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Youth showcase hunting skills

FOWLER — Children in the Mathews Local School District took their thinking skills to the woods as they took part in an annual deer-hunting event hosted by local law enforcement.

The Big Deer Contest had 22 children ages 8 to 18 go deer hunting during the season that began in September. Six children were able to get bucks.

The event, marking its second year, was organized by the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office, Fowler Police Department and Mathews schools. The “friendly competition” invited students to get outside to hunt and then report the size of their deer to see how they stacked up with other students in their age group.

The children who participated and their families gathered over the weekend at Bockelman’s Landscaping and Garden Center.

Fowler police Chief Mike Currington and Steve Smith with the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office and a school resource officer said the children competed in three age brackets.

Smith said next year plans are to get youth from Joseph Badger schools involved as well.

Currington said he approached Smith, who was serving as the SRO for Mathews schools, about putting together a deer-hunting program for youth with community sponsorships.

“The children did not have to pay for anything to be part of the program. The children had six months to go out hunting during deer-hunting season,” Currington said.

Smith said the event is something kids can do with their families.

“The idea was giving kids something to look forward to as they continued to deal with COVID-19,” he said.

He said the 2020-21 season contest, which had 16 participants, drew so much positive feedback from families and the community that plans were made to hold it again next season.

“We want to get the Joseph Badger school kids involved next year. We want to expand this and bring all the hunters together,” Currington said.

Children who got a deer had their names placed on a spinning wheel to win prizes.

Wesley Murphy, 12, of Fowler, said he got his deer Nov. 8 after trying for several months.

He said his mother, Jill Murphy, was with him when he got his deer.

“I think it was luck I got the deer. It was really exciting, but you have to have patience,” Wesley said.

His father, Ryan Murphy, said his son hunted in the wooded area on their property.

“I was not surprised when they told me he had a deer. Every day he wants to be out in the woods. He was spending a lot of time there looking for a deer,” Ryan said.

Wesley said besides deer, he also hunts rabbits and squirrels.

Jack Ford, 11, of Fowler, said taking part was fun, indicating he saw the deer from his treehouse on his family’s property.

“Being patient helps,” Jack said, noting he got his deer in January.

Kailee Tucker, 10, of Vienna, said while she did not get a deer this season she got one last year when she participated.

“Last year was when I got my first deer ever,” Kailee said.

The program’s purpose is to educate youth on how to hunt.

Many of the kids said they use tree stands when hunting.

Richard Jaeger, a professional hunting guide for the past 12 years from Colorado, spoke to the children, stating it was exciting to see so many younger kids participating in the sport.

“You will remember this for the rest of your life. You are beginning to experience the hunting world and will have this as a life experience,” Jaeger said.

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