West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) Police officers from District four and District six partnered with the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy (MCA) for two deer hunts. Officers took 16 cadets through a hunter education course and then an antlerless deer hunt in Roane and Monroe Counties.

The opportunity to pass on traditions to young people means a lot to Sergeant John Casto of Parkersburg. He believes the greatest lesson hunting can teach is patience.

“We live in such a busy environment, and I’m one of those guys that stays busy all the time,” Sgt Casto said. “But when you go to the woods, and you’re hunting, all that goes away.”

The Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy is designed to give teens a second chance at obtaining their education, providing valuable mentorship to at-risk youth. MCA cadets were given a blaze orange cap, orange hunting vest, binoculars and headlamp.

In this special program, the youth hunters’ licenses and deer processing fees are paid for by the WV Natural Resources Police Officers Association, which purchased a $500 gift certificate as part of the agency’s Give the Gift of the Outdoors promotion.

Before going out, cadets underwent hands-on education on firearm safety from practicing hunter safety instructors. They also learn how to harvest an animal safely and humanely, clean and process the animal, and have food. Successful hunters will have their deer processed and made into jerky and snack sticks, which officers will deliver to the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy in Montgomery, WV.

DNR Police officers like Sgt Casto see first-hand the impact this kind of program can have on young people. He encourages people to get involved by volunteering time and resources or getting their child involved. “We’ve got so many officers in our department that contribute their own time, maybe their own money to this,” Sgt Casto said. “We want to get more kids involved in the outdoors.”

Resident youth hunters 15-17 years of age must comply with all licensing requirements but don’t need a Class N Stamp. Hunters of all ages can pick up licenses and stamps for the 2024 seasons now at wvhunt.com.