A-Hunting They Will Go!

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