We are in the middle of youth hunting seasons up here in Iowa. Youth deer season just ended, pheasant youth season starts in a couple of weeks. The county Pheasants Forever board teamed up with a local game reserve and we had a pre-season youth hunt there last weekend. We had 11 kids ranging from a couple of barely-handling-the-weight-of-their-guns through the 13 year old that brought down an overhead pheasant in an impressive shot. The game reserve was gorgeous. Rolling loess hills, brisk fall weather. It was interesting to see the drought damage though. I was hoping the mild winter had helped the birds, but it’s clear some will starve this winter, the grasses were hard hit. Being a game reserve, they had released birds for the youth. Most of the kids had one in hand by the time we were done.
I love being out in a mentor setting. I know I’m not the worlds best hunter, but the kids never care. I try to tell them things I can remember my Dad saying. I try to show them how to evaluate situations. We had dogs hunting with us, and at we were split into a few groups, so we had multiple things to keep tabs on. A big part of it is drilling the safety stuff in. Reminders to check safeties, reminders to keep muzzles up, practicing the safe gun handling. It always feels like a nice warm up into the regular season.
I like seeing everyone’s gear too. I saw a great backpack set up one of the guys with 2 dogs had. Two water bottle holders, plus a camelback, so he always had water for himself and his dogs. He had food in there for all three as well. As usual, I was the only woman out for the hunt. I was traveling pretty light, just my knife, hand warmers, extra gloves, water bottle and mini first aid kit. The hand warmers and extra gloves both got used by poorly dressed youth. (We didn’t make it above freezing until shortly after we took a break for lunch.)
Following the hunt, was the cleaning of the birds. Every kids favorite! Another one of those basics that can be tough to do the first few times. I think it’s less intimidating for them to do in a group with guidance.
So, all said, a dozen local kids got a good dose of basic land nav, group tactics, target practice, exercise, cold weather survival, dog training and animal butchering. (Oh, and pizza.) Not bad for one morning’s work.
Anybody else doing any mentoring this season? How are the game populations doing in your area?
– Calamity Jane