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Old Bonnie Doone Plantation Hosts Youth Deer Hunt

Youth hunters at Old Bonnie Doone Plantation on Nov. 16.

A low-pressure system pushing through the Lowcountry last weekend did nothing to hinder the success of a youth deer hunt in Colleton County last Saturday. The Take One Make One (TOMO) program is a product of S.C. Department of Natural Resources and Officer Mark Ferrell serves as the hunt coordinator. Since the hunts are scheduled months in advance, and applicants arrange their transportation, these hunts go on no matter the weather. Six hunters went into deer stands in driving afternoon rain, and three were able to harvest a fine 8-point buck.
The mission statement for the TOMO program is taking youth on their first hunt while teaching values that last a lifetime. “The TOMO program is open to youth ages 10 – 17 who would like to go hunting,” said Ferrell. “In most cases, their parents do not hunt, and they don’t have anyone to take them hunting or to educate them about hunting. The TOMO program can take that youth and get them on a hunt, plus we show them the bigger picture of land conservation, planting food plots, and hopefully even skinning out a white-tailed deer.”
“This is the third year the TOMO program has hunted at Old Bonnie Doone Plantation,” said Ferrell. “One of our youth hunters named Trey Bowers was on his first-ever deer hunt and was able to harvest his first-ever 8-point buck. Seeing that kind of success for a first-time hunter is what makes TOMO hunts special. The other youth that harvested a buck, Joey Luther and Tyler Bowers, got their first bucks last year during a TOMO hunt. Our other three hunters were Jake Stilwell, Sebastian Robinson, and Tyler Hancock. We only have a limited number of hunts each year, and while the youth are eligible with TOMO until they graduate from high school, many of them branch out and find a regular place to hunt on their own after a TOMO hunt experience.”
The hunters came from across the state and met at the tractor shed at Old Bonnie Doone Plantation about 1 p.m. on Saturday, November 16, for their TOMO hunt. A hunting safety talk was followed with a demonstration on how to wear a safety harness. Each hunter was assigned an adult hunt guide to accompany them and went to their tree stand by 3:30. The howling wind and rain hit a brief lull about 5 p.m., and that is when the deer movement occurred. It was dark by 6 p.m., and all the hunters returned to the tractor shed for a meal of hot dogs and hamburgers with a healthy portion of fellowship time, allowing youths to swap stories from their hunt.
“Bryan Lemacks is the plantation manager, and he sets up the facilities for us,” said Ferrell. “Other volunteers include members of the Lowcountry QDMA chapter like Wes Chappell, Freddy St. Laurent and David Galloway. They cooked the meal and did the behind the scenes work. After supper the youth learned how to pull a jawbone from a deer skull to tell its age. The deer was then taken to a venison processor, and each buck head went to a taxidermist for a European deer mount. Everyone departed that evening feeling good about a successful hunt despite the wet weather.”
Local game wardens in attendance were Justin DeLoach and Brandon Woodard. Each youth was given a hunter orange TOMO hat to wear during the hunt and to take home. The TOMO program will return to the Lowcountry in December for a youth deer hunt at the Neiderhoff Seed Orchard in Jasper County. S.C. Forestry Commission partners with SCDNR to put on that TOMO youth hunts at their tree nursery for a two-day hunt. QDMA will be assisting, and Officer Ferrell hopes the deer hunting is going to be just as productive.
Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at LowcountryOutdoors.com

Jeff Dennis
Jeff Dennis, Contributor (385 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com