The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is taking early registrations for its popular free youth pheasant hunts set for Sept. 16-17 (date corrected) at wildlife areas around the state, including the Denman Wildlife Area in White City.

The Denman youth hunts, as well as the others around the state, are open for young guns who have yet to reach their 18th birthday.

This year, signups are being handled online through the ODFW's events calendar, but those who want help can telephone the agency's Denman office at 541-826-8774, Denman Manager Clayton Barber says.

But kids don't have to register early to get a space, Barber says. Stand-by hunters will be granted access as others leave the field, he says.

The youth pheasant hunt continues to be one of the best game-bird opportunities Oregon affords its young hunters.

The agency stocks 500 pen-raised pheasants in fields such as those at Denman, where volunteer hunters often bring dogs to help the kids hunt.

This year's pheasant planting, lunch and other traditional parts of the hunt were funded by a $7,000 donation through the Dubes Foundation, says Ron Sherva of the Rogue Valley Chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association, which is one of the partners in the youth hunts.

Last year was a typical year for youth hunters at Denman, where 135 kids logged 323 hours of hunting, Barber says. Collectively, they bagged 179 birds for an average of 1.3 birds per hunter, and that's just about par for the long-term average, he says.

The success was aided, in part, because two out of every three youth hunters hunted with a dog, either bringing their own or being assisted by an experienced dog and its handler who volunteered for the event, Barber says.

Kids can sign up now, but they must have a valid hunter-education card to hunt. An adult 21 or older must accompany the youth to supervise, but he or she may not hunt.

Both hunter and supervisor must wear a hunter-orange hat, eye protection and a hunter orange vest, and the equipment will be provided by ODFW at the clinics to anyone who doesn't have it. Hunters also need to check in and out of the hunt.