Chapters Host Annual Pheasant Hunt
Inside the Outdoors, October 16, 2009

youth pheasant
Two of the young hunters who took part in the Youth Mentored Pheasant Hunt at the Kingston Veteran's Sportman's Club recently. Trent Lash (left) and Josh McCleary (right) were were led by Latrobe's Bill Girt, center. (For more photos, click on the "Gallery" tab above.)

The day may have started out a bit overcast, and at times a sprinkle descended from the clouds, but no way would that dampen the spirits of approximately 50 young hunters at the Kingston Veterans and Sportsman’s Club Saturday in Derry Township as they met on part of the 300 acres of the Club to try their hands of harvesting pheasants in approximately 60 acres of fields owned by the organization.

Joining the members of the KVSC was the Laurel Highlands Chapter of Pheasants Forever as both organizations combined efforts for the Seventh Annual Junior Pheasant Hunt.

Each youth who participated had to be 12 to 16 years old, have successfully completed the basic Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Hunter-Trapper Education course, be accompanied by a guardian and wear the necessary orange as required by law.

This was not the only such organization participating in this type of hunt throughout the state. Twenty-one other clubs also participated. Amongst them approximately 1,800 birds were provided to them by the PGC. Of consequence, the KVSC and the LHPF received a little more than 100 pheasants for Saturday’s challenge.

And to assert that these young adults were merely putting through an effort of sorts to try to get their bird was really an understatement. Each young fellow or gal needed to not only be attentive, but rely on their initiatives to do as told upon command.

The hunt began at 8 a.m. As the morning continued as per hour, groups were led to a particular field equipped with shotguns and rounds of ammunitions. Heading up the pack was the leader who usually had one or two dogs. These animals would flush out the hidden birds that had been released in the fields just prior to the entry of the competitors. Along with the leaders were observers, such as yours truly, usually three or four hunters and their guardians.

When the signal was given, the hunt was underway. Any one of three hunters could shoot at the pheasant. Safety was the primary concern and was priority on the list of instructions given before the young adults took to the field.

Hunting for pheasant was not an easy endeavor. Sometimes, the group would walk the full length of the field and not have any success. Other times, the dog(s) may flush out a bird only to have it fly over the hunters’ head in the opposite direction. Or maybe the pheasant surprise the trio and flew upward. The trick was to take careful aim and fire at the right time. Not all youths succeeded the first time. But even those who were unsuccessful were given a bird to take home.

Youth had the opportunity to visit the skeet-shooting range where they could practice shooting claying pigeons if they wished before heading out onto the fields. This activity was not a pre-requisite, but available to those who needed to practice. Done on a yearly basis, Ken Hess, of Laurel Valley Nursery, has freely donated the use of his trapshooting machine for the use to the clubs. Army Navy Store, Latrobe, donated #6 High Brass Shotgun shells.

Greater Latrobe High School History Teacher Bill Girt was one of the leaders. When I asked him about these youth hunts, he replied, “Not only do kids really get a lot out of it, but I get a lot out of it helping them.” His nine year-old son, Ian, usually accompanies him on his walks. He explained, “He gets to see the hunt first hand and how we operate. Ian learns about safety, how we learn to handle guns, and how we are to interact in our hunting party. When he takes a Hunter-Safety Course in a couple of years, he will also have a lot of experience.”

Jessica Shawley, 12, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Skip Shawley, told me this hunting experience is great! “It provides a lot of experience for the future. With the skills I learn, I may want to hunt deer and I’m thinking of hunting rabbit,” the Latrobe youngster commented.

Cody Henry, 13, son of Mr. and Mrs. Ray Henry, Latrobe, was quick to point out, “I think this program is really fun because every kid gets a chance to hunt.” The teen got two pheasants last Saturday.

Fourteen year-old Ryan Hoyle has been hunting at these mentored hunts before. He also agrees it is a lot of fun.

And no one was more excited about trying pheasant hunting for the first time than was Nick Cimino, 14, son of Joe Cimino of Pittsburgh. He was raring to go, lock, stock and barrel!

Tony Ugoletti, son of Mr. and Mrs.Vince Ugoletti from Blairsville, told me, “There is a lot of good land here. It is better for the birds. I’ve never hunted up here for deer yet, but I would like to do so in the future.”

“One great thing about the combination hunt,” Leo Henry, trustee for KVSC commented, “is that parents will bring their kids from all over the place to this junior hunt. They will come from as far away as Pittsburgh,” he told me. Such was the case of Abby Beck, 12, accompanied her father, Paul, from the “burg” to try her hand at the sport. Both from Trafford, the pair are members of the Trafford Run and Gun Club. The elder Beck told me he’s going to make a real hunter out of her. She’s already shooting a 22 caliber. “We are getting her into it, so that’s good.”

The KVSC and the LHPF wish to thank the KVS Fish and Game, the Laurel Highland Pheasants Forever, Miller’s Run Conservation Society, Army Navy Store in Latrobe, Westmoreland County Sportsmen’s League, Ken Hess from Laurel Valley Nursery, Latrobe Sportsmen, KVS Archery, Pennsylvania Game Commission, all the dog owners and handlers and the Latrobe Bulletin. KVSC President Skip Shawley mentioned that everything, including food and drink, was free to the kids and parents, and paid for by the KVS Game Committee and the LHPF or donated by contributors. He said there was no charge.

In conclusion, I think fourteen year-old Tony Syster, son of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Syster, Latrobe, hit it right on the nose when he pointed out, “This is a great program for young hunters. I hope they keep doing it.” So do many others, my friend. So do many others.

(To view photos from the event, click on the "Gallery" tab above.)

- Paul J. Volkmann
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