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Superfun at the Super Hunt

Kids learn about wildlife and hunting at annual Cave Creek event.

By Hunter Burkhalter

For the past few winters, something special has been happening on the Hill Country ranches around Stonewall. It’s called the Cave Creek Super Hunt, and it’s something that everyone who cares about wildlife management and the continuation of our hunting heritage can get excited about.

The Cave Creek Super Hunt, possibly the largest youth deer hunt in the state, is a partnership among the Texas Youth Hunting Program, the Cave Creek Wildlife Management Association and the Austin Woods and Waters Club. The program seeks to give kids safe, educational and affordable hunting opportunities. Cave Creek is a group of owners of low-fenced ranches in the Stonewall area who coordinate their efforts to improve habitat and the overall health of the wildlife populations on their properties. For the Super Hunt, the program supplied the youth hunters, the Cave Creek group supplied 12 ranches for them to hunt on, and Austin Woods and Waters supplied the trained “huntmasters” to organize and lead the hunts. “I think it’s probably one of the best things we’ve come up with in our little wildlife management area to serve the youth,” says Ronnie Ottmers, the point man for the Cave Creek association and one of the brains behind the Super Hunt.

The third annual Super Hunt took place this past January. Some 47 youth hunters, boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 17, participated. Each was accompanied by a parent or guardian. The hunters and volunteers camped together on the grounds of the historic, one-room Cave Creek schoolhouse. The lucky ones slept inside the schoolhouse, kept warm by an ancient pot-bellied stove. Throughout the weekend, temperatures hovered in the 30s and a slow steady rain eventually turned the campgrounds into a mudpit reminiscent of Woodstock. Nevertheless, spirits were high. “A little mud never hurt anyone. These kids are having a great time and that’s what’s important,” said volunteer Larry Hassell.

The hunting was excellent. “I saw more deer than I have seen in my entire life!” said Chelsea Bullard, a 13-year-old from Pennington. A number of young hunters, such as 12-year-old Jordan Arcos from Round Rock, harvested their first animals. “I’ve got enough meat to feed an army of football players!” said Arcos. In all, more than 60 white-tailed and exotic does and spike deer were harvested, thinning out an overpopulated game herd. “We’re assisting the landowners in their wildlife management program while teaching good hunting ethics in a safe environment,” said Doug DuBois, the coordinator of the Super Hunt. Biological data was collected on each of the deer harvested to help the association make better-informed game management decisions.

During the midday hunting lull, there were plenty of opportunities for the kids to learn more about all aspects of hunting. Ottmers, a man with a perpetual smile on his face, kept the local German culture alive by demonstrating how to make venison sausage. A rifle range, manned by trained volunteers, was available for anyone wanting a bit more practice. A wildlife biologist was on hand to explain the habitat needs of white-tailed deer, and to judge the age of the harvested deer.

Some of the participants especially appreciated the volunteers who helped the young hunters process and butcher their game. “This is great!” said Cassandra Buland, Jordon Arcos’ mother. “We’d taken the hunter safety course, so we had a pretty good idea of how to hunt. But I was afraid that if Jordon shot something, we’d say, ‘OK, now what do we do?’ So, it’s wonderful to get this help.”

“It’s not just about the hunting,” said volunteer John Bryan. “It’s also about the parent/child relationship. These kids and parents are sharing an experience that can’t be duplicated in a home, on a sports field, in a school or city. They are making memories that will last a lifetime.”

The Super Hunt is just one of many youth hunts made possible by the Texas Youth Hunting Program, which is supported jointly by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Wildlife Association. In order to participate, each youth hunter must have successfully completed a hunter safety course and demonstrated firearms proficiency. The hunts are led by trained volunteers. For more information on next year’s Super Hunt, or on youth hunts in general, visit the Texas Youth Hunting Program Web site at <www.tyhp.org>. “We’re always looking for more youth, especially those who have not hunted before,” said DuBois.

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