Youth hunts put kids outdoors
For Tim DelleDonne, the dogs were the stars of the show.
The North Huntingdon teen took part in the mentored youth pheasant hunt this past weekend at Apollo-Spring Church Sportsmen's Club in Armstrong County. It was the club's 13th annual hunt.
It serves to bring veteran sportsmen, their bird dogs, pheasants provided by the Pennsylvania Game Commission and would-be young hunters together.
The hope is that the kids will develop an interest in hunting — small game hunting in particular.
“What you find is that most of these kids have never hunted at all, or never hunted small game,” said Rocco Ali of North Apollo, who coordinates the club's hunt. “This gets them out there. It gets them away from pressing buttons on their phones or whatever, and that has to be a good thing.”
Consider DelleDonne hooked.
The hunt was his first, and he ended up bringing one ringneck home. But the most memorable thing about the day for him was the work of the bird dogs.
“The dogs would flush the birds out when you told them to. It was pretty amazing,” he said. “I know my dog could never do that.”
He enjoyed himself enough that he's already planning to do some more hunting this fall with his older brother, Ben.
“Yes, definitely,” Tim said. “Whatever he wants to hunt is good.”
Such reactions are common among kids who take part in mentored hunts, commission executive director Carl Roe said.
“Ask anyone who has been involved in our junior pheasant hunts and they'll tell you there's really not a better opportunity out there for young hunters to get a taste of excitement and success afield,” Roe said.
Twenty-four clubs around the state have held or will hold mentored hunts this year, with some planned for Saturday. That's down a bit from past years.
But there's no denying the events are popular, and not only with young hunters. The adults who put them on in an attempt to pass on their love for the outdoors get as excited about them as anyone, Ali said.
“This is a program I would hope the Game Commission would continue for a long time because it enhances getting youths involved in the outdoors,” Ali said.
Count on DelleDonne to be out there.
“It was pretty fun,” he said. “Just being out there with everyone else, it was pretty cool.”