Kindal Tonn of Lacassine and Seth Gottardi of Slidell were selected as the 2016 Louisiana Female and Male Youth Hunters of the Year. The Youth Hunter of the Year Program is a joint effort with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Louisiana Wildlife Federation and the Louisiana Outdoors Writers Association.

The awards were presented at the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association banquet on Saturday, August 12, 2017 at the Chateau Saint Denis in Natchitoches, La.

The Youth Hunter of the Year program is made possible by the generous donations from South LA Branch of the Quality Deer Management Association, the Baton Rouge Chapter of Delta Waterfowl, Andrew Harrison with Harrison Law, LLC, the Louisiana Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and Bowie Outfitters in Baton Rouge.

Tonn, 13 and the female winner, harvested a spike deer while taking part in a management hunt at Bamberger Ranch in Johnson City, Texas, in February of 2016. Tonn used a youth 243 rifle to take the deer. She was one of 10 kids on the hunt and the only female.

“I was the only girl on the hunt (that) weekend,’’ Tonn said. “That made me nervous but I made the most of it.’’

Tonn was with her father, Robert, and a guide when she spotted the spike during a morning hunt.

“The spike offered a clear shot and I took it,’’ Tonn said. “After what seemed like an hour but was really about 15 minutes, we were able to go look for him. After going over one hill, through a valley, across a small creek and up another hill, we finally found him on top of that hill.

“It was a great weekend spent with my dad and the outdoors. And come to find out the only deer shot and recovered that weekend was killed by the only female hunter, me.’’

Gottardi, 15 and the male honoree, was hunting with his grandfather, Rick Gottardi, in Washington Parish in the spring of 2016 when he harvested a 20-pound turkey with a 9-inch beard and 1-inch spurs. He used a 12-gauge shotgun to harvest the bird.

“I’ve been my Pawpaw Rick Gottardi’s hunting buddy since I was 7 or 8 years old,’’ Seth Gottardi said. “He bought me a lifetime hunting and fishing license when I was a baby. He also attended my safety training (class) with me when I was 11 and I harvested my first deer with him when I was 12.’’

Seth Gottardi was using his father’s gun so he and his grandfather made sure the aim was true with target practice the day before the hunt. That night, Seth said he stayed up a bit late playing video games. So he and his grandfather didn’t get to their hunting spot until 6:45 a.m. But it wasn’t too late.

“The weather in the morning was clear and there were a bunch of turkey gobbling,’’ Seth said. “We set up close to a fence line where an open gate led into a field. I set up in some short trees with my decoy about 20 yards from me. Pawpaw sat about five yards behind me and started calling. The gobbler was answering his calls.’’

Seth said it wasn’t long before the turkey came into view.

“My heart was pounding so hard and my arms were heavy from holding my shotgun up,’’ Seth said. “I leveled the bead on its head and Pawpaw whispered, ‘Let him have it.’ I pulled the trigger and got him. I just harvested my first wild turkey. Pawpaw and I high fived and said a little prayer, thanking the Lord for this hunt. I absolutely love to hunt and I am thankful that I am in a family that gives me this opportunity.’’

The 2017 Youth Hunter of the Year contest began with the 2017 turkey season and gets into full swing in September when the 2017 hunting season opens for dove and teal.

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