Partnership eyes mentored hunts on Millsboro property

MILLSBORO — Rural property owned by the town of Millsboro could be the venue for mentored hunts through a partnership of the National Wild Turkey Federation and Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife.

The proposed hunts on farmland known as the White Farm near U.S. 113 and Del. 20 must first be armed with approval from Millsboro’s town council, which tabled the proposal at its December meeting.

The aim of the hunts is to spur interest in hunting and increase the number of hunters, according to Mark Ostroski, Delaware Hunter Education coordinator for DNREC’s Division of fish and Wildlife.

“The state of Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife partnered with the National Wild Turkey Federation a few years ago on an initiative what folks call R-3: recruitment, retention and reactivation of hunters,” said Mr. Ostroski in a Jan. 2 presentation to Millsboro Town
Council.

“Delaware is not the only state. Other states are also seeing a decrease in the number of hunters. One of the things that the folks in the hunter education business are trying to do is trying to find more ways to get people involved. One of them is through mentored hunts.”

“We would like to start with maybe a few turkey hunts in the spring,” said Charles Spray, the NWTF Delaware’s Save the Hunt coordinator.

If those work out, deer hunts and others may be requested.

“We’d be lucky to do a half-dozen hunts a year.”

“All hunts would be pre-scheduled … what dates; how many people would be out there. You could set aside an area for us to hunt,” said Mr. Spray.

All participants — mentors and mentees — would be required to sign a waiver, removing the town from any liability. Those under the age of 18 would need parental signatures to participate.

The NWTF would be responsible for insurance. “We have a big endowment insurance policy,” Mr. Spray told council.

Located on the north side of Del. 20, the property is part of the town’s wastewater operation and has been leased for farming, Millsboro Town Manager Sheldon Hudson said.

The property will not be flooded with scores of hunters during mentored hunts.

“Mentored hunts are with one to two people,” Mr. Ostroski explained. “Two mentors usually are used for one mentee or one novice hunter. In the state of Delaware’s case, we use novice hunters, not just juveniles but I think the NWTF is looking at just using juveniles, someone the age of 15 and under.”

Mentored hunts will be done in the morning and likely completed well before noon, Mr. Spray said.

Criminal background checks are done on all prospective mentors. Potential mentees are also screened, said Mr. Ostroski.

With Delaware a shotgun-only state, there are no high-powered rifles or handguns. Several types of bird-shot are used.

“It’s not a long distance like a rifle that can go up to three or four miles. We are talking a couple hundred yards, max,” said Mr. Ostroski. “And you are usually hunting in a wooded area.”

In addition to the state of Delaware’s basic hunter education course, which is a minimum of 10 hours, turkey hunters are required to complete a mandatory turkey class. That is another five to eight hours of training in a one-day class.

“The people being mentored do not have to have that class by law if they are under the age of 13,” said Mr. Ostroski. “Thirteen and over do have to have that class. But all mentors are required to have those classes before they can mentor.”

Questioned by several council members, Ms. Ostroski said public/state lands are not conducive to mentored turkey hunts involving juveniles.

“For turkey hunting specifically, it’s lottery land. They have a limited number of people on the land at that time. So, it doesn’t work for a mentor program, only because we’re going to use juveniles and they can’t fill out the lottery information. They can’t be selected in a lottery for that,” said Mr. Ostroski.

“We have a little bit easier time for deer hunting. We can do deer hunts on public lands, but turkey hunting is very difficult because of the lottery process that we use.”

Mentee ages would be potentially 10 through adult novice.

“I think they (NWTF) want to stay with juveniles but if they choose to go older for novice hunters, we have a lot of folks that take hunter education in their 30s and 20s and have never hunted before – turkey hunting specifically – and want to learn how to do it,” said Mr. Ostroski. “There is no better way than to send them with a mentor and teach them the proper way.”

Pertinent materials such as insurance certificates will be turned over to the town’s solicitor, Mary Schrider-Fox, said Mayor John Thoroughgood.

“On our end we’ll have to do our legal part. We’ll have to do our homework,” said Mayor Thoroughgood. “You presented it very well. I think we have enough to make a decision on. We’ll talk to our attorney and go from there.”

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