Encouraging young hunters

Not even the combination of brisk winds and cool temperatures could keep young and enthusiastic pheasant hunters out of the field last weekend. Minot’s Pheasants for the Future hosted about 30 young hunters for a youth pheasant hunt Oct. 5 southwest of Minot. Despite the conditions, youthful hunters harvested birds and displayed broad smiles.

“I did pretty good. It was my first time,” said Josh Tyra, Minot, after returning from a walk in the field with several other young hunters and supervisors. “I didn’t get anything, but my friends did on the right side and the left side of me. I’m just happy that the dogs came out and had fun and everyone had fun. I’m pretty happy.”

The youth pheasant hunt was held on two large sections of Private Land Open to Sportsmen dominated by tall grass and a few wetlands. Members of Minot’s Pheasants for the Future released 150 adult rooster pheasants onto the grounds prior to the hunt in the hopes of increasing opportunities for young hunters, some of whom had never previously harvested a pheasant.

“It’s a good deal. It’s really good to see everybody come out and get their birds,” said Ben Goodman, youth director for Pheasants for the Future. “It is nice to see them get started and to be a part of it. It’s nice to see the first-timers out there, to help them get on some birds and learn the right way to do things.”

Safety was emphasized at the event. A requirement to participate was that young hunters had to have their Hunter Education certificate. All were briefed by qualified instructors before being released into the field under the supervision of watchful adults. Parents were encouraged to accompany their children. A number of them did, very much wanting to see their son or daughter take aim on a flushing rooster pheasant.

“We do it to give the kids an opportunity to see what it’s like to go out with a group hunting in a safe and secure area,” said John Hughes, president, Pheasants for the Future. “They get birds up. Whether they hit them or not it gets the excitement flowing and they want to do it more. That’s our future, our future hunters. There was a lot of big smiles.”

Young hunters were more than eager to hold up their roosters while numerous photographs were taken. Hot dogs and soft drinks were served to those who returned from the hunt or were waiting for their turn to get into the field. A large contingent of volunteers from Pheasants for the Future did their best to insure every young hunter had a very enjoyable morning.

Dogs worked through the tall grass in front of the line of hunters, adding much to the experience in the field. Most of the pheasants were holding very tight, good for dogs and young hunters hoping for agreeable shots in windy conditions.

“Thank God we still have enough of them that want to do this,” said Henry Capaci, past president of Pheasants for the Future while observing young hunters in the field. “This is fantastic. It is all about the youth now. These young hunters are our future.”

Capaci has been active in Pheasants for the Future since 1992 and considers the annual youth pheasant hunt a club priority. George Malaktaris, Minot, another longtime club member, agrees with Capaci.

“I think it’s a great thing,” said Malaktaris. “It gets them excited about hunting. It’s fun to watch them. It’s a super program.”

Kyle Germundson of Washburn made the trip to the hunting grounds with his two sons, Brigger and Caden.

“They had fun. It was pretty neat, a good event that is well organized and very safe,” said Kyle Germundson.

“It was really fun!” said Caden Germundson shortly after emerging from the hunting field.

After his successful trip into the field Preston Harrington happily displayed a rooster pheasant for whoever wished to take a look.

“It was fun and I shot a rooster!” said Harrington while proudly hoisting his colorful bird.

Joe Cutaiar was in the field too. No shotgun for him, though. He was there to help supervise, assist and enjoy the time in search of pheasants.

“I was just walking with the boys, getting their first pheasants of the year,” said Cutaiar. “It’s fun.”

Goodman credited the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s “Encouraging Tomorrow’s Hunters” program for their help in sharing the some of the cost of the event. He was also encouraged by an increase in the number of young hunters as compared to a year earlier.

“I just hope we have another good year next year,” said Goodman.

The location of this year’s event, east of U.S. Highway 83 on 177th Avenue, was used for just the second time. Several Pheasants for the Future members commented that the location was ideal for hosting a youth event and indicated their willingness to utilize the property again in 2014.