Young guns looking to test-drive upland game-bird hunting during annual, free, youth pheasant hunts next month will have to do some work online before they get into the fields.
The usual telephone-registration format has given way to the World Wide Web for the hunt set for Sept. 15-16 at the Denman Wildlife Area in White City, as well as for nine other similar events statewide.
Hunters younger than 18 can register online or through point-of-sale licensing outlets for a spot during the popular event, which is sponsored by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife with a lot of help from the Oregon Hunters Association.
The local hunt is run out of the ODFW office on the wildlife area at 1495 E. Gregory Road.
Online registration is seen as a way to boost participation at these events, but attendance has never been an issue at the Denman hunt, wildlife area Manager Clayton Barber says.
"We have the best youth hunt in the state — the highest participation and best local support," Barber says. "So it probably won't mean a lot here. But in places like Eastern Oregon, it could get more interest from people outside those local areas."
That could work in Southern Oregon, as well. For instance, those who can't hunt Sept. 15 or 16 instead could reserve space at the Klamath Wildlife Area hunt Sept. 8-9 just outside of Klamath Falls.
To register, go to or.outdoorcentral.us/or/license and then go to the "online license sales" page. Fill out the various name and hunter/angler ID spaces and select the green "register for a class" tab. Then select the "youth upland hunt" tab and select the hunt of choice.
Complete the checkout process and that will log in your reservation. Hunters need not bring receipts to the field. Registration is free.
It remains to be seen whether this year's hunters can match the success rates of the past two years.
In 2010, participants averaged a whopping 1.52 pheasants per hunter — far above the usual average of just under one bird per hunter. Last year's crop killed an average of 1.23 per hunter.
The high rates were attributed to rainy conditions that helped volunteer bird dogs find and flush pheasants.
Five hundred pen-raised pheasants will be released into the fields of two Denman hunting tracts for the youth-only hunt, which is meant to whet the appetite of the next generation of upland game-bird hunters.
A maximum of 85 youths are allowed afield at any given time — one of several rules enacted to ensure Denman continues its perfect safety record.
Hunters without reservations can participate on a standby basis, joining in as other youths leave the field, Barber says. That usually helps get participation levels to between 150 and 175, he says.
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, young hunters can join a shotgun-skills clinic that runs both days.
An adult 21 or older must accompany the hunter afield but can't hunt. Both hunter and supervisor must wear eye protection and a blaze-orange hat and vest. Hats and vests will be provided for those who don't have them.
The wildlife area has already received calls inquiring about the hunt.
"For the people who want to book by phone, I have to tell them to go online," Barber says.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.