Earlier this fall, I had the opportunity to lead my first Learn to Hunt program on the University of Wisconsin – Madison campus. I had been part of Learn to Hunts before in the spring for turkeys, but never had I done one in the fall or had the task of organizing it. Let me say this right away – it takes a lot of hard work and cooperation to get an event like this accomplished, but it’s all worth it in the end.
After a month of preparation and planning (half of it with me out of the state elk hunting in Colorado) we had everything set for the Learn to hunt event. Our good friends at the Waunakee Gun Club were nice enough to lend us their time and facility for the educational aspect of the event. We introduced the 24 new hunters to firearm safety, and how important safe hunting is whenever we’re in the field. Along with help from the mentors of the group, the hunters got to shoot stationary targets, and then got a chance at moving targets. It’s surprising how many people who have never shot before actually hit the moving targets. Some of them were even perfect. My attempt to demonstrate missed the mark completely…
Following the shooting portion or the hunt was the remainder of the educational part teaching the hunters about pheasants. General pheasant hunting techniques, ecology of wild pheasants, the history of pheasants in North America, and even the importance of dogs and dog handling. With new knowledge of pheasant hunting and shooting safety, we gave the hunters the time and place for the rendezvous in the morning for the hunt that was about to take place.
Our friends at Blonhaven Hunt Club in Orfordville, Wis. were nice enough to allow us to hunt there. They even had some awesome guides volunteer their time for the day to help us out! I tell you what, it’s really an amazing feeling to have hunters like that nice enough to donate their time to introduce a bunch of college kids into hunting. After a quick pep talk from some of the guides about safety while in the fields, each hunter and mentor combo split up into groups of four for the hunt and went to the fields. My group had a great time hunting behind Dennis Sailing and his dog, Bubba, and ended up taking five birds on the day. Not bad for first timers if I do say so myself.
After regrouping at the lodge, we had a pheasant processing demonstration by the staff at Blonhaven, and the hunters got the chance to help clean all the pheasants they shot. Pictures were taken, laughs were shared, and all around people were smiling from ear to ear about the hunt that day.
For me, the best part of the day was witnessing the exhilaration on the faces of all the hunters afterwards. None of them had any prior pheasant hunting experience, but after that day most of them were hooked. The hunters came from all across the U.S. and the world, from Taiwan and China to The Netherlands and Denmark; all of them had a blast! Even after the event was all done, they kept asking for more.
“Thank you so much! It was absolutely amazing!” they said. “So when will the next Learn to Hunt event take? Can we get our Hunter’s Safety now?”
“Soon” was all I could say to them. I was in disbelief. It looks like the event was even a greater success than I could have ever imagined.