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February 2024
Story by Rob Tanner
Hunters: Kellen Tanner
State: Oregon
Species: Antelope - Pronghorn

Oregon has some great opportunities for youth hunters. We have maximized those opportunities to their fullest as a father-son duo. In 2015, at the age of 9, Kellen got it started by filling my mule deer buck tag under the Mentored Youth Program. In Oregon, youth from 9-15 years old can sign up for this program and not only hunt and fill an adult’s tag, but they can also accumulate a Mentored Youth preference point annually. This is in addition to gathering a preference point for each species hunt series.

Fast forward eight years and Kellen (17 years old) has had 15 opportunities to fill controlled (draw) hunt tags in Oregon with me alongside. Amazingly, he has filled 14 of 15 tags! He’s notched tags on eight mule deer bucks, two cow elk, one bull elk, two spring bears, and recently, an antelope buck. We are not sure any other youth in Oregon has ever done such. We have played the point system perfectly, which involved a lot of planning and strategy but also some luck as there’s always uncertainty from year to year with variables such as point creep. It’s been an unexplainable experience for both of us. As a dad and also an avid and successful hunter, there is absolutely nothing better than seeing my kids be successful.

As most hunters know, there are highs and lows with every hunt, just like life. We have lived by the motto of “Patience, Persistence, and Positivity,” what we refer to as the “3 P’s.” Kellen and I remind ourselves of this motto daily on our hunts and try to practice it in our daily lives. It’s not easy to practice what you preach. We have bonded like no other in the outdoors through the “3 P’s.” We have been criticized for Kellen missing a week of school to go hunting, but we both agree that one week in the outdoors together is worth its weight in gold and there is a lot of learning that occurs. No disrespect meant to the school system as my wife is a teacher and I am a wrestling coach.

At 9, 10, 11, and 12 years old, Kellen filled my controlled buck tags. At 13, 14, 15, and 17, he filled his own controlled buck tags. At the age of 16, our buck hunt was cancelled due to a wildfire, but otherwise, Kellen has harvested a mule deer buck every year since the age of 9. In 2019, we cashed in 4 Mentored Youth points plus 4 regular preference points on a higher-quality youth mule deer buck hunt. We scouted a bunch and found a good one that he wanted. It was a beautiful non- typical 7x6 that we dubbed “Sexy Seven.” In 2021, we cashed in again on 2 Mentored Youth points plus 5 regular elk points to draw a good bull elk tag. In 2023, we redeemed the last Mentored Youth point to give Kellen enough points to draw a youth antelope hunt. We have been blessed with some really nice critters over the years. More importantly, though, we have become lifelong hunting buddies and invested in memories that will last forever.

Hold on, though. There is another streak that got started last year in the Tanner household. Kellen’s sister, Allison, got her first taste of success at the age of 11 and wants to be just like her brother, as does her dad.