Abbys nose stayed to the ground as she navigated quickly through endless acres of Scotch broom. She was on a mission.
Find the bird, Abby, the pointers handler Jerry Ferren said.
Abby froze and shook with excitement as she gave her cue on point. Ferrens 15-year-old grandson, Eli Everson, stealthily moved around a bush and flushed a pheasant hen into flight.
The bird dipped at the pop of the shotgun but coasted to safety...for now. The hunt continued.
Everson was one of more than 60 young people who participated in the Youth-Mentor Pheasant Hunt, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife program. The two-day supervised hunt took place at different locations all over the state while volunteer pheasant releasers from Pheasants Forever Chapter 257 organized the hunt on Joint Base Lewis-McChords Training Area 21 Saturday and Sunday. The training area turned into Hunting Area 21 as about 275 birds were released over the weekend in 200 acres of land between Olympia and Rainier.
It gives them an opportunity to not have the competition of the older shooters, JBLM Skeet/Trap Shooting Complex facility manager Dave Pedroza said. Its more of a mentorship versus shooting together.
Ranging from 7 to 16 years old, the ambitious youth hunters were mentored by adult volunteers. For some, it was their first time out and for others, like Everson, they had been hunting for years.
Members of the Pheasants Forever chapter brought their dogs to help the youth on their hunt. At about 8 a.m. each day the first wave of hunters made their way through the acreage, following the noses of their dogs and waiting for them to point or to run and flush the bird into the air.
We like to get them out and get them off the computer, Pheasants Forever officer Bob Wyzenbeek said. On his first time hunting it took no time at all for 13-year-old Alex Young to bag his allotted two birds and return. It was cool looking at the birds, Young said. I got to get within two feet of them and I was staring down at him, and then when he flew up I took one shot.
Young shot both of his birds, a hen and a rooster, with a single shot. He was only able to enter one of his birds into the longest tail feather contest because he shot the feathers off the other one.
Everson has been hunting since he was 7, when his shotgun was about as big as he was. He had to shake off the rust from a yearlong off-season. His first shots had hit a bird in the rump, but it still flew away. He followed Abby to the next bird.
He raised up and pulled the trigger, but the bird coasted away.
The gun wasnt loaded, he said to his grandfather.
The hunting party moved along and Abby picked up another bird.
Thats a bird down.
Eversons grandfather challenged his grandson, who won last years longest tail feather competition, to hunt with a .410 shotgun instead of his usual 20 or 12 gauge. Eversons hunting party came across the first bird he shot, injured and unable to fly. He picked up his bird and called it a day.
If my mom doesnt cook them for me Im out of luck, he said.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Matt Rainey of the 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, brought his 8-year-old daughter Haley Rainey to the hunt. Last year Haley didnt have her hunting license, so she spent the pheasant hunt walking around and taking it in. At this years hunt, the dog hunting with Haley chased down a bird before lunch. After the lunch break the young hunter went back out determined to get her own.
This is cool, you gotta get the kids out there, Matt Rainey said.
The mentors enforced hunting safety throughout the hunt to make sure the young hunters were loading their guns properly and handling them safely.
The JBLM Youth-Mentor Pheasant Hunt is an annual event. Training Area 21 is a designated pheasant release site.