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LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet, center, presents the 2019 Youth Hunter of the Year awards to Hagen Reitzell, left, and Douglas Frey on July 9, 2020.

Hagen Reitzell and Douglas Frey had deer hunts in the fall of 2019 that they’ll never forget. Both 8 years old, they harvested their first deer, both doing so while hunting with their fathers.

They were selected from among dozens of applicants as the 2019 Female and Male Youth Hunters of the Year, a program that is a joint effort with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Louisiana Wildlife Federation.

Youth Hunters of the Year will receive a plaque in recognition of their achievement and a gift certificate from Bowie Outfitters. 

“Growing the sport of hunting is one of our primary goals at LDWF,’’ said LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet. “The stories of Hagen and Douglas are wonderful examples of Louisiana families passing down the sport of hunting from generation to generation. We are pleased to partner with the Louisiana Wildlife Federation in recognizing our state’s young hunters and hope they all have success as they pursue this great sport.’’

“This program is eye-opening about young hunters enjoying the outdoors and it’s great to have an opportunity to recognize them and encourage our hunting heritage,’’ said Barney Callahan, a Louisiana Wildlife Federation board member.

Reitzell, the Female Youth Hunter of the Year, of Zachary, detailed her take of a doe on family property in East Feliciana Parish on Nov. 1.

Frey, the Male Hunter of the Year from Gonzales, told of his successful hunt in which he harvested a button buck near Oakdale in Allen Parish on Oct. 12.

Fathers played an important part in both hunts.

For Hagen, the 2018 season was disappointing. It was her first time to hunt and in seven times out she never saw a deer. On the eighth and final hunt of the year, she finally had a shot at a doe but missed.

“When we got in the truck, we both made a promise that she would kill one this year,’’ said Hagen’s father, Scott Reitzell. They made good on that promise during the first hunt of 2019.

“I was planning to shoot the first deer that came out but (the doe) turned,’’ Hagen said. “So I saw another, and my dad told me to pull the trigger when I was ready. I didn’t see it run away so I thought I missed. Then I heard my dad laughing. I looked again and the deer was lying on the ground.’’

Hagen made the shot count, taking a 135-pound doe as her first deer.

“I cried, and I was very happy,’’ Hagen said. “My mom and sister came to see it. It was so much fun. I want to (harvest) a buck next season.’’

Scott Reitzell said he was as happy as his daughter. He grew up waterfowl and dove hunting with his father, taking to the outdoors when he was 5.

“I was so glad on the first hunt, 20 minutes after sitting down, the does came in and she made a great shot,’’ Scott Reitzell said. “She is incredibly excited about this award and hunting in general.’’

While Hagen had a short wait the day she took her first deer, Douglas had to be a bit more patient. His successful hunt actually began the day before when he, his father, Brett, and grandfather, Dave, arrived at the site. Douglas and Brett went to the range to do some practice shooting before retiring for the night.

They went to the tree stand the next morning but came up empty. After three hours, they went back to the camp and prepared for the afternoon hunt. That looked to be futile as well as the trio waited for two hours with nothing moving.

“But then I saw a button buck about 80 yards away,’’ Douglas said.

With his sight set on the deer’s torso, Douglas took the shot. The deer jumped up, he said, and ran into the woods.

“We were looking but didn’t see any blood,’’ Douglas said. “Then my dad shouted, ‘There he is.’ I was so excited. I thought it was a doe but it was a button buck. My Poppa Dave picked us up and we cleaned it.

“It was one of my best hunts because it was my first deer. It was also special because I did it with my dad.’’

And that meant a lot to Brett Frey, who grew up in Eunice and learned to hunt as a kid with his father, who was also named Douglas. Brett said his father was his best friend, who, like Brett, taught him to hunt as a boy.

“My father died when I was 18,’’ Brett said. “So I told my wife when we were married that when we had our first son, I’d like to name him Douglas. But when she was pregnant, she didn’t want to know if it was a boy or girl until he or she was born. It was Douglas, and he was born on Oct. 25. That was my dad’s birthday. I believe that was a God thing.’’

Douglas has inherited his father and both grandfathers’ love of hunting. His first hunt was on a Thanksgiving morning when he joined Brett Frey on a duck hunt when he was 4. He harvested his first turkey when he was 6, and after he took his first deer last fall, he harvested four other deer the rest of the season.

“Douglas loves everything about hunting and being outside,’’ Brett Frey said. “It’s pretty incredible. I’ll take him deer hunting with me and he will sit in a stand for three hours and not see anything and he’s mad when we leave. Every time I go hunting now, I take him with me.’’

The 2020 Youth Hunter of the Year contest application will be announced later this year. For information on the program and how to apply contact Eric Shanks at (337) 491-2575 or eshanks@wlf.la.gov or Rebecca Triche at (225) 344-6707 or rebecca@lawildlifefed.org. For information on the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, go to lawildlifefed.org.