Last weekend, area youth were given the opportunity to learn a variety of outdoor sporting activities from experienced hunters at the Nebraska One Box Complex near Broken Bow. Created in 1996, Pheasants Forever, along with the Nebraska Games and Parks Commission, developed a program, the Youth Mentor Hunt, for kids age 12 to 15 to experience hunting and related activities.
Pheasant Forever spokesman Matt Haumont explained, "The program is targeted at kids that are interested in hunting but otherwise have limited opportunities to actually go hunting. This is the first time some of these kids have picked up a gun." Some of the participants didnt have a shotgun of their own but one was provided for the day. Each of the participants was teamed up with his own mentor that would be with them throughout the day. This year 15 boys took part in the course, ranging in age from 12 to 15. There was no certificate or prize at the end, but the kids did take away new skills, new friends, and a jacket and hat commemorating the event.
The one-day course gives the kids the opportunity to learn a number of different skills including blue rock shooting, trapping, dog training, reloading shot shells, hunter safety, how to ask a landowner for permission to hunt, and other topics. Earlier in the day, Terry Connely led the boys through a class on outdoor survival and tips on hunting safely. Later, in small groups, the participants would learn trapping techniques for game such as raccoons and coyotes from expert Marty Baxter.
The big event of the day, however, was the pheasant hunt. Held on land owned by the Nebraska One Box Pheasant & Gun Club, the youth participants went out with their mentors to experience what hunting is really like. Volunteers even brought in hunting dogs so the kids could experience bird hunting to its fullest and learn the proper techniques for handling dogs. If anyone shot a bird that day, they would also get the opportunity to learn how to properly dress and prepare it. After the hunt, everyone got some target practice in shooting blue rock.
Finally, the kids were treated to a cookout at the end of the day with burgers and hot dogs grilled out in the cool fall afternoon. At the very least, the boys that experienced the Youth Mentor Hunt had a few laughs and enjoyed some new friends over a weekend cookout. For some, though, the lessons today will leave an impression serving them throughout a lifetime of hunting adventures. And when their turn comes, they will have the opportunity to mentor another young person and teach them the joy of hunting.