributed to the needy.

Sam Stowe, marketing director for the Buckarama, said the last year Hunters for the Hungry was held, 25,000 pounds of deer meat was distributed to the poor. The Wildlife Federation pays the $1.50 per pound to have the meat processed, and food banks throughout the state distribute it.

Due to lack of funds the program has been on hiatus, but Stowe said it is returning this year after Wal-Mart offered to pay the processing fee.

Stowe said the decline in the number of hunters has been a concern because fees from hunting licenses are used for wildlife management.

However, he said that trend is beginning to reverse as more young people are getting into hunting.

He attributed it in part of a growing interest among young people in archery. Also, he said, the state has reserved more land, offering more hunting opportunities for those who can’t afford to pay a hunting lease on private land.

“I think we are getting more kids interested in getting into the outdoors,” he said.

The Buckarama features many vendors offering the latest in products related to hunting and the outdoors, as well as various seminars and demonstrations. It continues 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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