Young Hunters Gear Up for Ethical “Shoot and Release” Youth Deer Hunt

LA CROSSE, WIS — Thousands of young hunters will take to the woods this weekend for Wisconsin’s annual two-day youth deer hunt for the ethical shoot and release program. For one local conservation organization, it marked the 15th year of introducing youth to deer shooting with the satisfaction of releasing the deer afterward.

“We started this 15 years ago. Now them kids are shooting and releasing their own bucks,” says Dunky Cardigan, founder of the Ethical Youth Hunt, “It sure feels good to connect these kids with the outdoors.” 

Cardigan started Ethical Youth Hunt 15 years ago because of an experience he had while on a fishing trip with his dad as a child. He was amazed at how his father caught “wall-hanger after wall-hanger” but refused to take them home for dinner because his father believed the fish belonged in nature and should be enjoyed by the other fisherman. 

Cardigan then applied that same logic to deer hunting and the Ethical Youth Hunt was born. 

In his time heading the group, Cardigan estimates that youth in his program have successfully shot and released over 500 deer. To him and his young hunters, it’s not about the kill but rather about the sport and connecting with nature.  

“There’s nothing more natural than a controlled explosion launching a piece of metal faster than the speed of sound through an animal’s flesh from a safe distance,” Cardigan explained. “That’s why we don’t go through all the hassle of draggin’ the animal out of the woods or cleaning it. We just take a picture of it and then release it back into the wild.” 

Reporter Dr. Jonathan H. Dong contributed to this article.