ORRINGTON, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Last year's mild winter allowed many deer to survive, so the state increased the number of "any deer" hunting permits by 60 percent.

Youth across the state Saturday got to kick off this year's hunting season.

“I was really scared," Zeb Wilson said. "When he shot the gun, I just covered my ears, I got wicked pale, but afterward, it was wicked fun."

It has been five years since he began hunting with his dad and uncle. The thrill of it all, kept him coming back for more.

“When you’re out and you hear or see something out of the corner of your eye, you might see a leaf moving … your heart drops,” he said.

The number of junior hunting licenses has increased by nearly 89 percent since 2006, according to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Wilson is among this year’s 24,000 kids who will learn responsibility and conservation as they kick off Maine’s hunting season.

“It’s starting to get overpopulated with deer so it’s a good way to keep the population down,” he said.

Kids from 10 to 15 years of age who possess a junior hunting license can hunt deer under the direct supervision of a parent, or guardian. It was a day that was marked on Wilson’s calendar for a whole year.

“Just being there and waiting for a deer to walk out. It’s a great feeling,” Wilson said. Sometimes, however, you end the day empty handed. And that’s no reason to fret, he said.

“You have the whole season ahead to get one and if you get one on youth day, you’re going to be bored for the rest of the season and have nothing to do on the weekends.”

He said spending quality time with his dad and uncle is what matters most.

Twelve-year tagging location owner Bob Bastey agrees. He said hunting is the best way to bond.

“There have been kids that started in junior high and they’re coming back, they’re hunting with their parents still," he said. "It really just keeps building."

Next Saturday is another special hunting day set aside for only Maine residents. The season will be open for all hunters on Nov. 2.