Staring into a sea of neon orange at the Tachick homestead on Saturday morning, it was clear that safety was paramount during the annual Safari Club International Women’s and Youth Bird Hunt.
“See the bird, shoot the bird,” Safari Club member Elaina Spraker told the group of soon-to-be hunters before they dispersed into the cold morning.
That bird would be one of 160 chukars, a small gamebird in the pheasant family, brought for the bird hunt. Even before the shooting began, a chukar or two could be seen walking the grounds while hunters made their way to different stations.
“The idea is to give women and kids, who don’t have the opportunity to get out and hunt often, to give them the change to get out and hunt,” said Joe Hardy, organizer of the event. “It’s 90-percent (women and youth) that have never shot before, and a few that have.
The homestead off of Funny River Road was transformed into a bird hunting ground, with nearly 40 participants taking part in the Safari Club’s annual bird hunt aimed towards women and youth. The event provided the birds, bird dogs, lunch, all necessary equipment and guided instruction from Safari Club International members.
“Every year it’s so special to see inexperienced people come up all nervous and shaking, and then to see them later in the day saying ‘let’s go again,’” Spraker said. “It’s pure joy.”
The field was divided into three sections. One station was set up to allow for clay pigeon practice shot. After hitting a few clay pigeons, hunters could step up to one of the two bird hunting stations.
Some of the women and youth participating had never shot a gun before, while others were on their fifth season of hunting, but Spraker recommended everyone take a few practice shots to “get back on the bike.”
The clay pigeons also gave shooters a chance to explore different gun options and solidify good shooting habits.
“I want to be more comfortable with guns,” Lindsay Martin said as she prepared to shoot at the clay piegeons. “I want to get into hunting and see if it’s something I’d be interested in trying more of.”
Later, while Martin shot, Jesselyn O’Connor watched with her daughter, Cora.
“My husband is a hunter and Cora and I have never participated,” O’Connor said. “So, we thought this would be a good introduction. The whole process, with safety being a top concern, and how they take care with each person to help get them comfortable with the process is really great.”
Eventually, all the participants moved from the clay pigeons to the live chukars, giving the hunters a chance to hunt with bird dogs.
“I’m really excited about working with the dogs and seeing how they work,” said Mary Simondsen. “I’ve hunted caribou and stuff, but (birds) are new to me and working with dogs really intrigues me.”
The brisk morning left clouds of breath in the air, just as each shot left a puff of smoke and, hopefully, a bird for the hunting dogs to track down.
And, for some of the dogs, Saturday was a good practice day as well.
“I just got my dog started in bird hunting,” Monica Reid said. “I want to get better before I actually shoot with her … She’s pretty much ready to go, but I’m not so today is a really great opportunity for me to learn the basics and make sure I’m being safe, especially with her.”
After a morning the bird dogs running back and forth across the fields, chasing downed chukars, the group learned how to clean the birds, with instructions and helps form the volunteers, so that they could take them home to eat.
“The joy I get from it is giving people the opportunity to hunt and shoot,” Hardy said.