Youth hunt provides mentorship
BEULAH, N.D. (AP) -- There was a time kids didn't need a reason to get outdoors. There just wasn't all that much to do inside. Studies have shown that kids who spend time in the outdoors are better students, more creative and develop social skill...
BEULAH, N.D. (AP) -- There was a time kids didn't need a reason to get outdoors. There just wasn't all that much to do inside.
Studies have shown that kids who spend time in the outdoors are better students, more creative and develop social skills more quickly.
One study showed that youth spend half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years ago. Another said today's kids spend 53 hours a week engaged in watching television, playing video games and the like.
Hunting is just one way youth can be introduced to the outdoors, but not all kids have the means or the opportunity to begin hunting.
The regular opener for pheasant season took place recently. But a youth pheasant season, the weekend before the regular, has been offered in North Dakota since 2005.
In Mercer County, the local chapters of Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever banded together to offer about a dozen first-time pheasant hunters a day in the field under the mentorship of veteran hunters.
Bill Wagner, a retired pastor from Hazen, said the hunt offers youth who might not otherwise be able to take up hunting the opportunity to do so.
Between the two groups, volunteers and sponsors furnished everything the young hunters needed to get their start -- ammunition, guns, dogs and guides -- and even private land on which they could hunt.
Kurt Swenson, a member of both the local DU and PF chapters, hosted part of the day at his home south of Beulah.
Swenson said the circumstances for the kids have differed in the two years the groups have hosted the hunting.
Some kids who may be interested in giving hunting a hand may not come from a hunting family.
Brett Lunde of Beulah is one of those kids. His father, Mitch, doesn't hunt but wanted his son to be able to have the experience.
"It's really a neat event," Mitch Lunde said.
"These guys supply everything. But more importantly, they teach the kids to do it right and to hunt safely," he said.
Swenson said one of the most important aspects of the youth hunt revolves around safety.
The kids -- mostly 14 years old -- must have successfully completed a hunter education course.
Wagner said even with the course, an actual hunt in the field is different.
So, for a good hour in the morning, the young hunters go over basic safety tips with the mentors and with local game warden Ryan Tunge.
Then it's out to a stubble field to shoot some clay pigeons before the hunt.
Wagner said a local business donated $100 in cash to help with supplies, but for the most part, chapter members filled in the rest.
"The mentors were just solicited from the local Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever chapters," Wagner said.
"I sent some emails and made some phone calls ... and the guys just wanted to help if they weren't working," Wagner said.
Whether it was teaching the young hunters to clean their birds, offering a few tips on shooting or bringing their bird dog out for the hunt, there were more than enough mentors to go around.
Brent Hysjulien of Hazen is a member of the Pheasants Forever chapter.
Over the years, Hysjulien also has been involved in coaching youth baseball in both communities. He said he sees the youth hunt as another way to connect with kids and to get the kids connected to the outdoors.
"It's a good event for everyone," Hysjulien said, adding that he likely gets more out of it than do the young hunters.
Likewise, local chiropractor Duane Pfliger said, for him, it's a way to get in a little work with his dog.
"There is a real passion to work with kids, to help them enjoy the outdoors and the hunting opportunities we have," Wagner said.