WHITE CITY — Young guns will have big shoes to fill next week when they flock to the Denman Wildlife Area again to take part in a pheasant hunt that is set aside just for them.
Last year's participants in the 20th annual youth pheasant hunt at Denman set a record by averaging 1.52 pheasants per hunter — way above the usual average of just under one bird per kid.
It's not that last year's crop of teen hunters were better shots than those of the past. Rainy conditions and plenty of volunteer bird dogs flushing pheasants likely led to the high rate, Denman Manager Clayton Barber says.
"When it rains, scenting conditions are optimal for dogs," Barber says. "It was cooler, too, so there was more hunting in the afternoon.
"In 100-degree weather, hunters and dogs run out of juice, and the afternoon goes largely unhunted," he says.
The popular hunt, based out of the wildlife area office at 1395 E. Gregory Road, Medford, runs Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 17-18.
Five hundred pen-raised pheasants will be released into the fields of two Denman hunting tracts for the 18th annual special youth-only hunt meant to whet the appetite of the next generation of upland game-bird hunters.
Denman officials have begun taking reservations for hunting spaces, with a maximum of 85 kids allowed afield at any given time. That is one of several rules enacted to ensure Denman continues its perfect safety record.
Kids without reservations can join the hunt on a standby basis as other kids leave the field, Barber says. That usually helps get participation levels to between 150 to 175 kids, he says.
For reservations, telephone 541-826-8774 during regular business hours.
On both days, walk-up registration for spaces not filled through the preregistration process will begin at 6:30 a.m. Shooting hours run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Only nontoxic shot is allowed on the wildlife area.
Regardless of whether they participate in the pheasant hunt, kids can join the shotgun-skills clinic that runs both days.