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A-Hunting They Will Go!

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Published on: Nov. 2, 2006

Last revision: Feb. 16, 2011

Youth Rabbit Hunt

The young hunter couldn’t contain himself when a pheasant fell to his well-aimed shot. “Dad, did you see?” he shouted. “Did you see me shoot that bird?”

There was plenty of excitement going around at the recent youth upland hunt hosted by The Ozark Plateau Chapter of Quail Forever and the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Andy Dalton Shooting Range staff and volunteers.

Twenty-three young hunters enjoyed a morning of instruction and clay-bird shooting at the range while parents looked on and volunteers coached. After a lunch of hotdogs, the youngsters went on a pheasant hunt to put their newly learned skills to use.

As a bird hunter and dog handler, I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday than helping teenagers develop what may prove to be a lifelong love affair with hunting. The best part of being involved was witnessing the enthusiasm of the kids as they took on the challenge of learning to hunt and seeing family bonds grow stronger as kids enjoyed a wholesome activity with their parents.

As a 13-year-old first-time hunter said to me as we followed the dogs through knee-high grass, “This is the most fun I’ve had with my mom.”

Field Experience

Excitement built as my 5-year-old pointer locked onto a bird about 40 yards out.

“We’d better get over there fast, before that dog jumps in,” one youngster exclaimed. I shook my head and told him not to worry. My dog had years of hunting experience and wasn’t about to break point.

In a flurry of activity, our brace of first-time hunters rushed to the dog as volunteers helped to position the young hunters for the best possible shots. After a nod to the fellow with the bird-launcher remote, one very large rooster pheasant exploded with a loud cackle from a clump of little bluestem.

The rooster got out quite a ways before our hunters found a clear shot. Still, the bird sailed across a fallow field and wobbled to the ground at the edge of a native warm-season grass field over a quarter mile away. We watched him run off into that field like he was trying out for the Olympics. Both our young hunters groaned in dismay. They obviously hadn’t hunted with a good bird dog yet.

Rocks (my pointer) had never let me down at one of these youth hunts, and from the speed at which she entered that native-grass field, I didn’t think we’d lose that bird. The boys had identical looks of disbelief as she came out of the tall grasses a few minutes later holding a struggling rooster in her mouth.

Another pair of young hunters received praise from instructor Keith DeBow when they correctly identified a hen pheasant and let it fly away without shooting.

Later, a young hunter, Mackenzi, was fretting because she had shot two pheasants in a row, but her friend Mollie hadn’t shot any. As luck would have it, Mackenzi ended up with her limit of pheasants, and Molly also bagged a rooster, the first pheasant she’d ever shot.

In all, the youngsters, helped by chapter volunteers, Conservation Department staff, one aspiring young bird dog and four seasoned, veteran dogs, harvested more than 40 birds during the hunt.

As the sun was going down, everyone gathered around to talk about the thrills of the day. As is usual, most of the talk revolved around the skill of the dogs. Most of the kids either wanted a hunting dog or wanted to train their dog to hunt. I took pleasure in hearing from volunteers and the young hunters that my young dog, Rooster Coggin, had performed admirably. He’s developing into a great hunting dog and will be helping on a lot of youth hunts in the future.

Building Traditions

Thanks to conservation partnerships with Quail Forever, Pheasants Forever, National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited and Quail Unlimited, among many others, young Missourians have numerous opportunities to participate in a youth hunt.

Chapter members, volunteers and Conservation Department staff believe youth hunts help steer kids toward a lifetime appreciation for hunting and shooting and help strengthen family relationships. Their optimism is partly based on comments from youth hunt participants and their families. Paul Shuler of Springfield, for example, recently wrote to the Conservation Department in appreciation for the extraordinary opportunity to attend a youth hunt with his son, Blake, and to say that his normally “very quiet” son couldn’t stop talking about the day on their drive home.

“He’s even been asking lots of questions about how to become a conservation agent,” Shuler wrote.

Mike Brooks, supervisor at the Andy Dalton Shooting Range, told the youngsters during their training, “You are the future of this sport; you’ll build a tradition and share it with your parents.”

Thanks to youth hunts, these kids are well-equipped to keep our hunting traditions alive.

Find a Youth Hunt

To find out about hunts in your area, go to www.missouriconservation.org and click on “What events are going on in my area.”

Rules and regulations vary for youth and women’s upland hunts. If you have questions, contact the person listed on the announcement.

Orgs for Kids

“Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever both support the philosophy of educating our youth about the outdoors by letting them experience conservation first-hand,” said Cheryl Riley, youth program coordinator for both organizations.

Youths interested in joining Pheasants Forever can sign up for a Ringnecks youth membership. Youths interested in Quail Forever can sign up for a Whistlers youth membership. Both come with a year’s subscription to the “Upland Tales” magazine (four issues), a membership card and an invitation to a local PF or QF chapter banquet.

To sign up for PF call toll free at (877) 773-2070 or log onto the PF Web site at www.pheasantsforever.org. To sign up for QF call toll free at (877) 45-QUAIL or log onto the QF Web site at www.quailforever.org. The annual membership fee for a Ringnecks or Whistlers membership is $15.

Find a Youth Hunt

To find out about hunts in your area, go to www.missouriconservation.org and click on “What events are going on in my area.”

Rules and regulations vary for youth and women’s upland hunts. If you have questions, contact the person listed on the announcement.

Orgs for Kids

“Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever both support the philosophy of educating our youth about the outdoors by letting them experience conservation first-hand,” said Cheryl Riley, youth program coordinator for both organizations.

Youths interested in joining Pheasants Forever can sign up for a Ringnecks youth membership. Youths interested in Quail Forever can sign up for a Whistlers youth membership. Both come with a year’s subscription to the “Upland Tales” magazine (four issues), a membership card and an invitation to a local PF or QF chapter banquet.

To sign up for PF call toll free at (877) 773-2070 or log onto the PF Web site at www.pheasantsforever.org. To sign up for QF call toll free at (877) 45-QUAIL or log onto the QF Web site at www.quailforever.org. The annual membership fee for a Ringnecks or Whistlers membership is $15.

Pheasant Facts

Pheasants are not native to Missouri. Pheasants first arrived in the U.S. in 1881 when Judge Owen Nickerson Denny (U.S. consul to China) shipped 30 Chinese ringnecks (26 survived the journey) to his home in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.

More than 90 percent of a pheasant chick’s diet during the first week of its life consists of insects.

Pheasant hens remain with their broods for eight to 10 weeks, but even under their watchful eyes, about one-half of the chicks will die from natural causes, primarily predation.

Few pheasants die of old age. The average life span of a pheasant is less than one year.

Pheasant Hunting

With favorable winter and spring weather conditions, Missouri hunters should expect to see a 2006 pheasant harvest that is in line with the 30,000-bird average.

Only rooster pheasants are legal to hunt in Missouri during the season, which begins Nov. 1 in the Northern Zone and Dec. 1 in the Southern Zone. The daily limit is two roosters in the Northern Zone, and one rooster in the Southern Zone.

For more information about hunting pheasants in Missouri, see the “2006 Summary of Missouri Hunting and Trapping Regulations,” available at permit sellers statewide, or visit the Conservation Department’s Web site at www.missouriconservation.org and search for “pheasant hunting.”

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