A local contest is encouraging kids to put down the drugs and pick up a gun.

Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler announced the county's very first youth big game contest. With the tag line, “Enjoy the Great Outdoors, Not Drugs,” the contest is aimed at getting kids to reject drugs and gang activity by getting them excited about hunting bears and deer.

Hoovler says he believes the pandemic has fostered dangerous habits that can be solved by getting kids into hunting.

Participants will learn to enjoy and respect nature and, by spending more time with family and friends, will alleviate some of the boredom and anxiety caused by the COVID-19 crisis. It is that boredom and anxiety that has led so many of our young people to turn to drug use or gang activity.

Statistics were unavailable on how many children in Orange County have turned to drugs and gang activity since the beginning of the pandemic, but Hoovler says that hunting and other outdoor sports can deter kids from making "bad choices."

The contest runs from October 1 to December 12 and is open to children or grandchildren of Orange County residents who are properly licensed hunters between the ages of 12 and 17. Each hunter contestant can enter one bear, one buck deer and one doe deer during the contest. Photos of the kids with their bear or deer must be emailed to the District Attorney's office by December 12. Winners will receive a $50 gift card.

The Orange County District Attorney reminds all hunters to put safety first.

Always positively identify your target and what is beyond it before you shoot. Obey the game laws and wear hunter orange so you are not mistaken for game.

Hoovler also reminded the youth contestants in a press release to "never hunt under the influence of alcohol or drugs."

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