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Young hunters head to woods in Suffolk this weekend

Richard Gates and his son Valin, 13, prepare

Richard Gates and his son Valin, 13, prepare for this weekend's turkey hunt. (Apr. 20, 2011) Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

Despite criticism from animal activists, young hunting enthusiasts can head to the woods in Suffolk County this weekend for the second annual Youth Turkey Hunting Weekend.

Organized by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the two-day event is aimed at teaching children between the ages of 12 and 15 safe shooting practice and outdoor skills.

“Mostly it’s just to encourage young hunters to get out in wildlife and practice safe hunting,” said Lori Severino, press officer at the DEC.

Last year, more than 400 junior hunters harvested about 100 birds in Suffolk, according to the DEC website. The hunters joined 7,900 youth hunters across New York in bagging about 800 birds, a 50 percent decrease from the previous year, the website said.

Severino said hunting of turkeys, as with other species, helps to manage overpopulation.

Not everyone is convinced. Lori Ketcham, a director at Save the Animals Rescue Foundation, said there is no need to manage turkey populations on Long Island, where they were almost hunted to extinction in the past.

“We have enough crazy young people out there, and teaching them how to use guns is ridiculous,” she said. “They should be learning how to respect wildlife.”

For more information on the rules and regulations of youth turkey hunting, visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/27836.html.

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