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Starting out right

Annual youth pheasant hunt

Youth pheasant hunters and their mentors moments before taking to the field for the annual Pheasants for the Future youth hunt.

RICE LAKE – It was a beautiful morning with the early rays of sunshine adding a warm glow to the surroundings. Volunteers from the Pheasants for the Future sportsman’s club were preparing to host their annual youth pheasant hunt.

While one group of volunteers was setting up a temporary clay target practice area, a few more were preparing propane grills and the food they would be serving young pheasant hunters. A registration table was organized and staffed. Hunter education instructors arrived and briefly consulted about the safety aspects of the event.

The hunt was to start at 9 a.m., but youthful hunters began arriving much earlier. They were eager to participate. Handlers arrived with their dogs, further adding to the anxiety of the morning.

After a brief but very thorough safety briefing the young hunters were sorted into two separate groups before heading into the field in search of rooster pheasants. The hunters were all 15 years of age or younger who had met their hunter education requirements. Still, this day was different. It was the real thing.

With hunter education instructors and mentors joining them in the field, the orange clad hunters began walking in line through tall grass. Anticipation of a flush was high.

“It’s real rewarding,” said Ben Goodman, Pheasants for the Future. “It’s kind of like their first bit of hunting. It’s fun to watch them get their birds and show them the correct way of doing things in the field.”

Goodman, who led one group of youngsters into the field, said giving back to youth was the best part of the event. Several other volunteers from the club had similar comments.

“It’s youth getting a chance to understand the habitat,” said Mike Larson.

Wayne Strand, another volunteer who has participated in numerous youth events, said, “It’s part of the club and it’s great to see these young kids come out here and have an opportunity to shoot a bird. I remember when I shot my first rooster. It was quite a feeling.”

As Strand joined other volunteers in watching the line of young hunters walk through the field, a few pheasants flushed without a shot being fired. A few moments later a rooster on the rise was falling back to earth as the report of the shotgun in the distance was heard, followed by some congratulatory yells coming from the field. Sound carried well in the calm, morning air.

After returning with his group of hunters, Goodman said there was plenty of shooting but that the “kids were a little green” and not many put a rooster on the ground. A second group of young hunters did much better.

“Those guys were warmed up from shooting clay targets,” said Goodman. “They shot 15 to 20 roosters on that walk.”

Several hunters from the first group Goodman took into the field noticed the success and shot several practice rounds at clay targets. Then they gave pheasant hunting another try, exactly what volunteers were hoping for.

“Some from that first group went back out and several got a limit,” stated Goodman. “It was fun to watch.”

Pheasants for the Future held youth pheasant hunts at two locations last Saturday, one near Rice Lake and the other at a club youth hunting property south of Bergen.

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