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Rooster cackles to youth

Rooster cackles to youth

Youth pheasant season a success for young hunters

In 1997 the Iowa Department of Natural Resources implemented a youth pheasant season. The purpose of the youth season is to give young hunters an opportunity to enjoy pheasant hunting with little to know pressure.

During the youth season, only hunters under the age of 16 are allowed to hunt, Todd Bogenschutz, DNR Upland Wildlife Biologist, said. This gives learning hunters a more relaxed environment to try the sport.

“Birds aren’t wise to hunters yet and all the activity can just be focused on kids,” Bogenschutz said. Colton Crooks, Tyler Wilken and Logan and Landon Luft were four youth hunters who took to the fields last weekend. Darin Crooks and Brian Wilken wanted to give the four boys an opportunity to hunt together, over a pair of labs in a fairly controlled setting.

The group gained permission to hunt property from one of Crooks’ coworkers.

“He’s got all the habitat, he’s got food plots, grass and CRP and stuff,” Crooks said of the property.

Not only is the land managed to be prime real estate in the eyes of a pheasant, but Crooks and his coworker go the extra mile to ensure the area is full of mature birds.

“Last year we stocked about 250 hens out there,” he said. “Every other year we get pheasants out of MacFarlane Pheasants in Janesville, WI.”

The time and effort into creating this pheasant haven ensured the four boys had plenty of opportunity to perfect identification and improve their aim.

“It was all their first pheasants they’ve ever gotten,” Crooks said. “They all shot their own birds.”

As experienced hunters Crooks and Wilken were able to watch the boys and provide advice to help them improve.

“We’re trying to mentor them and keep them in line,“ Crooks said. “I was watching (Landon Luft) and so, his gun was too big for him, too long.”

He recommended Luft use another boy’s shotgun for the remainder of the hunt.

“As soon as he switched — right on the rooster,” Crooks said.

Each boy had their own 20 gauge they brought on the hunt. By 11 a.m. the hunt was declared a success and they were finished.

“Oh shoot, we could have had our limit by 9 a.m. easily, they had so many opportunities,” Crooks said.

The youth season hunt allows one bird a day per youth hunter.

“It isn’t about how many birds they can kill it’s about giving them, especially the beginning hunters, an opportunity,” Bogenschutz said.

Each year youth hunters across the state the take advantage of the two day season.

“So, we’ve been tracking the numbers since 2000 and our average number of youth through that time period through 2014 is about 8,600 participate statewide and typically harvest around 5,600 birds,” Bogenschutz said. “It works out to about .6 birds per hunter, every other kid.”

Crooks loved being able to guide the young hunting party and watch the boys’ success. All four boys still have a few remaining years left before they reach 16 and will be able to enjoy more youth pheasant seasons to hone their skills.

By Amie Johansen [email protected]

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