Henrico, VA -(AmmoLand.com)- Editor’s note… This story was first published in “The Journal” newspaper March 28 by columnist Mark Fike and is an excellent account of a successful Youth Day Bird Hunt sponsored by NWTF local chapters, Bass Pro Shops, local businesses, partners, parents and VDGIF volunteer hunter education instructors who provided these young hunters an excellent day learning safe firearms handling and guided bird hunting with dogs.
We hope this story will encourage others to take kids hunting during the Spring Gobbler season or upcoming spring squirrel season.
Saturday, the 12th of March, held promise of a good weather day for seven King George youth to travel to Stevensburg just east of Culpeper, Virginia to try bird hunting for the first time.
Upland bird hunting is best done in cool or cold weather, not the delightful warm weather we experienced the week leading up to the hunt. The Rapphannock Spurs Chapter of the NWTF sponsored the hunt for the youth. Big Dog Outfitters in King George, Bass Pro Shops, Remington Arms, Rose Hill Game Preserve, and a donor who wishes to remain anonymous, supported the youth in a big way. All of the youth were afforded plenty of practice with clay pigeons prior to the hunt, using 20 gauge shotguns that Remington Arms donated. Bass Pro Shops donated the blaze orange caps for safety purposes and Big Dog Outfitters provided shells as did Bass Pro Shops for the youth to practice with.
When the youth arrived at Rose Hill Game Preserve, they received a safety brief which they listened to closely. Gun safety, shooting over the bird dogs and handling of firearms was reviewed. After taking care of some paperwork concerning the hunt, the youth headed down to the Five Stand location where they were given an opportunity to warm up on some flying clay targets. Kristin Soleto and one of the guides, Anthony, worked as a team to send targets out and give some pointers to the youth about hitting the targets. Every youth broke some of the clays. Meanwhile the dog handlers/hunting guides observed their charges to gauge ability and make mental notes of adjustments to their hunting setups and rules as we prepared to go into the field.
Hunting over dogs and shooting at flushing birds for the first time can be a bit overwhelming. A lot is happening at once. Experienced bird hunters can anticipate what might or might not happen. Taking some youth that are new to hunting out to do such hunting is exciting but challenging for them. Your columnist is proud to say that the youth handled the hunt in a mature and safe manner. Every youth got multiple chances to bag birds and every youth did bag birds. Along the way the youth learned first-hand the ecology of birds and habitat that they live in. The young hunters also put the skills and knowledge they learned in their Hunter Education class to use. Several stories were relayed by the guides to me about how birds were flying low and the young hunters pulled their shotguns up so as not to endanger the bird dogs. Other youth chose not to shoot when unsure about the shot or whether it was safe or not. I witnessed this on several occasions myself with the pair of young ladies I was with. The hunt was a perfect hands on exercise of safe firearms handling.
The young hunters appeared proud of their pheasant and chukar that they bagged. The youth all tipped their guides for the great service they provided at the end of the hunt before posing for photos. I have been on a number of guided upland bird hunts and after considering the hunts I have experienced, I have to say that the guides the youth had on their hunt this past Saturday were down to earth, hard working, great guides. They were patient and did everything they could to help the young shooters set up properly and get the best chance to bag the birds in a safe manner. I observed them going out of their way to make the kids feel welcome and confident.
At the end of the hunt and photo taking session, the youth were able to go watch a demonstration of how to clean a few of the birds before they were given the opportunity to try to clean their birds for themselves. Although the guides made it seem very easy, the youth learned that experience counts when doing such tasks. Kristen Soleto, who books the hunts for Rose Hill, came down to watch the young hunters clean birds. She stepped in and showed all of us a new way to do the job that was quick and easy, which was impressive.
Before the youth headed back to King George, Julie Abel, coordinator of the Women in the Outdoors for the Rappahannock Spurs Chapter of NWTF, gathered the young hunters and awarded them a bag of goodies from the chapter. She explained to them why NWTF takes such an interest in sponsoring and hosting such youth events and she invited them to come as new JAKES members to the August 20th fundraising banquet at the Fredericksburg Fairgrounds where they could tell their story about their experiences on the hunt. She also informed them of the Take a Woman Hunting Week that NWTF is sponsoring and the prizes that could be won for participating. Abel was thrilled to see the new hunters that NWTF was able to sponsor on this hunt. She explained that over 89% of the funds raised for NWTF go back into events such as the hunt like the one that they youth were able to experience.
By the time we got back to King George, people in the community had heard about the experience the youth had and several people stopped me to ask how it went. Word travels fast these days. I received an e-mail from a friend in Kenya asking about the hunt as soon as I got home!
I would like to thank the parents that supported me in organizing the hunt and those that supported their youth in going. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to do this with your young hunter. Thanks also to NWTF, Julie Abel, Rose Hill Game Preserve, Big Dog Outfitters, Remington Arms, and Bass Pro Shops. Without their assistance, this opportunity would not have been available to the kids.
Check out the Rappahannock Spurs Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/rappahannockspurs.
About Mark Fike:
Freelance writer and photographer Mark Fike has 25 + years of published writing experience and is a self taught outdoor photographer. Mark continues to meet the needs of editors in the outdoors world with landscape, fishing, hunting, trapping, boating, camping and other outdoors related photos and with his high quality work writing work. Visit www.fikeoutdoors.com
About Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries:
Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries ( VDGIF ) is responsible for the management of inland fisheries, wildlife, and recreational boating for the Commonwealth of Virginia.
For more information, visit: www.dgif.virginia.gov.