ANNABELLA — A project that’s been going for more than five years at a cost of more than $750,000 seemed to be worth every bit of effort for approximately 50 youths Saturday.

“It’s just fun,” said Taylor Lewis, one of the young hunters who participated in Saturday’s hunt.

In order to improve the youth’s chances at getting a bird, approximately 250 pheasants were released Saturday. The pheasants were all locally raised at a facility near Glenwood.

“We’re getting pretty good at raising birds,” said Vance Mumford, Utah Division of Wildlife biologist. “We’ve perfected it.” 

The birds and their feed are paid for through donations made by Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife. DWR staff and volunteers feed the birds, raise them to adulthood and release them into the wild at different locations throughout the state. Through the past five years, those involved have been able to reduce mortality rates among the birds so they can be released. 

The birds are not only for hunters to enjoy. Dozens of hens will be released at the end of the hunting season in an effort to help bolster populations of wild birds in places like Sevier County, which was once known for its plentiful pheasant population.

“They’re actually raised on property owned by Richfield City, so everyone’s involved,” Mumford said. 

Saturday’s hunt was the big payoff for the efforts to raise the birds as the next generation of sportsmen and sportswomen were given first crack at the pheasants. 

The youth hunt started with participants shooting clay pigeons. 

“It give’s them a chance to warm-up, and make sure their guns are in order,” said Paul Niemeyer, volunteer. Niemeyer brought his double-decker, clay launching trailer to the event to let the youths sharpen up before heading into the field.

Also before heading into the field, youths were given a safety briefing by DWR Officer Seth Decker. Decker explained the importance of knowing when and when not to shoot a bird, how to hold a shotgun and the importance of making sure not to shoot in the direction of any of the dogs or other hunters.

Several volunteers and parents accompanied the youths as they broke off into groups and started walking the piece of land. The volunteers make sure youths were following the safety rules and keeping their lines straight. 

It didn’t take long before one of the volunteer bird dogs was on point. A few seconds later a bird was in the air … one … two … three shots … the first one got away. 

However, before the end of the hunt, many youths had bagged their limit of two birds. 

Once the youth hunt wraps up, the Wildlife Management Area is opened up to other hunters. The season ends Sunday, Dec. 1. 

The lessons didn’t end with safety briefings and marksmanship. Parents and volunteers were called upon to teach the youths how to field dress the animal so it wouldn’t spoil before going home and being cooked.

“That’s an important thing for them to learn as well as taking care of the game once they’ve harvested it,” Mumford said. 

The event was divided into a morning and an afternoon session. The Sportsman for Fish and Wildlife provided lunch to both groups, as well as a prize drawing. More information is available online at SFW.net.

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