MONMOUTH, Ore. (KOIN) — Skipper the German shorthaired pointer stands at attention, fixated on a pheasant hiding in the blackberry brambles and weeds. “Move up,” Philip Swain, a volunteer, tells Adan Rios, a 14-year-old hunter from Tillamook. They walk forward a bit farther and a pheasant flaps into the air. Three shots, then Skipper chases after the fallen bird.
Dozens of young hunters, their parents, and eager bird dogs were set loose on E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area during the weekend of September 22 for a free pheasant hunt. Organized by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and other groups including Pheasants Forever and Oregon Hunters Association, the event is meant to give young people a safe and low-stress environment to learn the fundamentals of hunting.
This was Adan’s second year attending the hunt. He normally hunts deer and elk with his dad, Jorge, who heard about the pheasant hunt last year and suggested Adan try it out.
“We just signed up for that last year and had a lot of fun so we wanted to come back again,” Jorge said. “(Adan) also joined the high school trap team … so he got more practice in.”
Adan said he likes the challenge of hunting.
“You only get the reward if you … persevere through it and face the challenges,” he said.
The kids don’t have to have a dog in order to participate, because volunteers bring their own dogs to help. That’s where Swain comes in. He said it’s important to get young people outside and learning about animals and how to maintain their habitat.
“It’s politically unpopular in our country nowadays for hunting because people don’t understand that,” Swain said. “They don’t understand the hunting heritage, they think it’s just going out and killing animals. They don’t understand the conservation aspects of it, don’t understand it’s hunter’s licenses and excise taxes that pay for a great deal of the habitat maintenance that goes on out in wild areas.”
In Oregon, 47,633 youth hunting licenses were sold last year, and an additional 9,749 youth sports pac licenses, according to ODFW.
But it is a constant struggle to train the next generation of hunters, according to Jacob Williams, president of the Mid-Willamette OHA Chapter. When you factor in gear like clothes, boots, guns and shells, Williams said a lot of parents find it easier to opt for sports like soccer or baseball.
That’s why they’ve tried to organize events where all the participants need are a youth license, upland validation, hunter education certificate and a supervising adult.
Many of the kids have some hunting experience, but not all of them.
“It’s kind of the full meal deal,” Swain said. “They get to go out and hunt, they have an opportunity to harvest some of the birds and then they come back here and learn how to clean the birds, prepare them for the table and then they’re given recipes and so forth and taught how to prepare the birds for the table.”
To learn more about hunting opportunities for young people, visit ODFW’s website.