By Gary Kephart
Hunting heritage runs deep in my family and one of my most enjoyable memories of hunting as a youth was hunting pheasants with my uncle and a close friend who had a farm just outside of town in Adams County, Pennsylvania.
Unfortunately the wild pheasants disappeared and when my family moved to North Central PA I changed my focus to hunting deer and turkey. I never gave the pheasants much thought, but occasionally would think back to how much I missed hearing the cackle of a flushed rooster on a brisk Fall morning.
Fast forward thirty years and having relocated to Maryland, my hunting life changed when I was lucky enough to get my first bird dog. I worked hard to train her all spring and summer and participated in a few preserve hunts but really wanted to get her on some free-ranging birds.
I did my research and read about the Pennsylvania Youth Pheasant Season. Having a buddy and a cousin with youngsters who hunted, I asked them if they wanted to check it out. They were receptive and I talked to the Game Commission and did a little research. They were very helpful and we planned to try a local state game lands on opening day of the youth season.
We met in the morning and went through some safety precautions and I explained how the dog would point the bird and we would flush the bird for him to take a safe shot. I still really did not know what to expect and how much excitement we were about to experience. Just before we entered the field I heard a single cackle from a rooster. I said to my young hunter “at least we know there is one bird in the field to hunt” and the huge grin on his face could not be erased!
We ended up pointing and flushing eight beautiful roosters and after a couple misses his shooting improved and he harvested two fast flying birds. The game commission did an exceptional job of planting cover crops in the fields and we only encountered a few other hunters. To say we were pleasantly surprised would be an understatement.
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and I think that these young hunters would agree! As the next season peeks around the corner, I am pleased to say that I have at least two youth hunters that are chomping at the bit! That is great news as many of the young kids today are tied up with social media and video games and never get to experience the enjoyment that only the outdoors can provide.