Game On

Organized youth hunts are great ways to introduce youth the to total experience of hunting.

Two years ago, hunting for me was a hobby that my dad loved, and that was it. I never understood his passion for hunting, and couldn’t understand why he was so intrigued by anything and everything that involved hunting. Thankfully, that changed for me when in 2015 my dad presented me with the opportunity to go on a youth hunt with the Portland Oregon chapter of Safari Club International. Not being super interested in hunting at the time, but knowing how much my dad loved to hunt, I said I would think about it. Eventually, I reluctantly said yes, and filled out the application to go on the youth hunt. My brother and I both applied, and we both were accepted for the same hunt. Little did I know that this was going to be an experience of a lifetime, for both my brother and me.

When we arrived at camp, we set up our tents and trailers and met everyone as they arrived. We practiced shooting to prepare and make sure we knew what we were doing. Afterward, everyone gathered around the campfire, greeted each other and enjoyed a BBQ dinner and s’mores for dessert. In addition to eating our dinner together, the organizers passed out pictures of different animals and explained when it was a safe and good situation to shoot, and when it wasn’t a good time to shoot.

That review, and the practice shooting we had in the afternoon, was to help make sure we were better prepared for each of our hunts the very next day. While at dinner, we also each received an awesome hunting knife, orange vest and hunting hat to use for our hunt. Going to bed that night, it was finally starting to kick in that the next morning I would be waking up to do something I never imagined I would do. I was a little nervous, especially because I had never done this before.

Britney’s first hunt was a youth hunt made possible by the Portland Chapter of SCI.

The next morning came, and my goodness was it early! As I got dressed in my hunting gear, I definitely felt the nerves kicking in. It was finally time for the guides to take us out. Our guide took my brother and me, and we decided that I would get to shoot first. We made sure to keep a good look out for any movement and, after about 30 minutes, we spotted a herd of sheep, mostly being Corsican rams.

We quietly approached hoping they would not hear us. They might not have heard us, but a helpful llama with them sure did. Unfortunately, a llama helped them get away, but we had an idea of where they were heading. We set up the shooting sticks and gun, and I sat crisscross patiently waiting for the herd to crest over the top of the hill. Finally, the herd came out, and stopped straight in front of us only about 80 yards away.

I searched for the type of animal we were cleared to shoot and spotted one right in front of me. I had a clear shot, took a deep breath, focused my view in the scope and put the safety on “fire.” As I lightly placed my finger over the trigger, my heart was punching in my chest. I took a deep breath in and, as I exhaled, counted in my head, 1, 2….

Everyone around me was clapping and congratulating me, while I was still in shock over the shot! My eye was glued to the scope looking out at the Corsican on the ground as my guide said to me, “You did it!” I finally detached my eye from the scope, and looked at the Corsican with my own eyes. I was amazed that I had just done that myself!

Being the animal lover that I am, I did feel a little sorry for the animal, but I was more excited that I had actually just done that myself. I remember thinking while getting pictures with my animal, “This is why dad loves hunting so much.” The adrenaline rush is the most exciting feeling. I know it was only my first animal, but I actually felt like a hunter, and I loved the feeling. It also turned out that I had the first shot of the day! When we got back to camp with my animal, we learned how to field dress the animals for a shoulder mount. This whole process was a really cool thing to experience and be a part of.

Brother and sister duo of Brendon and Britney Wexted share the excitement of Brendon’s Corsican ram.

After we field dressed my animal, the guide took my brother and me back out for my brother to hunt. Having just gotten mine, and knowing how it felt to get my animal, I was excited for him to get his, too. We saw three Corsicans together, including one we could shoot, so that was the one my brother went after.

Although we snuck up on them quietly, they heard us, got spooked and ran off. We lost them for a little bit, however we kept going in the direction they ran. We finally spotted the group of three up on a hill, roughly 100 yards away. My brother set up the gun to shoot, pulled the trigger and the Corsican immediately dropped. What surprised me was that, even when I wasn’t the one hunting, and I was just tagging along, I still loved it! That’s when I knew I loved hunting and now wanted to come back to help out at future youth hunts.

After everyone hunted that day, and we all ate dinner together. It was really nice to bond and share each of our hunting stories with everyone. The first day, none of the kids really interacted with one another, however, after sharing this experience together, we had a bond that formed between us all. We got along super well, and all had a passion for hunting. We had a fun time socializing and messing around together once back at camp.

I asked if I would be able to volunteer to come back to help out at the youth hunts each year because I had such an amazing experience being there. When I went on my youth hunt, I had the most amazing time, and I know how happy it made me to have done it. I wanted to be a part of other kids experiencing it, too.

I also wanted to be there to talk to any of the kids who felt the same way that I did before my hunt. I wanted to help them understand that they might be a little nervous now, but once they were in the moment, they wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about doing it again. The next year when I helped out, we had two young girls who were nervous just like I was before my hunt. It was nice talking with them and explaining how I was in that position too.

At first, none of the kids really interacted with one another, however, after sharing the experience of hunting together, formed a bond and a passion for hunting.

I told them that they would have a blast hunting and when they both got their animals, it was a very refreshing and comforting feeling knowing I was able to be a part of the beginning of their love for hunting. When I come back to help for my second season, I hope to take even more pictures to help capture the special moment for the youth hunters, and not only be a helping assistant guide, but also a friend to them and someone who can relate to how they’re feeling.

I never would have seen myself as a hunter if it weren’t for this youth hunt. I saw hunting as just killing innocent animals, but now I see that it is so much more than the kill. This youth hunt brought out a passion in me for hunting that I didn’t even know I had. My love for hunting will continue to grow, as I get better and better, and keep reliving the excitement of my own hunt and those of other kids too. I will never forget how much this youth hunt impacted me, and my thoughts now about hunting.

I would like to thank the Portland Chapter of Safari Club International, and a special thank you to Dan and Candy Barnard and Todd Burk, because without SCI and everyone involved, I would not have had this great opportunity. I would also like to thank all of the organizations that donate to SCI, and to all of the people who attend the banquet and donate money to make such hunts possible. Another group that helped make this possible was Four Aces Ranch where we had our hunt, and the taxidermists who donated their talent and skills to mount the animals for us. This was an opportunity of a lifetime, and one that, without everyone involved, I would never have been able to experience. Thank You!–Britney Wexted

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